Newsmakersrss

Amok in the Art House

"Plot IV: Amok in the Outhouse"

Leigh Ledare ’08SOA is a visual artist working primarily with photography, film, and collage. His current show at the Art Institute of Chicago revolves around a film that he created in collaboration with ten psychologists, documenting a three-day experiment in group self-analysis on thirty volunteer participants. Ledare then created collages (including Plot IV: Amok in the Outhouse, above) based on themes that were discussed in the film. Ledare was named a 2017 Guggenheim Fellow this past April, and his work was also included in the 2017 Whitney Biennial.

Ask an Alum

Dan Trepanier ’09CC / Photograph by Alex Crawford

Tailor-Made

Once voted the best-dressed man in America by the readers of Esquire magazine, Dan Trepanier ’09CC is now the CEO and creative director of Articles of Style, an online bespoke menswear company that he founded with fellow Columbian Will Howe ’10CC. We asked Trepanier for some practical fashion tips and advice on wardrobe essentials.

COLUMBIA MAGAZINE: What’s one rule of thumb that men should keep in mind when shopping for clothes?
DAN TREPANIER: A good fit is the most important part of being a well-dressed gentleman. Frankly, it’s more important than quality. I have friends who shop at the thrift store, and they spend more money at the tailor than they do at the store. They look fantastic for a few bucks. And then I know other people who spend a lot of money on clothes, but they don’t fit. You never want to be the guy in the two-thousand-dollar Louis Vuitton suit that doesn’t fit.

CM: How do you define style? Why is it important to you?
DT: Style is your cover letter, your résumé. We teach “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but we do that every day, every time we look at someone. Style is your way of putting your best foot forward and introducing yourself without having to say anything. I grew up on a farm in Canada, in the middle of nowhere, and then played basketball at Columbia, so I didn’t care about style for a long time, because it wasn’t important in those arenas. As soon as I wanted to be taken seriously as a mature, smart gentleman, dressing the part really catapulted me up the ladder. It was life changing for me.

CM: What are some of your fashion pet peeves?
DT: I’m a little peeved about the trend toward overly casual clothing. It seems that everywhere you go, people are wearing workout gear. They’ve lost any sense of occasion.

CM: Is there an article of clothing that looks good on every man?
DT: A beautiful navy sport coat, an Oxford shirt in white or blue, a good pair of dress boots. The beauty of menswear is that you don’t need a lot of clothes. You can build a wardrobe out of a few investment pieces; those are the classics that are going to work for most men, day in and day out.

CM: Where do you look for fashion inspiration?
DT: I usually look to the past, to classic American style icons like Paul Newman, Ralph Lauren, Steve McQueen, and James Dean. To me, they embody cool and casual, and they always looked sharp.

CM: What fashion trends do you see on the horizon?
DT: There’s a consciousness that’s growing — especially among younger people — about sourcing. The same thing that’s happening in food is going to happen in fashion. People are going to ask, “How is it possible that this shirt is seven dollars? Who’s getting hurt along the way?” I’m a big opponent of fast fashion. Cheap, disposable clothing is detrimental to craftsmen and to the planet.

— Ian Scheffler ’12CC

Newsmakers

Three Columbia alumni are among this year’s twenty-four MacArthur Fellows. They are Tyshawn Sorey ’17GSAS, a prolific composer and performer known for working across an extensive range of musical idioms; Regina Barzilay ’03SEAS, a computer scientist at MIT who studies natural-language processing and machine learning; and Damon Rich ’97CC, an adjunct professor of architecture at Columbia who is also the founder of the Center for Urban Pedagogy, which uses art and design to promote civic engagement. Kate Orff, director of the Urban Design Program at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, was also a winner this year.

Los Comandos, a film by Juliana Schatz Preston ’11JRN, won the award for best documentary short at the Austin Film Festival this fall. The movie follows two teenagers working in an emergency medical unit in gang-ridden El Salvador.

Four Columbia Law School alumnae were awarded US Supreme Court clerkships. Beatrice Franklin ’14LAW and Alyssa Barnard ’15LAW are both clerking for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59LAW, ’94HON — Franklin began this past summer, and Barnard will start in 2019; Lena Husani Hughes ’12LAW for Justice Elena Kagan; and Sarah Hartman Sloan ’16LAW for retired justice John Paul Stevens.

Four Columbia alumni made the National Book Awards longlist this year. Erica Armstrong Dunbar ’00GSAS was nominated in the nonfiction category for Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge; Daniel Alarcón ’99CC was nominated in the fiction category for The King Is Always Above the People (see our review here); and Marie Howe ’83SOA and Mai Der Vang ’14SOA were honored for their respective poetry collections, Magdalene and Afterland.

Columbia President Emeritus Michael Sovern ’53CC, ’55LAW received a Gold Honor Medal for Distinguished Service to Humanity from the National Institute of Social Sciences. He was one of three scholars to receive the award this year. Sovern joined the Columbia faculty in 1957 and is now the Chancellor Kent Professor of Law.

