Act Like You Know: Towards a Digital Record of Hip Hop Theatre

KASHI JOHNSON is an actress, director and Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre; where she teaches courses in performance, Hip Hop theatre and directs plays. Dedicated to cultivating voices from the Hip Hop generation, Professor Johnson has been nationally recognized for her research in Hip Hop theatre pedagogy and given talks about her groundbreaking Hip Hop theater course ‘Act Like You Know’, for national speaking platforms like TEDx and BlackademicsTV.

They say if you want to tell your story, the best way to do it is to tell it yourself. Over the past year, I’ve done exactly that by gathering and organizing over 10 years worth of student devised Hip Hop theatre video performances, newspaper articles, and images that document my work in Hip Hop theatre; by collaborating with a very talented, very patient web designer, on the re-design of my YouTube channel, creation of a digital archive and design of my professional website

The YouTube channel, Kashi Johnson, now features over 200 video clips of Lehigh student performances in Hip Hop theatre. The videos are organized into chronological playlists that can be easily accessed by anyone. Since the channel update, the view counts on my videos has more than doubled with 11,600 views and counting. I am pleasantly surprised at how well the channel is doing and look forward to continuing to build this archive with such a solid foundation in place.

I also worked with the same web designer to create my professional website . This website is my digital portfolio and it showcases my research K. Johnson websiteand teaching as a theatre professor, actress, director, playwright, producer and public figure. My website has a lot of moving parts. It tells my story through images, videos and digital records of interviews, articles and performances.  Since the website’s launch in May 2016, I have received a steady stream of positive feed back about the site and made several professional connections with fellow scholars interested in my work. I am encouraged and excited because this site is generating the right type of attention to my work and has empowered me to network with confidence and ease.

This link is a YouTube video that was designed for my website as a digital calling card. In the words and voice of one of my students, Karen Valerio ’17, it tells my story: who I am, what I’ve done and what I’m about to do next.



Curating Friedrich Feigl: The Eye Sees the World

Nicholas Sawicki is an Associate Professor of Art History in the Department of Art, Architecture and Design at Lehigh University.  He has been working this summer on an exhibition in the Czech Republic.

For research, the summer months have a different pace to them than the rest of the year.  The campus becomes quieter, time frees up, and it becomes possible to work on larger projects that can’t be fit into the usual academic calendar.  This is the time of year when I’m either buried in writing or packing my bags for travel, and this summer has been no different.  I’ve been spending most of my days putting the final touches on a museum exhibition that I’m curating in the Czech Republic, which I have just finished installing.

The exhibition focuses on the artist Friedrich Feigl (1884-1965).  He was a prominent modernist painter and printmaker from Prague, and spent part of his career in Berlin and London.  I have been publishing on Feigl for some time, and a few years ago I was approached with the idea of curating an exhibition of his work.  The invitation came from the Gallery of Fine Arts in Cheb, a Czech state museum in what used to be known as the Sudetenland, the part of Czechoslovakia that Nazi Germany annexed in 1938.

Today Cheb is a city of around 30,000, with a historic town square of late gothic, renaissance, and baroque buildings.  The Gallery of Fine Arts is housed in a large palace built in the early 18th century as the city’s town hall.  It has an extensive museum collection, and has recently started organizing exhibitions of German and Jewish artists once active in Czechoslovakia, whose memory and legacy was mostly erased by World War II, the Holocaust, and postwar communism.  Feigl was Jewish and spent much of his life in the country, until the Nazis advanced on Prague in spring 1939, forcing him and his wife to flee for the west.  They lost much of their family to the Holocaust, and escaped for London, where Feigl joined a large community of exiled Central European artists, writers, and cultural figures.

The planning of a museum exhibition is generally a long process, with countless decisions to be made along the way: selecting which works to include and researching their history, arranging loans and transport of works from different museums, creating a plan for how these objects will be installed in the gallery space, and writing the narrative text and captions that audiences will use to navigate the exhibition.  The two years I had to work on the project were a short window of time, all the more because I was concurrently editing a new monograph on the artist, to be published with the exhibition.  To take me through the final stretches of my work, I had the support of a Faculty Research Grant, which helped me bring the project to conclusion.

I had started planning for the exhibition early on with some quick sketches, initially thinking about what selection of works would best tell the story of Feigl’s life and art, and how this narrative might unfold in the five rooms that make up the gallery space.  I also decided on a title for the show, Friedrich Feigl: The Eye Sees the World.  It had to work equally well in Czech and German, as these two languages are also in use in the textual materials accompanying the exhibition. The titling takes its cue from what I have come to understand as a discerning feature of Feigl’s art—the way his innovative modernist works always retain a connection to the visible world, an unwavering interest and curiosity for the observable subjects of his own physical and social surroundings.

3 Installation Design_downsized

As the planning process for the exhibition moved forward, I worked closely with the director of the Gallery of Fine Arts, Marcel Fišer, to determine which of the works we could actually borrow from museum and private lenders, scattered across the Czech Republic, England, Germany, and the United States.  I then used design software to produce more detailed iterations of the installation plan.  The exhibition features more than 70 works, and for a show this large in scale, designing the installation is like putting together a puzzle without fully knowing what the outcome will look like until the very end.  There are multiple moving parts, and it’s a process that benefits from feedback.  While working on the show, I dropped in to talk with colleagues Mark Wonsidler and Jeffrey Ludwig at the Lehigh University Art Galleries to get their input on the exhibition design, which I then further refined and sent on to Cheb.

