Meet our Student Awardees | 2023-2024—


H+U+D is a joint effort among the Schools of Arts and Sciences (SAS) and the Weitzman School of Design whose objective is to promote synergies among the humanities and design disciplines. The initiative has “The Inclusive City” as its theme, focusing on issues of inclusivity and diversity, undergraduate and graduate students will receive small research grants to support interdisciplinary design/humanities projects in humanities and design disciplines that focus on the built environment. Resulting communities of interest, understanding and networks will endure beyond the life of the program.


Adwaita Banerjee is interested in unpacking the intricate relationships between plastics and human dynamics within urban ecologies. His doctoral research at Penn focuses on the nuanced flows of plastics in the city of Mumbai, India. Before embarking on this academic journey, Adwaita actively contributed to civil society organizations, particularly those related to habitat, urban knowledge structures, and the democratization of data. With a blend of training as both a filmmaker and an anthropologist, he melds narrative craft with academic rigor, bringing new perspectives to the complexities of urban life and material interactions.



Basak Eren is a Ph.D. student in Architecture, in history and theory at the Weitzman School of Design. Her research focuses on the practices, recognition, and archival representation of displaced architects in the 20th century. Utilizing an intersectional approach that combines feminist and migration studies lenses, Basak’s research focuses on the complex relationship between national and global histories of architecture. Her work examines how the identity and recognition of individuals have influenced their architectural practices. She holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture and a master’s degree in architectural design from Istanbul Technical University, Turkey.


Valeria Seminario is a PhD candidate in the Department of Hispanic and Portuguese Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She holds an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from New York University. Her research focuses on the nineteenth century Latin American novel and examines its intersection with infrastructure and global markets during the steam-powered transportation revolution.



Sara Saad Alajmi is a PhD candidate in the History and Theory of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation examines the interrelationship between architecture and ecology in Arabia in the 20th century, where she focuses on nomadic and modern settlements in the Arabian desert. Sara obtained her professional Bachelor of Architecture from Kuwait University in 2017 and holds a post-professional Master of Architecture II from Yale University. Sara practiced as a junior architect in Kuwait and taught at Kuwait University, Yale University, and the University of Pennsylvania. She is the recipient of the Kuwait University Master’s and PhD scholarship. Her research was featured in the Venice Biennale and presented at Princeton University. Sara’s work is concerned with transience, informality, domesticity, and poetry in the desert environment.



Michael Toste is a PhD candidate in Architecture History and Theory at the Weitzman School of Design. Before entering the program, he received his Bachelor of Architecture degree at Pratt Institute (2008); worked for architecture firms in New York City; co-founded a design and digital fabrication company in Beacon, NY; and received a Master of Science in Architecture History and Theory degree from Penn in 2018. His past research focused on the political underpinnings of mid-century architecture pedagogy in the US and West Germany. His current research concerns the involvement of architects in left-wing political movements in the United States during the Great Depression and World War II.

Nursyazwani Jamaludin  is a PhD candidate at the Department of Anthropology. Her dissertation research examines the world-building practices among displaced Rohingya individuals and communities on the peripheries of ummah, the global Muslim community. She has been working with Rohingya refugees in Malaysia since 2017 and resettled Rohingya refugees in Chicago since 2021. She received her M.Soc.Sci. from the Department of Sociology at the National University of Singapore, where she studied the co-construction of refugee legibility among Rohingya in Malaysia. Previously, she was a Research Associate at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.



Joey Jung is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Urban Studies and Political Science. He grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, and is primarily interested in community development, public policy, and urban planning. He would like to work in local government, economic consulting, and/or urban affairs in the future. In his free time, he plays spikeball, pickleball, runball, and Go, and reads books sometimes.




Carlos Aguilar is a PhD student in Sociology at UPenn, and a 2022 and 2023 Turner Schulman Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity, Race, & Immigration. Throughout my graduate career, my theoretical and empirical work has revolved around the experiences and opportunities encountered by undocumented youth and young adults in the United States. Today, my dissertation explores the meanings and implications that immigrant “illegality” poses in the lives of Dominican migrants residing in Puerto Rico, and the ways in which this community carves out spaces of belonging in a context characterized by colonialism.


H+U+D Faculty Fellow Mia Bay Wins Bancroft Prize—

Mia Bay, Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of American History

Mia Bay, H+U+D Faculty Fellow and Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of American History, has won this year’s Bancroft Prize for her book, Traveling Black: A Story of Race and Resistance. The prize is considered one of the most prestigious honors in the field of American history. Columbia University’s Mae Ngai was the other recipient, for her book, The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes and Global Politics.

