On a normal Thursday night it is no surprise to see Milstein Hall bustling with energy. But, on Thursday last week the scene at Milstein was not the typical AAP students with coffees, drawing plot plans or working around the clock to meet deadlines. The Milstein Dome was transformed into a gallery space for RAW Expo III, an annual exhibition of achievements and creative endeavors by Cornell’s student organizations. “Creative process across disciplines” was the official theme, intended to bring Cornell’s creative community together in one space over a period of just two hours.
The event was organized by Medium Design Collective and fits within the greater objective of the club to promote interdisciplinarity and bring various creative communities out of their bubble via design and dialogue. Medium was founded by Pamela Chueh ’17 and Andres Romero Pompa ’17 in 2015 and since then the collective has worked diligently to connect artists and creatives in Cornell to create a more open and united community. “[The first] RAW EXPO is actually how Medium was founded, our intention was to reveal the design process behind unlikely projects from different backgrounds and by doing so, create opportunities for understanding, connection and future collaboration,” said Chueh. It was no easy feat. Most creatives at Cornell choose to attend the AAP school or major in Design and Environmental Analysis (DEA), where they are immediately channeled into special degree tracks and physically attached to Milstein, Sibley or other buildings with studio spaces. Their non-academic acquaintances and interests may very well have nothing to do with the “creative process,” but the nebulous concept of collaboration across disciplines is a difficult task to achieve without consistent initiative.
Collaboration is meant to bring together the best of both worlds, but it is tremendously time-consuming and action-oriented. Medium defined its niche in precisely those terms — it would facilitate interdisciplinarity, dialogue and collaboration among organizations that may have never thought of going to a “design expo.” RAW is the ultimate, yearly expression of Medium’s mission. “Most projects are shown in their ‘finished’ or ‘final’ state. I have no idea how it got there. The iterations, conversations, drafts that it took to get there. Our thought was that maybe, if we revealed that raw process, people from different disciplines could understand the work and the people more and break down disciplinary boundaries,” Chueh added.
This year’s RAW featured 40 project teams, from CUAppDev to Thread Magazine and Social Business Consulting. Each was given their own booth to show visuals, posters and customize their space in a way that reflects the club’s culture, something that Medium organizers intended as a way to unite participants into a collective while preserving their individuality. Medium established the space and set the ground rules — the rest was up to the exhibitors. Cornell Mars Rover brought a full-size, functioning model of their rover, while Daniel Correa ’18 presented a complete redesign of the Statler Hotel’s façade.
The Cornell Daily Sun also participated, showcasing new initiatives in multimedia production, the Photosphere project and ways in which we strive for integrity in factual reporting. The overarching theme of our booth was the inevitable shift of the media landscape toward all things digital. On our table, the physical copy of that Thursday’s edition was juxtaposed with a digital version of City Editor Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs’s scoop of the ILR school hack, featuring animations and graphic design by Sophia Deng ‘19, our editor-in-chief. Videos about the recent Cornell Fashion Collective, a naval ROTC midshipman who spoke about his passion for military service and a campus salads taste-testing flashed on a TV monitor as Juhwan Park ‘18, our multimedia editor, explained the video-editing process. Karly Krasnow ‘17, Sun assistant photography editor, and Angela Lee ‘19, business associate for The Sun, presented the Photosphere project. I spoke to visitors about The Sun’s place in Cornell’s community and its ongoing initiatives to sustain student journalism while keeping content and appearance relevant to its audience. I also asked attendees to identify real and fake news headlines, intending to show the difficulty of filtering information in the current media environment.
The tremendous level of creative and organizational liberty provided a lot of options for the participating organizations, but what about the visitors, who had the ultimate authority in the exhibition space? Medium’s answer was interactivity. Attendees were given paper strips of bacon, on the backs of which one could write feedback to teams and then put the “bacon” onto a “feedback plate” in each of the booths. The participating clubs were also advised to devise their own interactive activities, a tactic to draw people’s attention inspired by the Cooper Hewitt Museum. (A sound advice when attendees are bombarded with visuals from all sides). The response from the public was impressive. At least 500 people flowed into Milstein on a Thursday night, all within two hours. Two years ago, “We had no idea what would happen or if people even cared,” Chueh said. After seeing the overwhelmingly positive community response, Chueh and Romero believed they “confirmed our suspicion that design process could, in fact, create empathy and opportunities for collaboration.”
RAW reinforced Medium’s unique positioning among Cornell’s student club scene, working as a much-needed platform to connect both high-profile and obscure organizations who have something to show. It was a success not only as an exercise in collaboration but also as an exhibition of creativity and passion of Cornell’s makers, doers and artists, who sometimes do not receive the spotlights they deserve.
Andrei Kozyrev is an Arts and Entertainment editor and a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].