Continue reading Curating Friedrich Feigl: The Eye Sees the World

Explaining the work

David Anastasio is a geologist in the Department of Earth and Environmental Studies at Lehigh University. He is currently blogging from his research site in Spain. Catch up here!

The Earth’s surface is a dynamic interface that evolves through the influence of tectonic and climatic drivers. Understanding the feedbacks between solid-Earth deformation, surface processes and landscape evolution requires a process-based approach that integrates detailed field observations and temporal determinations across many spatial scales. Changes in tectonic forcing or processes of surface erosion and deposition can alter the near-surface stress field and influence fault evolution, uplift, subsidence patterns, and

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 2.27.37 PM
Claudio Berti and James Carrigan orienting rock cores to be used for paleo magnetism to determine the age of the deposit.

topographic relief. East of Granada, Spain, Earth and Environmental Sciences Professor Claudio Berti,  EES graduate student James Carrigan and I are testing the various models available for the evolution of the Gibraltar Arc and Alboran Sea against the predictions each makes for the Betic Cordillera with field observations and chronologic data along the main drainages of the mountain belt and marine terraces exposed along the Mediterranean coast.

The mountains resulted from the collision between the African and Eurasian tectonic plates over the last 10 million years. The dating methods allow us to measure rates of surface change to add temporal evolution to our snapshot of the current state of the landscape and allow us to reconstruct the tectonic processes that have led to the present state and to test the sensitivity of topography to record processes within the solid Earth.


A geologist in the field

David Anastasio is a geologist in the Department of Earth and Environmental Studies at Lehigh University

In the scorching summer heat there are very many reasons to find your way to southern Spain. Most of the people I know would say that the crystal clear water of the ocean, many millennia of alternating cultures, and the exquisite food would be at the top of the list…but I am a geologist…and I’ve come to this gorgeous part of the world to study how mountain start, evolve, and grow. From a small wrinkle at the bottom of the ocean, to the majestic peaks of Sierra Nevada, standing more than three kilometers tall above the Mediterranean coast.

How and why do I do this? Well… this is the story I will post to you over the next several days. It is now time for me to enjoy the fresh seafood after a long day in the field! My colleague, Claudio Berti and my student James Carrigan are waiting for me. Talk to you soon!

Archival Research: Intention, Opportunity, Pleasure

Elizabeth Dolan is an Associate Professor of English at Lehigh University. This summer she embarked on a research trip to the British Library. 

From the outside, archival research doesn’t look like much: one scholar alone, reading old and oddly sized books and manuscripts hour after hour. But these crumbling documents hold stories that come alive in the scholar’s mind and offer insight into the nuances of human experience over time. One arrives at an archive with a research plan, an intention to answer a well-defined question. But, once the scholar is elbow deep in the sources, the archive itself begins to shape the research—offering up in the midst of hours of tedious reading unexpected finds, opportunities for new lines of inquiry. These surprises, the questions they raise, the mystery, the putting together of pieces are the great pleasure of archival work.

Thanks to a Faculty Innovation Grant, I’m on the first of several trips in AY 2016-17 to various archives, this time to the British Library in London. I last conducted research in this venerable institution in 1995, while still in graduate school. At that time, the collection was held at the British Museum. One walked up the grand marble steps, past thePICTURE 2 Brit Libary large marble lions, and into the darkly paneled library to unearth old texts. The new British Library, situated several blocks away from the British Museum, opened in 1998. It exudes a beauty and light appropriate for this invaluable collection of 150 million items, including manuscripts, maps, newspapers, magazines, prints, drawings, musical scores, patents, sound recordings, stamps, and, of course, books. As the web site explains, “If you see 5 items each day, it would take you over 80,000 years to see the whole of the collection.” And it grows by 3 million items a year. Continue reading Archival Research: Intention, Opportunity, Pleasure

Winding down

Kelly Austin is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Lehigh. She is in Bududa, Uganda this summer with a group of students pursuing her research in community health. You can see her previous posts here.

I’ve been winding down working on my own research here and I am focusing on enjoying my last few days in Bududa. The rain has also continued, making getting around an adventure. Today was the Lehigh interns’ last day working at the school, PDI Education Center. The Lehigh interns did an amazing job over the last two months. They were quite hard-working and self-sufficient, which made my job easier and allowed me to get more research done. One of the Lehigh interns is studying business. He did great work drafting a formal report on the current status and challenges with the school, the chief one of which20160721_122222 had to do with over-hauling the school budget. The Lehigh student visited about a half dozen other primary schools in Bududa for comparison, and was able to develop relevant recommendations for PDI Education Center concerning staffing, staff payment structures, changes to the school fees, etc. The PDI board of directors already approved his recommendations, so I am sure that his work will have a lasting impact on the school for years to come.

