Yale University Art Gallery
Artist and educator Faith Ringgold will design the new Grace Hopper College dining hall windows, the college’s Window Commission Committee announced on Feb. 15.
The announcement comes a year after the college abandoned its former namesake, John C. Calhoun, class of 1804, in favor of Grace Hopper GRD ’34 and almost two years after a Yale dishwasher smashed a slavery-themed window in the dining hall.
Mary Lui, head of Timothy Dwight College and a member of the window committee, announced the decision at a lecture on Thursday sponsored by the Chubb Fellowship. Ringgold is working on designs to replace stained-glass images — which depicted slavery and were taken down last year — in the central bay of windows in Hopper’s dining hall.
“The commission is still in process, but we’re really excited about recommending Faith Ringgold because of her long-standing career, knowledge and expertise in art-making, education, storytelling, addressing American history and African-American history and community,” said Anoka Faruqee, chair of the Window Commission Committee. “She also has a background working in public contexts.”
Ringgold is a prominent artist, activist and educator whose work spans more than half a century and focuses on the stories of marginalized people in society. Her portfolio includes a series titled “American People” that portrays the civil rights movement from a female perspective.
She has also authored more than 19 children’s books and taught in the New York City public school system and at the college level. Committee members emphasized that Ringgold’s ability to engage with different audiences persuaded them to recommend her for the job.
“One of the many things that we responded to in Faith’s career is her ability to address an art audience but also a broader audience, which she’s demonstrated by her dedication to children’s books,” Farquee said. “She has truly inspired so many minds and imaginations.”
According to Head of Hopper College Julia Adams, who served on the window committee, the new designs will represent student life on campus, and may include images of students eating in the dining hall, playing basketball, studying in the library, learning in the classroom or graduating.
In an interview with the News, Ringgold said she drew on her own experiences at college when developing new designs for the windows that would inspire students.
“I thought of memories of going to college … and what students prefer to look at in the dining hall,” Ringgold said. “Things that would be inspiring rather than slaves.”
Images of student life have notably been absent from visual aspects of the college’s history, Adams noted, adding that the college is in conversation with Ringgold about representing student life. “I anticipate something really beautiful,” she said.
Lauren Telesz ’20, a Hopper student, said she joined the window committee to ensure a student voice would be included in the conversation. She noted that Ringgold’s designs will represent “the real heart of the Yale experience.”
The committee formed in spring 2017 with the aim of gathering proposals and recommending an artist to create new windows in the Hopper dining hall. Its members include John Bollier, associate vice president for facilities at Yale; Pamela Franks, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Yale University Art Gallery; other faculty members; and four Hopper students.
The group has met periodically since last May and reviewed around 50 nominations for artists over the course of the fall before deciding to recommend Ringgold.
While a number of window panels have already been removed from the dining hall, some — such as those depicting the local flora and fauna of the antebellum South — will remain in place.
Adams said she hopes the choice to retain some of the original windows alongside Ringgold’s creations will highlight the college’s struggle and preserve the history “of the fact that we did wrestle with this question.”
“Specifically for the Hopper community, the dining hall is our central gathering place,” Adams said. “It’s a place of friendly community and meaningful college history — and also a repository of general Yale and U.S. history — and so therefore [it means a great deal].”
The window panels that the college has taken down thus far are being preserved so that future generations can study them. Telesz, one of the student representatives on the committee, said that while the new windows celebrate a “more common student unifying perspective,” the preservation of the other window panes is important, as it will serve as a reminder of Yale’s history.
Amy DeLaBruere ’21, who attended the lecture where the committee’s decision was announced, said it is important that Yale makes an effort to integrate the past and the present. DeLaBruere also applauded the committee’s decision to recommend Ringgold.
“[Choosing] Ringgold, one of the first most famous African-American women artists, is such a huge change-up,” she said. “It’s an amazing move by Yale to not only change the windows but [also] have someone of amazing stature design them.”
Calhoun College was founded in 1933.
Chloé Glass | firstname.lastname@example.org