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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Knox “Abolition for All Time” Lab Excels in Second Year

The Knox College “Abolition for All Time” lab completed its second year of a three-year grant, marked by significant progress and achievements. 

At the start of 2022, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded Knox College a $1.2 million grant, enabling the development of new courses, faculty mentorship of student research projects, and a deeper engagement with abolition and social justice on campus, all as a means to increase students’ understanding of the humanities. The lab's first year laid the groundwork, described by Associate Dean for Faculty Development Danielle Fatkin as a “springboard” year. In its second year, the lab advanced significantly, building upon this foundation and expanding its reach.

A major focus of the second year was curricular innovation, aiming to help faculty imagine new ways to engage students in humanistic learning across various departments. The Abolition Lab collaborated with nine courses and engaged 126 students in 2023.

In December 2023, Knox hosted a two-day workshop titled “Lessons in Liberation: Contemporary Abolition & Knox College in the Twenty-First Century,” led by Fatkin. This workshop brought together faculty from diverse disciplines to explore contemporary abolitionist projects and their relevance to the College's mission. 

In February 2024, Professors Gregory Gilbert and Gonzalo Pinilla brought the “The Long Term” exhibit to Knox’s Borzello Gallery. The exhibit features art created by incarcerated individuals to express and protest against their experience of inequitable long-term prison sentences. The exhibit coincided with the Theatre Department’s production of “Clyde’s,” a play about the life of people returning to their lives following incarceration. Together, these events provided an avenue to enrich the community's engagement with the lab's themes.

“The workshops created robust conversations. There was strong engagement throughout,” Fatkin said. 

Hilary Lehmann

Inside of Seymour Library, work was completed to create an official Abolition Lab space. Formerly the reference room, the new space includes new modular tables and furniture, allowing those using the room to adjust workspaces for collaboration. The room also includes new TV monitors on each wall, allowing the space to showcase digital humanities research. Multiple student workers were hired to staff the room, helping those using the space with new equipment. 

Director of the Seymour Library Anne Thomason shared excitement for the renovated space. While library staff hope the lab is utilized for humanities disciplines, she envisions the entire community finding ways to use it to its full potential. 

“I love this space. People are using it all the time, outside of abolition lab classes too. It’s been a wonderful addition,” Thomason said. 

Looking ahead to the final year of the grant, Fatkin aims to increase faculty engagement and focus on measurable outcomes, including further integration of digital humanities work led by Digital Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow Jen Andrella. She expressed optimism about the increasing faculty involvement and the gradual integration of digital humanities into the curriculum.

“We’ve been able to work with more and more faculty. These tools take time to understand,” Andrella said. “People need to know what options are available. It’s been a gradual process, but I’ve seen increased growth from year one to year two.” 

Fatkin expressed satisfaction with the lab's progress and community engagement. With the final year of the grant cycle already underway, she shared an appreciation for the community’s engagement with what is being developed. 

“I have enjoyed working with everyone involved,” Fatkin said. “We have set up a process that makes sense, that is straightforward, and allows us to get people into the labs and help support work. It sets them up for whatever’s next, whether in the lab or elsewhere.”

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Printed on Monday, May 20, 2024