Early in the summer, the Lehigh interns noted that there was a dearth of learning materials on the walls of the classrooms, as well as an absence of the young pupils’ work and art. I was so happy when we visited the school this morning and I saw all of the materials they created with the young pupils featured on every wall. Another highlight was the goodbye and thank you ceremony that the children put on for us. They sang of series of several songs, danced, and gave short speeches. A few of the songs were created just for us, as they had special messages in them. For example, one group of children sang lyrics that said, “We are so sorry you are leaving, will you write a letter to us?” Other songs included messages of “thank you” and they would insert our names in each chorus. After the performance, we played outside with the children. We blew bubbles, which were a huge hit!!! We also rewarded the children with some “sweets” or candies – a very rare treat for many of these children.

Continue reading Winding down

Rainy Times

Kelly Austin is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Lehigh. She is in Bududa, Uganda this summer with a group of students pursuing her research in community health. You can see her previous posts here.

Our trip is winding down to its final weeks. The students are well-settled in their internship and research projects; they are doing great work at PDI education center, the village savings and loans associations (VSLA) and in their research on mental health and global health volunteering. Over the last few weeks, I’ve completed my coffee interviews and another set of malaria interviews, which looks at community members’ perspectives on the malaria burden. I have had to do a lot of computer work lately, analyzing my data and writing up the findings. I have also had a “revise and resubmit” decision on another manuscript I’ve been trying to tackle. But all of that has been a bit difficult with the electricity being so faulty…

We’ve had several days without power. The prolonged lapses in electricity are most commonly due to “load sharing.” Uganda does not produce enough power to sustain all of the districts or regions at once. So they literally “turn off” entire districts for days at a time to share the load with other areas. I asked Dezz how long they usually turn off the power in Bududa for load sharing. He responded, “It can depend…on if someone in Kampala forgets about you or not.” Other “blackouts” might only last 1-2 days or several hours. These are mostly due to people tapping into the lines illegally, which is widely common here. Walking up and down the paths of the trading centers, you can see shops and dwellings securing to the electricity wire with a bent nail or piece of scrap metal. All of the recent power surges have cost us 3 surge protectors, as well as my computer charger, which is totally fried. Luckily, Mark & I use the same type of charger, but now we are sharing one charging block between us, which makes working on the computer even more of a challenge.

Continue reading Rainy Times

Bringing People to Healthcare & A Holiday

Kelly Austin is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Lehigh. She is in Bududa, Uganda this summer with a group of students pursuing her research in community health. You can see her previous posts here.

So, the word is out. The Lehigh “mzungus” are back in Bududa and thus people are showing up again at the Zaale compound. This all started about 2 summers ago, as I began actively researching health issues in the area. Many locals incorrectly conflate my understanding of public health with being a trained doctor or medical practitioner. What they do understand is that we are willing to do what is needed to help obviously sick thermometerpeople get the life-saving interventions they need. Every time another “patient” rolls in, I explain to them that I am not a doctor, but that I would be happy to transport them to the private clinic (and pay for their treatments). So far this year, the students and I have helped over a dozen people (mostly children) get to the private clinic on the other side of the district. There are no clinics in our village of Bubiita, and the nearest clinic is run by the government and faces “stock outs” of medicines for 3 weeks out of every month. So most don’t waste their time walking 2 miles to a public clinic without medicines and instead seek out our assistance, when they can, to get them to the private clinic.

Our peak day was about 2 weeks ago, when I drove 6 children to the clinic who just showed up at the gate, with fevers, vomiting, and other active aliments. 4 of these 6 children had malaria (and only 2 of them threw up in the car – yay!). One of them had severe malaria (+++) which would have quickly progressed into cerebral malaria without immediate action. He had to be on IV treatments, but has made a full recovery. I am grateful to have a number of Lehigh students on the team this year that are pre-med or interested in public health. They have been helping me take patients to the clinic when I am busy working on research, as well as following up with their treatments. When children arrive, we take them to the clinic and help them through all the stations (check in, vitals, consultation, lab, etc.), especially the young ones that would be lost without someone to guide them. This is often a feat in itself, as some of them are so young or under-educated that they do not even know their age or last name. For the kids that come from unstable homes, we have them return to the compound whenever they need their next dose of medicine and give them a meal and clean water to take it with. For some of the children, like the very young ones, we find out where they live from Maayi or Papa, then do “house calls” to follow up with their medications or treatments at the proper time. Many children or adults are just simply too poor to pay for the private clinic, so after getting them there and back, we send them on their way, making sure they know how and when to take their medication and stress to them the importance of adhering to the full dose.

I know that this anything but a long term solution for the community. I often think about what happens to these sick children when we are not here for the other 10 months of the year. I know that many of them would end up in really bad shape, likely going to the apocalyptic Bududa hospital where you “walk in with one disease but come out with five more” (quote from a local health inspector) as a last resort once their illness had progressed to devastating stages. Or many of them would treat themselves from a drug shop or local healer, likely not getting an accurate diagnosis (if any) or the proper dosage of treatments. So in the meantime, we take them to the clinic. I don’t have the heart to turn away sick people when they arrive on our door step.

Continue reading Bringing People to Healthcare & A Holiday