11 January 2012

Graduate School Statement of Purpose

The original application, which has since its submission January 2012, has evolved and changed:

Statement of Purpose:
Through the support and guidance of the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, I would like to attain a Masters Degree in “Community Development through the Fashion Stewardship of Ethical Design.” I plan to introduce and integrate ethical design principles into urban communities and engage the public, in much the same way as community art endeavors, in a culture of health, creativity, and balanced consumption. I will create an organization that travels to different developing cities through the Americas with a workshop that uses the tenets of fashion and street theater to better engage the community on the salient social and public health issues that affect them. Using the surplus clothing in their own closets and the models in their communities, I plan to facilitate a workshop in design and fashion show production with a critical social issue as theme. The Gallatin School and its extended network through New York University would help bring this goal into fruition.

Gallatin’s Pro‐Seminars on the Function of Art and the History of Environmental Art would serve as the point of entry that would help to redefine the vocations of fashion and street theatre as art that can be reinserted into the narrative of community art. The Steinhardt School’s Department of Educational Theater in Colleges and Communities would then provide the “how,” the functional framework in which this novel and hybrid art form could function as a community‐based educational vehicle. The Media, Culture, and Communication department would compliment these through their courses that explore the history of consumption.

As an undergraduate student, I pursued studies in global culture and diasporic identities. In both the Latin American Studies and International Studies Departments, I excelled in courses that explored culture, identity and global development. These studies, coupled with my own interests and identity searching, led me to develop two senior theses which explored the questions and celebrations of women’s identities and the ways that their sartorial choices molded culture. I put my studies and original research into practice by developing creative ways to combine cultural identity with the social and public health of these communities. I founded a student organization, Sankofa, which provided a platform for students and New Haven residents culturally underrepresented in the fashion industry to showcase their talents while raising funds and awareness for public health issues such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS. These public health issues selected were particularly prevalent for these same demographic groups. My experience leading this organization made me realize the efficacy of fashion in drawing people together and facilitating community.

Further, I developed a focus on promoting the ethics of sustainability in underrepresented communities via my experiences studying abroad in Northeastern, Brazil, where I conducted research on the relevancy of conventional environmentalism in Afro‐Brazilian religious temples. I then co‐founded the first environmentally conscious organization of Yale’s Afro‐American Cultural Center and, collaborating with both local and national chemical awareness groups, facilitated eco‐cosmetic workshops for students and New Haven youth. All of these projects in summary addressed cultural environmentalism and empowerment, culturally relevant public health, and the importance of sartorially expressed identity. These experiences were formative in my creation of reciclaGEM.

I have initiated, through reciclaGEM, independent projects to galvanize the community around themes of environmentalism, participatory art and sustainable fashion. reciclaGEM’s first showcase partnered with a local vegan hip hop festival and invited participating models to partake in group discussions with catered organic, vegan meals while being fitted for rehearsals. I am currently pursuing a certificate in Sustainable Design Entrepreneurship at the Fashion Institute of Technology, which I intend to complete by May of this year. And as part of two Harlem based arts and health organizations, I will be featuring two collections that will engage the Harlem community in visual conversations on HIV/AIDS and post 9/11 American identities, respectively.

I intend to develop a concrete curriculum through which to facilitate these participatory fashion interactions. As a compliment to my coursework during the semester, I intend to workshop the curriculum in New York and the surrounding areas. In between semesters, I intend to strategically workshop the curriculum in farther regions. Upon the completion of my graduate study, I plan to present a thesis accompanied by trial findings, primary research, and a more developed network of community partners from which I will be able to fully initiate the project. People nationwide are engaging more the powers of fashion, art and image in their driving of social change. The opportunities awarded through the development of this thesis through the flexible and interconnected network of this program would help this relevant and timely project to become fully realized. New York, with its tremendous network of organizations, its current culture of activism, and its locus within the network of international fashion would be the best city in the country in which to develop such an endeavor.

(c) Tamara A. Leacock

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