Traveling Black explores when, how, and why racial restrictions took shape across transportation methods from stagecoaches to planes, and brilliantly portrays what it was like to live with them. The book was described by the jury as “a major intervention in our understanding of the civil rights movement and the everyday life of racial domination,” which draws on “exhaustive and imaginative research in trade publications, litigation records, memoirs, oral histories and the press.”

“Mia Bay’s splendid and pathbreaking research lays bare the routine strictures experienced by Black Americans in their efforts to move about the country on trains, buses, and automobiles,” said Jeffrey Kallberg, Associate Dean for Arts and Letters at Penn Arts & Sciences. “Traveling Black not only explores and explicates the effects of Jim Crow laws in a troubling era of the past, it sheds light on Black Americans’ current struggles for equality in the public sphere.”

A well-recognized scholar of late modern American intellectual and cultural history with a focus on African American history, Bay came to Penn from Rutgers University, where she served as Professor of History and Director of the Rutgers Center for Race and Ethnicity. She is the author of two other books, and the recipient of numerous other honors, awards, and grants, including a Mellon Sawyer Seminar Grant, an Alphonse Fletcher Sr. Fellowship, a National Humanities Center Fellowship, and an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship.

The Bancroft, which includes an award of $10,000, was established in 1948 by the trustees of Columbia University, with a bequest from the historian Frederic Bancroft. Books are evaluated for “the scope, significance, depth of research, and richness of interpretation.”

To read more about Traveling Black, click here.

[Text taken from Penn SAS press release here ]

Spring 2022 H+U+D Course: On the Move-Landscapes of Migration, Mobility, and Racialization (HIST 234-401/URBS 234)—


HIST 234-401/URBS 234: On the Move-Landscapes of Migration, Mobility, and Racialization

Spring 2022


International border closures, stay at home orders, and protests against police violence during the Covid-19 pandemic interrupted daily patterns of movement, reminding us that mobility and immobility are defining features of the urban experience. This course examines how movements of people shape the built environment and how governance as well as design influences those movements. Focusing on the nexus of mobility, immobility, and racialization, we will explore how spaces of migration, tourism, detention, and logistics are imbricated in processes of social inclusion and exclusion. In thinking through the ways that mobility shapes places and perceptions of their inhabitants, we will engage with a variety of global and American cases, as well as those from the Mid- Atlantic region. Scholarship in urban studies, architectural and urban history, geography, and anthropology will inform discussions about conceptions of citizenship, transnationalism, assimilation, and cosmopolitanism.

This course questions totalizing narratives that portray abstract capital flows and formal design interventions as determinative forces shaping urban landscapes. Instead, we will focus on everyday urban mobilities and the incremental modifications made by non-design practitioners to their residential, commercial, and public spaces. A fieldtrip to northeast Philadelphia and exercises in primary source analysis, participant observation, and interviewing will help students develop final projects which investigate a local landscape of mobility. Writing and peer revision workshops toward the end of the semester additionally will provide a collaborative venue within which students will sharpen their writing.



Dr. Alec Stewart, Mellon Junior Fellow in Humanities, Urbanism, and Design


Thursdays, 3:30-6:30pm, 314 College Hall

Click below for more info:

Spring 2022 H+U+D Anchor Institution Seminar: Philadelphia Lazaretto—


H+U+D is delighted to partner with the Philadelphia Lazaretto for its Spring 2022 “Anchor Institution” seminar, a course taught in collaboration with one of the cultural institutions that reflect and serve Philadelphia’s diverse populations. H+U+D Faculty Fellow David Barnes (History and Sociology of Science) will teach the seminar. The Lazaretto was built in 1799 and served as the first quarantine hospital in the U.S. In this way, it was a gateway to Philadelphia in a crucial period of the nation’s growth.

Click below for more information:

Looking Back: H+U+D “Inclusive City” Colloquium’s 2021 Fall Semester—


Since 2018, the Humanities, Urbanism, and Design (H+U+D) Initative at Penn has embarked on the five-year project, “The Inclusive City, Past, Present, and Future.” With the renewed $1.5 million Mellon grant, we are continuing to build on the foundation of the first project (2013-18) while focusing on the theme of inclusivity and diversity both in what we study and teach and in who we are. Fifteen faculty from departments across both the Weitzman School of Design and the School of Arts and Sciences were appointed to the Faculty Colloquium in 2018 and met bi-weekly for the last two years in a supportive and multi-disciplinary setting.

