Artists in Harlem: Then and Now

April 14, 2021 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Join Stanford in New York as they explore the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance and its influence on art in Harlem today. LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Dr. Michele Elam, Terrance McKnight, and Kiyan Williams will speak with Dr. Katie Dieter about their projects and careers, and how the local artists from 100+ years ago helped to pave their way.



Panelist: Kiyan Williams

Kiyan Williams is a multidisciplinary artist from Newark, NJ who works fluidly across sculpture, performance, and video. Rooted in a process-driven practice, they are attracted to quotidian, unconventional materials and methods that evoke the historical, political, and ecological forces that shape individual and collective bodies.

Williams earned a BA with honors from Stanford University and an MFA in Visual Art from Columbia University. Their work has been exhibited at SculptureCenter, The Jewish Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, Recess Art, and The Shed. They have given artist talks and lectures at the Hirshhorn Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Princeton University, Stanford University, Portland State University, The Guggenheim, and Pratt Institute. Williams’ work is in private and public collections including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

Williams’ honors and awards include the Astraea Foundation Global Arts Fund and Stanford Arts Award. They were selected to participate in the 2019 In Practice: Other Objects emerging artist exhibition at SculptureCenter and are among the inaugural cohort of artists commissioned by The Shed. Williams was previously an artist fellow at Leslie-Lohman Museum and is an alum of the EMERGENYC fellowship at the Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics at NYU. Williams is the recipient of the 2019/2020 Fountainhead Fellowship at Virginia Commonwealth University, where they were on faculty in the Sculpture and Extended Media Department.

Panelist: LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs

A writer, vocalist and performance/sound artist, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs is the author of TwERK (Belladonna, 2013). Diggs has presented and performed at California Institute of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio, The Museum of Modern Art, and Walker Art Center and at festivals including: Explore the North Festival, Leeuwarden, Netherlands; Hekayeh Festival, Abu Dhabi; International Poetry Festival of Copenhagen; Ocean Space, Venice; International Poetry Festival of Romania; Question of Will, Slovakia; Poesiefestival, Berlin; and the 2015 Venice Biennale. As an independent curator, artistic director, and producer, Diggs has presented events for BAMCafé, Black Rock Coalition, El Museo del Barrio, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, and the David Rubenstein Atrium. Diggs has received a 2020 C.D. Wright Award for Poetry from the Foundation of Contemporary Art, a Whiting Award (2016) and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship (2015), as well as grants and fellowships from the Howard Foundation, Cave Canem, Creative Capital, New York Foundation for the Arts, and the U.S.-Japan Friendship Commission, among others. She lives in Harlem.

Panelist: Terrance McKnight

Terrance McKnight: a proud voice resounding from the middle of the road. Terrance is the evening host on WQXR.

When Terrance McKnight moved to New York City, his 96-year-old grandmother offered him a few words of wisdom: “If you’ve got something to say, get out there in the middle of the road and say it; don’t go hiding behind no bush.” From a long line of passionate citizens — his maternal family founded a branch of the NAACP in Mississippi and his father the pastor of a church in Cleveland — Terrance and his siblings were expected to contribute to their community while growing up. Early on, Terrance decided he would take the musician’s journey.

As a teenager, he played trumpet in the school orchestra and played piano for various congregations around Cleveland.  At Morehouse College and Georgia State University he performed with the college Glee Club and New Music Ensemble respectively and subsequently joined the music faculty at Morehouse. While in Georgia he brought his love of music and performing to the field of broadcasting.

Terrance is an Artistic Advisor for the Harlem Chamber Players and serves on the board of the Bagby Foundation and the MacDowell Colony.  He’s frequently sought out by major cultural organizations for his insight into the cultivation of diverse perspectives and voices in the cultural sphere. He regularly curates concerts and talks at Merkin Concert Hall, the Billie Holiday Theatre the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Museum of Modern Art.

Panelist: Michele Elam

Michele Elam is the William Robertson Coe Professor of Humanities in the English Department at Stanford University, a Faculty Associate Director of the Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence and a Race & Technology Affiliate at the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.

Elam’s research in interdisciplinary humanities connects literature and the social sciences in order to examine changing cultural interpretations of gender and race. Her work is informed by the understanding that racial perception in particular impacts outcomes for health, wealth and social justice. More recently, her scholarship examines intersections of race, technology and the arts. “Making Race in the Age of AI,” her most recent book project, considers how the humanities and arts function as key crucibles through which to frame and address urgent social questions about equity in emergent technologies. She is teaching a new course, ""AI + Arts + Activism"" in spring 2021.

Elam’s books include Race, Work, and Desire in American Literature, 1860-1930 (Cambridge University Press, 2003), The Souls of Mixed Folk: Race, Politics, and Aesthetics in the New Millennium (Stanford University Press, 2011), and The Cambridge Companion to James Baldwin (Cambridge University Press, 2015). She has published articles on race and culture in African American Review, American Literature, Theatre Journal and Genre, as well as op-eds for CNN, Huffington Post, and Boston Review. She was awarded the 2018 Darwin T. Turner Award for Outstanding Scholarship by the African American Literature and Culture Society.

Ar Stanford, she has served as the Director of the interdisciplinary graduate Program in Modern Thought and Literature (MTL), the Director of African & African American Studies, and the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the English Department. Nationally, Elam has served as Chair of the Executive Committee for the Black Literatures & Culture Division of the Modern Language Association (MLA) and on the Executive Council for the American Literature Society at MLA. She is currently on the Advisory Boards of Stanford’s Program in Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies, the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Studies, the Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity, and serves on the Director’s Council for the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (the d.school).

Dedicated to teaching, Elam has been awarded the 2018 Walter J. Gores Award, the University's highest teaching honor. She is also thrice the recipient of the St Clair Drake Outstanding Teaching Award at Stanford (2004, 2006, 2015) and has twice received the Faculty Award for Outstanding Service to Undergraduate Students as a Teacher, Advisor and Mentor from the Program in Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity (2013, 2018), among her other teaching awards.

Moderator: Katie Dieter

Dr. Katie Dieter is the Associate Director of African and African American Studies at Stanford University. Prior to this role, she held the position of Senior Lecturer in the Humanities Department and the Art History Department at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts located in Kingston, Jamaica. She also served as the college's faculty representative for the Gender Ambassadors Programme, a government initiative that seeks to promote gender equality and education in Jamaica. Dr. Dieter also held an adjunct faculty position in the Cultural Studies department in the Institute of Caribbean Studies and Reggae Studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona also located in Kingston, Jamaica. With a bachelor’s degree in African and African American Studies and Studio Art (metal sculpture and furniture design), an M.A. in Gender Studies, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in African American and African Diaspora Studies, her research focuses on the ways the visual and performing arts can be used as methods of knowledge production and resistance, particularly in the African Diaspora and in the field of African and African American Studies. In a 2019 publication in the Jonkunno Arts Journal, Dr. Dieter argued for the importance of the implementation of creative programs within Black Studies departments in order to further develop new ways to consider black identities, challenge oppressive representations, and reveal new interpretations of black identities, cultures, and histories. Dr. Dieter is also an artist and includes themes of race, gender, sexuality, culture, and nation in her artwork. In a forthcoming chapter to be included in an anthology on African diaspora dance, Dr. Dieter analyzes choreography with a creative auto-ethnographic approach in order to reimagine dance through her own paintings.