Building on the ideas explored in Studio Gang’s Dimensions of Citizenship contribution “Stone Stories,” Studio Gang founder Jeanne Gang, fellow Dimensions of Citizenship contributor Amanda Williams, and Memphis-based Marlon Foster, Executive Director of Knowledge Quest, will discuss how we can think differently about overlooked or even contested urban spaces to address shared challenges and cultivate greater belonging. Moderated by Dimensions of Citizenship co-curator Ann Lui.
American architect and MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang is the founding principal of Studio Gang, an architecture and urbanism practice headquartered in Chicago with offices in New York, San Francisco, and Paris. A recipient of the Louis I. Kahn Memorial Award and the Marcus Prize, Jeanne is known for a research-based design process that foregrounds the relationships between individuals, communities, and the environment. She is the author of three books on architecture and is a Professor in Practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, her alma mater.
Jeanne’s award-winning work with Studio Gang spans project scales and types, from cultural and public buildings to urban plans and high-rise towers. “Stone Stories,” the Studio’s contribution to Dimensions of Citizenship, builds on their ongoing design and community engagement work in Memphis, Tennessee. Through citizen interviews, material experiments, and translocated artifacts, the project explores the complex history of Memphis’ Cobblestone Landing and its potential to be remade by Memphians into an inclusive site of public memory and belonging.
Marlon Foster is the Founder and Executive Director of Knowledge Quest, a youth development organization founded in 1998 whose mission is “to vigorously equip youth and families to maximize their potential through education, health and opportunity.” He sought to find meaning and purpose through the death of his childhood best friend, Pierre Ramond Henderson, due to teenage street violence. The organization was born out of his quest to prevent other youth in his neighborhood from taking similar routes toward death and destruction. Knowledge Quest (KQ) is most known for its promotion of academic excellence in after school settings among Memphis’ youth grades Pre-K through 12 through a ‘cradle to career’ continuum methodology. Beyond the KQ Extended Learning Academies, Mr. Foster has led the establishment of current strategic programs including: Green Leaf Learning Farm; the Family Stability Initiative; and Universal Parenting Place. The organization operates from three campuses within a 2-mile corridor along Walker Avenue known as the “Knowledge Quest Kids Zone.”
During his tenure at Knowledge Quest, Mr. Foster has spearheaded the investment of over $20,000,000 of resources in one of Memphis’ most impoverished communities. He is considered a ‘social entrepreneur’ because of his unique approaches to community and economic development. The recent transformation of 30 formerly vacant, blighted lots and three abandoned structures to one of the few USDA Certified Organic micro-farm operations in the region inclusive of an onsite processing facility, collegiate dormitory, future restaurant and Agritourism draw is one example of his ingenuity.
Seven years post of Knowledge Quest’s founding, Mr. Foster founded Christ Quest Community Church, a non-denominational Christian church rooted in social justice and evangelism. He is a life-long resident of Memphis, grew up and presently lives in the community in which Knowledge Quest/Christ Quest is headquartered. In addition, Mr. Foster continues to share his insight on community and faith building with fellow nonprofits, small businesses, churches and higher learning institutions in numerous volunteer and professional capacities.
Marlon Foster holds a Bachelor of Business Arts Degree from LeMoyne-Owen College and a Master of Divinity Degree from Memphis Theological Seminary. Private donors and institutional leadership recently established The Rev. Marlon and Sheila Foster Professor of Pastoral Theology and Homiletics, of whom Dr. Lee Ramsey currently occupies the Chair, in honor of their humanitarian efforts. In 2012, Mr. Foster was invited to the White House by President Obama and honored as a ‘Champion of Change’ as a part of our nation’s Winning the Future initiative to prevent youth violence and make our communities safer. Marlon Foster is married to Sheila Foster, a Knowledge Quest Operations Associate and Spanish Teacher and they have three children: Marlon II, Alexandria and Victoria.
Amanda Williams’s practice navigates the space between art and architecture, often rendering visible the invisible policies and structures that have shaped most American cities. Her projects employ color as a mechanism to highlight the complexities of how we understand race, place and value in the built environment. Amanda has received extensive recognition, including being named a USA Ford Fellow, a Joan Mitchell Foundation painting and sculpture grant, an Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellow, and a 3Arts awardee. Williams has exhibited widely, most recently at the Smart Museum, the MCA Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work is in the collection of all three of those institutions and the MoMA in NY. Amanda frequently lectures on art and design in the public realm and is the 2019 Bill and Stephanie Sick Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Ann Lui is an Assistant Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a registered architect. She is a co-founder of Future Firm, an architectural practice working at the intersections of landscape territory and curatorial experiments, whose work has been exhibited at Storefront for Art & Architecture, the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and The New Museum’s Ideas City. She recently co-edited Public Space? Lost and Found(SA+P/MIT Press, 2017), a volume on spatial and aesthetic practices in the civic realm.
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