H+U+D kicked off the fourth year of the “Inclusive City” Colloquium with a socially-distanced in person meeting on September 10, 2021. This fall, we officially welcomed Franca Trubiano (Architecture, Weitzman School of Design) as one of the new co-directors of the H+U+D Initiative. The initiative also welcomed five new faculty members into the colloquium from both humanities and design disciplines, who joined several returning members. New members include: Mia Bay (History, School of Arts and Sciences), Odette Casamayor-Cisneros (Romance Languages, School of Arts and Sciences), Rahul Mukherjee (Television and New Media Studies/English, School of Arts and Sciences), Sonja Dümpelmann (Landscape Architecture, Weitzman School of Design), and Andrew Saunders (Architecture, Weitzman School of Design). For more information on the H+U+D Faculty Colloquium members, click here.

The new “Inclusive City” Colloquium faculty cohort was joined by two Junior Fellows, Dr. Ewa Matyczyk and Dr. Alec Stewart, as well as two Doctoral Dissertation Fellows, Pavel Andrade and Kimberly Noronha, who were all appointed for the 2021-22 academic year.

During the Fall 2021 semester, the H+U+D Colloquium met regularly in a socially-distanced safe space. In addition to research presentations by Alec Stewart, Jorge Téllez, Odette Casamayor-Cisneros, Jennifer Ponce de León, and Pavel Andrade, the group took a field trip to Taller Puertorriqueño to see the new building and meet with Taller’s Exhibition Program Manager and Curator, Rafael Damast. Taller was H+U+D’s Anchor Institution Seminar for the 2020-21 academic year. This year, H+U+D’s Anchor Institution partnership is with the Philadelphia Lazaretto, the first quarantine hospital in the U.S., built in 1799, which served as the gateway to Philadelphia in a crucial period of the nation’s growth. H+U+D Faculty Fellow David Barnes (History and Sociology of Science) will teach the Anchor Institution seminar on the Lazaretto this year, and the H+U+D Colloquium will take a field trip there this spring.

H+U+D Welcomes Junior Fellows and Dissertation Fellows for 2021-22—


In Fall 2021, the Mellon Humanities, Urbanism and Design Initiative at Penn (H+U+D) was pleased to welcome two Junior Fellows and two Mellon Doctoral Dissertation Fellows for the 2021-22 academic year.

H+U+D Junior Fellows

Dr. Ewa Matyczyk and Dr. Alec Stewart were named H+U+D Junior Fellows for 2021-22. They were selected from a highly competitive pool of applicants from the humanities and design disciplines. In keeping with the mission of H+U+D to bring together scholars and students to explore cities at the intersection of the humanities and design, Dr. Matyczyk, an art historian, is being hosted by the Weitzman School of Design, and Dr. Stewart, an urban historian and geographer, is hosted by the School of Arts and Sciences. Both Junior Fellows will participate in the H+U+D Faculty Colloquium and teach interdisciplinary undergraduate seminars in their academic host departments in Spring 2022.

  • Ewa Matyczyk

Ewa Matyczyk earned her PhD in the History of Art and Architecture from Boston University, where her doctoral work focused on public art in urban spaces of the former Eastern Bloc during the Cold War and post-socialist period. Her research interests include issues of memory, identity, public space, and the relationships that form between public art, the built environment, and their intersections with the theory and practice of everyday life. Her book project, Intervention, Memory, and Community: Public Art and Architecture in Warsaw Since 1970 examines a series of exhibitions, performative interventions, monuments, and public art initiatives. The book traces the political, social, and cultural transformations of the last five decades in Warsaw and considers how such changes are represented, omitted, and problematized in the urban landscape. In 2019 Ewa worked in the Boston Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture where she researched the city’s commemorative landscape. She is also a dedicated educator who employs a pedagogy of care that foregrounds the interwoven values of community, generosity, and gratitude. She has taught at Boston University, Northeastern, Suffolk, Boston Architectural College, and at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She is appointed in the Department of Fine Arts (Weitzman School of Design).

  • Alec Stewart

Alec Stewart, who earned his PhD in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, is an urban historian and geographer whose work focuses on the relationships between placemaking and claiming, consumer culture, and urban citizenship in the commercial built environment. His book project examines how indoor swap meets came to anchor multiethnic communities in late-twentieth century Southern California. It contends that these marketplaces served not only as sites of material exchange but also as vital arenas where Asian, Latinx, and Black entrepreneurs and shoppers negotiated differences and forged solidarities across ethnic and class lines. Alec serves on the Vernacular Architecture Forum board, and last year he was a Mellon Fellow in Urban Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks. He is committed to promoting equity and inclusion in the academy, having mentored first generation college students over several years as a Berkeley Connect Fellow. Before pursuing his doctoral studies, he worked as a city planner in Oakland, California and earned his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Geography from George Washington University and the University of California, Berkeley, respectively. He is appointed in the Department of History (School of Arts and Sciences).