Find and connect with all your classmates at alumni.columbia.edu.

— Carolina Castro

Attention Shoppers

A guide to this year’s alumni-produced holiday gifts.

Distillery Cats, a cheeky guide to whiskey distilleries and their feline inhabitants by Brad Thomas Parsons ’95SOA. $14.99. amazon.com

Men’s slope jacket from Orsden, a ski apparel company founded by Sara Segall ’14BUS. $330. orsden.com

Tequila from Blue Nectar, cofounded by Nikhil Bahadur ’12BUS. $49.99. bluenectartequila.com

Carryall tote bag from Dagny Scout, a women’s sports apparel brand founded by Lauren Amery ’16BUS. $65. dagnyscout.com

Perfume from Scentbird, a subscription perfume service cofounded by Rachel ten Brink ’01BUS. $59.95 for a three-scent gift box. scentbird.com

Japanese snack box from Bokksu, founded by Danny Taing ’14SEAS. $39 for one box. bokksu.com

Scholarship Honors Kim Wall

Kim Wall / Photograph by Benjamin Haas

Journalist Kim Wall ’13JRN, ’15SIPA was known for her curiosity, mischievous wit, and propensity to pursue offbeat stories that followed what she called “the undercurrents of rebellion.” Her stories for publications such as the Guardian, Harper’s, and the Atlantic covered a broad range of topics: leaking radioactive waste in the Marshall Islands, the ethical pitfalls of tourism in North Korea, the propagation of pop culture in Cuba. Her brand of journalism — which combined, as she liked to say, “shoe-leather reporting with a foreign-policy lens” — probed corners of the world that had been overlooked and gave voice to those who might otherwise have remained silent.

Wall was killed in August at the age of thirty while working on a story about Peter Madsen, a Danish inventor who had crowdfunded and built a minisubmarine. Mystery shrouds the exact circumstances of her death. Wall boarded the submarine for a short voyage. Then the sub sank and Madsen was rescued at sea. More than a week later, Wall’s body was found in a bay near Copenhagen. Madsen has been charged with her murder.

In October, Wall’s family, friends, and colleagues gathered at the Graduate School of Journalism to remember the talented young reporter. “Humanity needs more courageous women like Kim — women who want and dare to give their voices to the weak ones and make this planet a better place to live,” Wall’s mother, Ingrid Wall, said. To honor their daughter, the family has raised more than $100,000 to establish a grant fund through the International Women’s Media Foundation. The grant will be offered to female journalists covering the same “undercurrents of rebellion” that drove Wall as a storyteller.

The journalism school has also created a Kim Wall Scholarship Fund, for which it is accepting donations. Dean Steve Coll says he is seeking an endowment for the fund so that it might be offered in perpetuity. Contributions may be made online at journalism.givenow.columbia.edu.

Benjamin Preston ’11JRN

From Light Blue to Green

Photograph Courtesy of the New York Jets

Josh Martin ’14CC majored in anthropology, where he tackled the study of human societies. Now he’s busy tackling Patriots, Saints, and Buccaneers. Martin, an outside linebacker and special-teams handyman for the New York Jets, is the only Columbia graduate currently playing in the NFL. After a standout career with the Columbia Lions, Martin signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013 as an undrafted free agent. He joined the Jets in 2015, and in 2017 he signed a two-year, $4.3 million contract.

New Business in an Ancient Land

Alice Bosley (left) and Patricia Letayf in Kurdistan. / Photograph Courtesy of Patricia Letayf

The young entrepreneur stood in front of the panel of judges, fiddled nervously with a PowerPoint presentation, and prepared to pitch his idea: a virtual-reality game that would help refugees learn their new local language.

The scene, which took place in a gleaming, glass-walled new co-working space, could have been lifted from any venture competition in Silicon Valley. But there was a twist: the entrepreneur was himself a refugee. And he was pitching not in California, but in Erbil, Iraq, at a summer boot camp organized by Five One Labs, the first startup incubator for conflict-affected populations in the Middle East.

“There are over a million Iraqi IDPs (internally displaced persons) in Kurdistan, and 250,000 Syrian refugees. So there’s definitely need,” says cofounder and executive director Alice Bosley ’17SIPA. “Entrepreneurship training helps address some of the most pressing problems in the community, particularly employment and education.”

In addition to weekend boot camps in the spring and summer, the organization’s main program is a three-month-long incubator offered in the fall. Participants receive free office space, training in areas like financial planning and marketing, mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs in the Middle East and the US, and a chance to compete for $15,000 in seed money.

Some businesses in the incubator’s inaugural cohort, like the one making the virtual-reality language game, focus specifically on needs that people see in the refugee community. Others, like an online pharmacy service, are already common in Western nations but new to Iraq. And still others are, as Bosley puts it, universal needs.

“We have three young men who want to build a french-fry business,” she says. “And it makes sense. Iraq actually has an abundance of potatoes.”

