In December of last year as part of our ongoing Art of Change initiative, we brought together a small group of experts and thinkers in a range of fields—psychology, economics, art, philosophy, public policy–to discuss the topic of beauty. The goal was to ask how we might more effectively articulate, value, and nurture beauty as a basic need and right. 

The conversation had two parts:

  • Making the case for why beauty is essential to the health of human beings and society, and how it can be a catalyst for justice.
  • Expanding the space for beauty in our contemporary discourse and policymaking, and understanding the role of art and artists in that shift.

For the next few weeks we will be sharing contributions on the topic by some of the participants in the convening, including Sarah Ruhl, Sunil Iyengar, and Trajal Harrell. Here, poet Claudia Rankine shares a video exploration she made about the construction of whiteness.

Claudia Rankine, poet

About Claudia: Claudia Rankine has published several collections of poetry, including her most recent book, Citizen: An American Lyric (2014), a nalist for the National Book Award and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry, the PEN Center USA Poetry Award, and the Forward Prize for Best Poetry Collection. Her work often crosses genres as it tracks wild and precise movements of mind. Claudia has co-edited several poetry anthologies and her poems have been included in the anthologies Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present (2003), Best American Poetry (2001), and The Garden Thrives: Twentieth Century African-American Poetry (1996). Her play Detour/South Bronx premiered in 2009 at New York’s Foundry Theatre. Claudia has been awarded fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Lannan Foundation. In 2013, she was elected as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and in 2014 she received a Lannan Literary Award. She has taught at the University of Houston, Case Western Reserve University, Barnard College, and Pomona College. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Claudia earned a BA at Williams College and an MFA at Columbia University.

We’ll be posting responses to this discussion triweekly here on the site. Follow us on Twitter at @ArtofChangeIs to share your own ideas.