H+U+D Announces 2021-22 Student Research Awards—


Mellon Undergraduate Research Fellowship

  • Lin Ang, Undergraduate, College of Arts and Sciences (Major: Sociology, Minor: Fine Arts)


H+U+D Mellon Graduate Student Research Awards

  • Anwar Basunbul, PhD Candidate, Architecture, Weitzman School of Design
  • Tayeba Batool, PhD Candidate, Anthropology, School of Arts and Sciences
  • Max Dugan, PhD Candidate, Religious Studies, School of Arts and Sciences
  • Kim Fernandes, PhD Candidate, Anthropology and Education, School of Arts and Sciences
  • Parima Kotanut, MS Candidate, Architecture, Weitzman School of Design
  • Enrique Morales, MFA Candidate, Fine Arts, Weitzman School of Design
  • Gabriel Raeburn, PhD Candidate, Religious Studies and History, School of Arts and Sciences
  • John Sigmier, PhD Candidate, Art and Archeology of the Mediterranean World (AAMW), School of Arts and Sciences

Feature on H+U+D Faculty Fellow David Hartt—


‘Of the moment’

This year alone four museums and two galleries are featuring work by artist and Professor David Hartt, including currently at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


Artist standing in museum gallery with his artwork installation
Artist David Hartt with his installation “The Histories” (Crépuscule) at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the exhibition “New Grit: Art & Philly Now.” (Image: July 2021 when masks were not required.)

The woven tapestry that stretches nearly 21 feet across a Philadelphia Museum of Art gallery wall was created from two photographs taken by artist David Hartt in the spot in Jamaica where 19th-century landscape artist Frederic Edwin Church drew a series of sketches. The video playing on an adjacent screen was filmed in the location in Canada where Church sketched icebergs crashing into the sea. On the floor is a decades-old radio broadcasting an original music composition created to accompany the works.

Part of the Museum’s “New Grit: Art & Philly Now” exhibition, the multi-media artwork is the third in a cycle, titled “The Histories,” that Hartt has created and exhibited in the past three years.

And it is one of four museum exhibitions and two gallery shows featuring Hartt’s work in the United States just this year, including “Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and “A Colored Garden” at The Glass House museum in New Canaan, Connecticut.

His art is based on extensive historical research, connecting the past to the present through themes of race, culture, identity, migration. The works are made from varied materials, including photography, tapestry, video, music, instruments, furniture, plants, and even a currently blooming flower garden.

A dozen museums have acquired Hartt’s work for their collections, from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles to Amsterdam. And he has been noticed by the media, covered by The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Los Angeles Times, and art and architecture publications just this year.In June, Hartt, who started teaching at University of Pennsylvania in 2015, was promoted to associate professor of fine arts, with tenure, in the Stuart Weitzman School of Design.“

A lot of the work is intellectual labor, and it’s about researching and understanding the dimensions of a problem or concept,” Hartt says. “It’s really exciting to be at Penn because I treat the work as scholarship. I’m not interested in a masterpiece or the myth of an artist laboring quietly in isolation. It’s about engaging with the world and trying to understand and put forward the complexities that you encounter.”

An artist ‘at the top of his game

The “New Grit” exhibition, on view until Aug. 22, features 25 Philadelphia artists, including several from Penn, among them Ken Lum, chair of the Fine Arts Department, and Sharon Hayes, professor of fine arts.“I think it is vital to any fine arts department to have teachers who are producing and relevant and are contributing to the contemporary art dialogue,” Lum says, noting that Hartt’s art projects incorporate several disciplines taught at the School, including architecture, landscape, and historic preservation.

Artist standing in gallery looking at his installation
Hartt’s multi-media installation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, inspired by artworks from the 19th century, focuses on the slave trade route between the British colonies of Jamaica and Canada. 

“David is one of those artists. He is of the moment,” Lum says. “David is a player, showing in major exhibitions, and that is important as an example to our MFA students. Someone like David who is at the top of his game right now is invaluable for the department.”

As it turns out, Hartt was in the first college class Lum taught at the University of Ottawa, although Lum says he didn’t make the connection until after Hartt had secured the position at Penn. “There were a lot of professors there who could open your eyes to possibilities of art taking different forms, and Ken was one of them,” Hartt says.

