Our Utopia is a public art project of resistant imagining dedicated to power and difference through the lens of racialized and gendered desire and idealism. Over the course of the 2021-2022 academic year, our team of arts, community, technology and education experts will mine translocal and transcultural stories from the UMass Amherst campus and western Massachusetts to address issues of discrimination and oppression at the intersection of photo-based media portrayals of BIPOC, female and LGBTQIA+ folks and the ostensibly democratic cycling world, the dominant culture of which invisibilizes race, gender and disability. We imagine an world distinct from white supremacist notions of utopia, in which folks of difference can thrive.
In addition to project director Michael Sakamoto, we have assembled a multi-ethnic/gender team of arts, tech and education experts with complementary skills to reimagine creativity, culture, education and community in support of spatial justice:
Aston K. McCullough (PhD) is Assistant Professor of Dance Science at UMass Amherst studying the intersection of movement, human activity, health, and technology, and also a professional dancer working with leading contemporary choreographers in New York City and in commercial projects. His NIH and NEA-funded research implements practical connections between movement behavior, sensorial and interactive data technology, and individual and social wellness.
As UMass College of Engineering Engagement Specialist, Stephen Fernandez (PhD) works to diversify the STEAM field, empower marginalized students and communities, and lead engagement courses. He has worked with community-based artists in New England, including Latinos for Social Change and Agitarte, artist Roberto Chao, and with high school students on bike generator and social support projects.
Millian Kang (PhD) is Associate Professor and Director of Diversity Advancement for the UMass College of Humanities and Fine Arts. As a feminist sociologist studying race, labor, and immigration in transnational contexts, she is a leading expert on interdisciplinary pedagogies in community engagement.
Yedalis Ruiz (PhD) is Director of UMass Student Bridges, a service learning agency for underrepresented and BIPOC students, bridging academics, campus life, and local communities. As a first generation immigrant, she works to increase access and equity in higher education.