Bosley came up with the idea for Five One Labs with classmate Patricia Letayf ’17SIPA. Both women have backgrounds in the Middle East — Bosley grew up mostly in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Letayf was raised in America but has family in Syria and Lebanon. Before coming to Columbia, Letayf was a political analyst specializing in the region and Bosley worked in the innovation office of the American University of Iraq, advising students who were hoping to start their own businesses.

Bosley and Letayf were both interested in working with refugee populations and saw entrepreneurship as a way to create long-term solutions for building productive communities. There are a lot of refugee-support organizations dedicated to short-term care — basically, how to keep people alive,” Bosley says. “Very few are focused on what comes next.”

Bosley and Letayf started working intensively on the program in 2016 as a part of the SIPA Dean’s Public Policy Challenge, an annual competition for business ideas that use technology to help solve global problems. Bosley also worked part-time at the Columbia Entrepreneurship Design Studio, which she credits with helping her to develop the prototype for the program.

“The competition really pushed us to get our plan done and provided us with milestones that we needed to reach along the way,” Letayf says. “As we advanced through each round, we earned more funding.”

This past March, when many of their classmates were headed off on spring break, Bosley and Letayf traveled to Erbil to run a pilot version of the program. After graduating in May, they started working on it full-time.

Bosley and Letayf initially picked Erbil as the first incubator site largely for logistical reasons: they both had connections in the region, and the city is one of the few places with a significant refugee community where refugees have the legal right not only to work but also to own businesses.

They’ve also found it to be an inspiring, hopeful place. Like Mosul, which sits only fifty-five miles away, Erbil is an ancient city. But while Mosul has been reduced to rubble by a devastating nine-month-long battle between Iraqi forces and ISIS, Erbil is blossoming. The ancient Assyrian fortress there stands intact, presiding over a busy marketplace, new suburban subdivisions, and modern office buildings.

“The startup community is new in Iraq, but Erbil is lively, with an engaged community,” says Letayf. “We’re excited to be there, working with these remarkable people, and we can’t wait to show off some of their stories.”

— Rebecca Shapiro

State of the Art

Left: Rujeko Hockley / Photograph by Jody Rogac; Right: "Representatives of State", by Toyin Ojih Odutola / Photo Courtesy of the Artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

The Whitney Museum’s elevator doors open onto a film projected on a black wall. Grainy figures march in what looks like a Vietnam War protest. But the 8 mm footage isn’t as old as it looks. In fact, it was shot by artist Josephine Meckseper in 2004 at a demonstration against the Iraq War. This tangible reminder of art’s continued role in responding to conflict introduces visitors to An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017, an exhibition co-curated by Rujeko Hockley ’05CC that will run until spring 2018.

Throughout the show, a variety of media — film, photography, poster, painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, and text — capture a wide range of protest movements and perspectives. Such breadth in one exhibit reflects Hockley’s philosophy as a curator. “I’m interested in expanding the types of work we see in institutions,” she explains. “At the Whitney that means thinking in the most expansive way possible about what it means to be an American artist.”

Hockley arrived at the Whitney as an assistant curator in March 2017 and brought with her a complex sense of American identity. Born in Zimbabwe to a Zimbabwean mother and an English father, she moved to the United States at age two and grew up in Washington, DC, and New York City. "I'm kind of a hodgepodge of things,” she says.

Hockley’s career took root at Columbia, where, as an art-history major, she studied the ways in which American art has historically represented a relatively narrow spectrum of American people. After graduation, she landed a job as a curatorial assistant at the Studio Museum in Harlem and worked there for two years before moving to Laos to teach English, and then to California to start a PhD program at UC San Diego. In 2012, she joined the staff of the Brooklyn Museum, where she co-organized powerful exhibitions including this year’s We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85, which, Hockley says, “really homed in on the relationship between Black women artists and second-wave feminism.”

"An Incomplete History of Protest" at the Whitney. / Photograph by Ron Amstutz

Her latest project at the Whitney, titled Toyin Ojih Odutola: To Wander Determined, features drawings by a Nigerian-American artist who explores themes of identity and narrative through richly textured portraits of fictional characters. Like Hockley, Ojih Odutola is in her early thirties, and, like Hockley, she was born in Africa but grew up in the United States. “Ojih Odutola's also interested in exploring who’s an American and what we talk about when we talk about American art,” Hockley says.

Ojih Odutola's drawings, on view until February 25, aren’t just beautiful; they invite viewers to think about representations of race, class, and nationality. Hockley explains: “Society has a tendency to flatten the experiences of people of color into a kind of monolith — into a singular ‘Black experience,’ for example — and Ojih Odutola pushes audiences to think about the specificities and nuances of individual lives.”

As a curator, Hockley says she is motivated to showcase work that reflects an ever-complex, ever-diverse America. “We’re doing ourselves a disservice if we don’t embrace the full range of human experience,” she says. “Of course, that’s a hard thing to do, and we struggle with it as a nation. But I see great art all the time, and I see people who are really engaged with their current moment and surroundings. And to me, that’s all good.”

— Julia Joy



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