Both Hartt and Lum are Canadian. “Trying to explain my own identity, it’s always more complicated than I’d like it to be,” Hartt says. Adopted by white, Jewish parents, he grew up in Montreal. His biological father is Black and biological mother is white.

“I have a bit of imposter syndrome,” says Hartt. “To grow up in a Black community and to experience a particular way of life and a particular set of cultural histories, is, for me, the root of Black identity.”

But he did not have those experiences. “The idea of passing for Black, but not having access to those histories or those experiences, always gives me a little bit of apprehension,” he says. “I don’t want to claim something that I don’t have any rights to claim.”

And yet he has found a way to emphasize Black history, artists, and experiences into his research, scholarship, and artworks. “I’m somebody who takes and borrows and blends all of these different kinds of cultural histories,” he says. “A lot of the work is the intersection where it suggests a blurring of lines or crossing, which allows for someone to occupy various positions simultaneously.”

‘The Histories’

Hartt’s installation “The Histories” (Crépuscule) in “New Grit” is based on a series of sketches that Church made of the tropical landscape at Kingston Bay in Jamaica in 1865 during the Civil War, and another series of sketches he made of glaciers in Newfoundland, Canada. The artwork, he says, examines routes and currents of the transatlantic slave trade through the two locations, both colonies of Great Britain.

“The Histories” installations include tapestries woven by a Belgian firm based on Hartt’s photographs. 

The photo-like tapestry was woven by a firm in Belgium, one of the few that will make one three meters wide, Hartt says. “It’s a photograph with literally millions of colors interpreted into hundreds of individual fibers,” he says. “They’re chosen based on their color value, their density, for contrast, and for detail, and also their reflectivity.”

Because of the pandemic, Hartt couldn’t travel to Canada to shoot the video of the melting icebergs in June as he had planned, so he hired a local photographer. “I gave him all of the reference images and then I actually shipped up my camera lenses and everything just so that he could shoot it in a very, very specific way,” he says.

The commissioned music playing on the retro Panasonic radio in the exhibit was created by Berlin-based techno musician Pole based on a piece written by Jamaican music composer Oswald Russell in 1969 for a Swiss-French film. “It’s his own production techniques but the music is deeply inspired by traditions,” says Hartt. “The scores are always meant to be experienced in conjunction with the work.”

The three installations of “The Histories,” he says, “are all in conversation with each other.” Each includes a tapestry created from Hartt’s photographs, his video, original commissioned music, and additional elements, including tropical plants, hand-made furniture, even a Steinway piano.

The first in the cycle, “Le Mancenillier” in 2019, funded by a Pew Arts & Heritage grant, was at the Beth Sholom Synagogue in the Elkins Park neighborhood of Philadelphia. The second, “Old Black Joe” in 2020, was at the Corbett vs Dempsey gallery in Chicago, and is opening Aug. 21 at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.

The cycle’s name is from Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian, who detailed the movement of people and alliances in the Mediterranean. Hartt transposes the geography to the Caribbean in relationship to the Americas, and the time period to the 19th century.“

And the reason being is that the psychic and physical infrastructure of today is rooted in that century, the formation of colonial empires, the mass migration, both for economic opportunity, but also as a result of slavery of different peoples,” Hartt says. “And so, the world, as we know it, really began to take shape in terms of the displacement and the occupation of land, by specific peoples that didn’t have any history there.”

In each he chose what he calls a cipher, pioneering artists, many of them Black, who “set the framework for thinking through formal aspects of how this cycle might unfold … an individual who could help me see in a very personal way and understand through their connections and through their social networks that moment in time.”

Circuitous path

History forms the foundation of Hartt’s artworks, even though he says he nearly flunked out of the University of Ottawa as a history major. While working part-time as a dishwasher, he met a student in the fine arts department who explained that photography is a college major. Hartt’s mother had shared her love of photography with him, turning their downstairs bathroom into a darkroom, but he had thought of it as a hobby.

He saved up some money and took his camera on a tour of Egypt. “From those images I put together a portfolio of work to apply to the bachelor of fine arts program,” he says. “Once I was in, I realized I was home.”

screen showing icebergs and a radio
Hartt’s artworks often include video and music. In the “New Grit” exhibition, an original composition is actually broadcast on channel 87.5 in a 200-foot radius, referencing pre-internet global communications. 

Hartt chose the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for his master’s degree. During his second year he had a part-time, grant-funded curatorial position at the Institute’s photography department. But after graduating in 1994, full-time curatorial work was hard to find.

Work that was easier to find, and paid well, was coding for the nascent internet. “I was really interested in graphic design and this kind of emerging set of technologies,” he says.

His soon-to-be wife wanted to be a fashion designer, so they moved to New York City and he worked for 17 years in the design and advertising field, as an art director and a creative director, overseeing campaigns for large consumer brands.

“I actually abandoned my art practice,” Hartt says.The couple bought and renovated a brownstone in Brooklyn. “We both had these great jobs where we were earning lots of money,” he says. “We were living the dream.”

But when the first of their two sons was born, their priorities changed. “It’s like we’d lost track,” he says. “So, over the next year we sold the house, quit our jobs, and left New York.”

First to his wife’s hometown of Detroit, and then to Chicago. That’s when Hartt decided to focus on making art, and where he found his first artistic successes. His first museum show was at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and then came the first acquisition, the first gallery association, and a string of awards and grants and fellowships.“

I realized how much I enjoyed it,” Hartt says. “I realized that financially I had a choice. I could leave the safety of my career in design and tech. So I did. I left that behind me and worked full time as an artist.”

Finding Penn

His father was a philosophy professor, and so it was natural for Hartt to explore teaching, first a studio class at the Art Institute and at the Ox-Bow School of Art, and then a summer photography class at Bard College. But lack of conventional teaching experience thwarted his traditional job search. Until he found a match at Penn’s School of Design, recruited by Anita Allen, now vice provost for faculty, and then-dean Marilyn Jordan Taylor.

“I think Penn is a really wonderful home for me because my practice is situated in a place that values research and scholarship. And so it’s more than just teaching, it’s about being part of an intellectual community,” Hartt says. “I think what’s unique about Penn is that each of us are so distinctly different in our practices that the graduate students can see all of these possibilities of what it means to be an artist.”

Hartt teaches a variety of courses, some available to both graduate and undergraduate students. One of those he named Defense Against the Dark Arts: “What does it mean to think and be, and make, in response to contemporary conditions as an artist? It deals with how contemporary artists respond to moments of crisis,” he says.

Starting in 1968, the course hits different geographical locations and historical moments through readings and screenings and music, students each choose a period to focus on to create a project. “It’s a really beautiful lens through which to understand a specific cultural history,” Hartt says. “They might pick a place in a time that you don’t know but that resonates with them.”

Now an artist and teacher based in Brooklyn, Fields Harrington took that class when he was an MFA student at Penn. “One thing I noticed with David is a closeness of reading the work or text, the attention to the details,” he says.

Harrington, who graduated in 2019, also worked as an intern with Hartt, and one day listened to “Black Secret Technology,” an album that had an immediate impact on his artistic vision, inspiring him to incorporate patents by African American inventors in his drawings and videos.“

We listened to that start to finish, just the two of us in the studio, and that was a huge influence on the work I began to make,” Harrington says. “David was very supportive and thoughtful in how he engaged with students’ work.”

‘The possibility of art’

Hartt says he has been creating artworks constantly for more than 10 years, working two to three years ahead, so the attention on current exhibitions is not his focus. “I just feel incredibly grateful that I can keep working and that those opportunities are there,” he says.

Hartt’s installation “A Colored Garden” at The Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, is created with everblooming flowers, based on a 19th-century painting. (Image: David Heald)

But there has been quite a buzz about the current exhibition, “A Colored Garden” at The Glass House museum, that opened in April and runs through Nov. 15.

He researched the property’s topographical surveys and site maps and learned there once were extensive gardens. So, he created a new garden, a 40-foot circle of flowers, inspired by the still life paintings of Connecticut native Charles Ethan Porter.“

It was a response to what I saw as dormant histories within landscape,” Hartt says. “I created a matrix with all the different flowers so there would be an overlap, moving from spring to fall with the garden constantly in bloom.”

Architect Philip Johnson designed and built the modernist house and donated it to the National Trust for Historic Preservation upon his death in 2005. “Johnson was famous during his life for having these fabulous salons, inviting some of the best practitioners in the fields of dance, architecture, and art, who would come and discuss and theorize at these garden parties,” Hartt says. “It was overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male. And I thought, well, what happens if this house is occupied by a different kind of person?”

Hartt plans to shoot a film in the garden in September featuring Tomika Reid, a cellist who is African American, as a character who wanders the gardens while composing and playing a piece of music.

“This is the possibility of art. Art isn’t governed by the same orthodoxies that can limit thinking and possibilities within other fields,” he says. “Nobody’s setting rules within art. So, it’s wherever your curiosity takes you. I think for me, the satisfaction is making connections, making it matter, making it mean something.”



Article reposted from Penn Today (

Feature on H+U+D Anchor Institution Seminar with Taller Puertorriqueño—



Daniel Morales-Armstrong, William Fontaine Fellow of Africana Studies and History, helms a course designed to lead students in a collaborative engagement with a local Philadelphian community.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

By Blake Cole

Daniel Morales-Armstrong, William Fontaine Fellow of Africana Studies and History

As an instructor of a seminar that focuses on community, Daniel Morales-Armstrong didn’t want to waste any time getting boots to the ground.

“In our pandemic reality, it’s easy to say, ‘Okay, we’re looking at this area, let’s hop online and let’s get the Google satellite images.’ But you need to be in a place to feel the place, while also, of course, being safe,” says Morales-Armstrong, William Fontaine Fellow of Africana Studies and History. “It’s the sounds, it’s the sights, it’s the people. It’s the way that the public space is utilized and is the grounds for a multidirectional conversation.”

The seminar, “The Inclusive City: Participatory Design at Taller Puertorriqueño,” which took place during the spring 2021 semester, grew out of the Humanities + Urbanism + Design Initiative (HUD), a collaboration between Penn Arts & Sciences, the Weitzman School of Design, and the Penn Institute for Urban Research. HUD bridges the humanities and design disciplines to create a vehicle to both stimulate inter- and multi-disciplinary work on diversity and inclusion in the built environment, and build an increasingly diverse and inclusive community of scholars who do this work. HUD accomplishes this through co-taught courses, a colloquium, undergraduate and graduate fellowships, a postdoctoral junior fellowship, and more. The initiative, which was launched by an award from The Andrew Mellon Foundation in 2013, was founded by Eugenie Birch, Lawrence C. Nussdorf Professor of Urban Research and Education in the Weitzman School, and David Brownlee, Frances Shapiro-Weitzenhoffer Professor Emeritus of 19th-Century European Art.

The Taller seminar belongs to HUD’s anchor institution course series. “The idea here is sort of a double connection. On the one hand bringing together the humanities and design to think about urban issues, and then on the other hand, connecting Penn students and faculty with an institution that already exists in the city to get us actually out there,” says Andrea Goulet, Professor of Romance Languages, who has been a fellow in the program over the last six years, and is now the co-director alongside Franca Trubiano, Associate Professor of Architecture in the Weitzman School. Past seminars have included anchor institutions such as the Eastern State Penitentiary and the Philadelphia African American Museum.

Charrette participants and Inclusive City students facilitate charrette brainstorming sessions.

The Taller seminar provided students across diverse fields a means to explore and examine Philadelphia as a laboratory for the study of diversity, equality, and inclusion. Taller Puertorriqueño, the anchor institution, is a community-based cultural organization whose primary purpose is to preserve, develop, and promote Puerto Rican arts and culture in the City of Philadelphia. Students built a portfolio of new skills, including neighborhood mapping, navigating the organization’s archives, and participating in a unique form of design-focused community brainstorming called “charette.”

Morales-Armstrong, a long-time educator and historian whose work focuses on Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and the African Diaspora in the Americas, was a perfect fit for teaching the course. “I wear several hats and I think that this course was a wonderful way to bring many of those into conversation with each other in the real world, in Penn, and in Philadelphia,” he says.

The class was enriched by its students’ unique scholarly pursuits, as well as their personal journeys, Morales-Armstrong says. “As an interdisciplinary and exploratory course, I wanted to establish early on with the students that whatever level of expertise, or lack thereof, they had in the featured disciplines was fine—that they didn’t need to come to this experience with X,Y,Z knowledge,” he notes. “The concepts that the Taller folks and community members had been emphasizing aligned with many of the concepts that we discussed in our class—conversations about space and storytelling and whose versions of local history get told. The students brought in many of their own experiential in terms of their upbringing or the cities where they live, or their experiences moving to Philadelphia. They also generatively introduced some more disciplinarized thoughts to our discussions and final project.”

One of the methodological skills the students developed during the seminar, archival analysis, spoke to Morales-Armstrong’s academic background as a historian. Taller’s archives date back to the mid-1970s, and provided students with a unique opportunity to dig through Philadelphia history. One of the major projects Taller pursued early in its history, now housed in the archives, was a massive oral history project, which included near 100 interviews.

Participants design a draft during charrette.

“It was about how folks in that community see their relationship to Philadelphia, Puerto Rico, and the changes on an intergenerational level,” Morales-Armstrong says. “It was a multifaceted project that included elements of class, race, location, gender – all lenses that figured prominently in our conversations this semester.”

Morales-Armstrong stresses that developing and facilitating the community brainstorming activity—the charette—was at the core of the course. A charrette is defined as a collaborative design activity that brings together community members and stakeholders in a time-bound, focus-intensive session to draft an aspect of a communal project. Students drew on course discussions, experiences, and methodological trainings to craft a charette to support the goals of Taller’s Memorializing Fairhill project, an initiative designed to map and capture local histories into permanent physical markers in the area around the anchor institution, meant to engage new audiences and deepen community engagement. With this in mind, the students crafted a plan that aligned with Taller’s goals.

Through the charette, students facilitated two brainstorming sessions with the Memorializing Fairhill committee, a group consisting of Taller staff, community historians, and local residents. The session focused on developing potential marker designs and a corresponding interactive map to be installed in the atrium of Taller’s El Corazón Cultural Center. Students asked the participants to not only think about examples of what the markers could be (for instance, community altars or bus shelters), but to collaboratively design, present, and discuss their detailed first drafts. In the map drafting discussion, groups of participants imaginatively deployed approaches to telling the Fairhill community’s history. One map draft included an interactive timeline of Fairhill history, with a particular focus on the evolution and makeup of the workers, while another offered thematically-grouped neighborhood tours of present-day Fairhill sites.

“A lot of times we get caught up in these ideas of saying, ‘Well, let’s discuss and discuss and discuss until the wheels fall off,’ but the design of the charrette directs the day’s discussions towards getting something down on paper. Those drafted designs are particularly useful because they can then be revisited, reconsidered, or even redirected in future meetings,” says Morales-Armstrong. “That was a generative learning experience for all of us in the room.”

Charrette participant presents design to group.

Morales-Armstrong notes that part of what happened over the course of the activity was developing a greater comfort among the participants in fleshing out their ideas and saying what was on their mind. “There were these clarifying moments of saying, ‘Our role here is to facilitate the drafts, as opposed to populating them. The conversation is about what the stakeholders would like to bring to life.’ That was, I think, an impactful exercise for all involved.”

The results of the charrette were turned into a book called, The Inclusive City Charrette Analysis, in direct alignment with the Memorializing Fairhill project’s goal of creating an archive of its proceedings. “It was interesting because in those moments, you have an anchor institution which has power and influence in the community, engaging with the university, which is also an institution that has great power and influence in the city,” says Morales-Armstrong. “We were mindful, always, about those dynamics: just as working with Taller offered the students an opportunity to develop site-specific knowledge and methodological skills, we wanted to make sure the course’s final project was a tangible product that would be directly beneficial to Taller, especially in terms specified by the anchor institution.

The next planned anchor institution seminar will revolve around the Lazaretto Building in Philadelphia, the first quarantine hospital in the U.S., built in 1799, which served as the gateway to Philadelphia in a crucial period of the nation’s growth. The faculty instructor will be David Barnes, Associate Professor of History and Sociology of Science, an expert on the site and its history.


H+U+D Seeking Graduate Student Research Proposals for 2021-22—


H+U+D Seeking Graduate Student Research Proposals for 2021-22

Deadline: May 31, 2021

The Project in Humanities, Urbanism, and Design (H+U+D), invites graduate students to submit research proposals for Academic Year 2021-22. Small grants will be awarded to support projects that align with the mission of the H+U+D project.

H+U+D is a joint effort among the Schools of Arts and Sciences (SAS) and Design (PennDesign), and the Penn Institute of Urban Research (Penn IUR) whose objective is to promote synergies among the humanities and design disciplines. Beginning in 2018, the initiative takes “The Inclusive City” as its theme, focusing on issues of inclusivity and diversity. For more information on the initiative see:

Graduate Research

Small research grants will be awarded to support interdisciplinary design/humanities projects undertaken by graduate students in humanities and design disciplines that focus on the built environment. Eligible research must draw from both humanities and design disciplines. Examples of eligible work include master’s thesis projects, independent study projects, and doctoral dissertation research. Preference will be given to projects related to the “Inclusive City” theme. The maximum award is $2,000 per proposal. Allowable research expenses include travel, archival charges, photography, books, research supplies and equipment. Examples of previously funded student projects are available to review here:

Application Instructions

The application should include

  • Research project proposal (maximum: 500 words)
  • Short itemized budget
  • Unofficial Penn transcript
  • Letter or recommendation from sponsoring faculty member, requested by the applicant via the Letter of Recommendation Request Form

Submit your proposal no later than May 31, 2021, to the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF)via the student application:

A special awards sub-committee will review proposals, and funds will be transferred to successful applicants’ departments for disbursement. Questions? Contact Andrea Goulet ( or Daniel A. Barber (