Opening Plenary Session and Lunch

Friday, June 14, 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Arts and Culture Connecting Community History and Hope

We kick off our focus on deep and genuine arts-based community dialogue with two creative rockstars! Together and separately, architect Michael Murphy and artist Hank Willis Thomas use art and design to recognize and engage with the difficult parts of our shared history as Americans and to spark in people a desire to be better. Whether you’re talking about the Memorial to Peace and Justice, which Murphy designed and Thomas contributed sculptures to, the For Freedoms national billboard project, or some of their future shared endeavors, this is an opening keynote you won’t want to miss. Come together to talk about what it means to have genuine, honest, and deep engagement with the creative lives and heritages of all people.



Our thanks to U.S. Bank for its support of the Opening Plenary session and lunch.



Michael Murphy
Co-Founder and Executive Director
MASS Design Group
Boston, Massachusetts

Michael Murphy is the Founding Principal and Executive Director of MASS Design Group, an architecture and design collective with offices in Boston, Kigali, and Poughkeepsie. As a designer, writer, and teacher, his work investigates the social and political consequences of the built world. Michael advocates for a new empowerment that calls on architects to consider the power relationships of their design decisions, while simultaneously searching for beauty and meaning.

Since MASS's beginnings, their portfolio of work has expanded to over a dozen countries and span the areas of healthcare, education, housing, urban development, and more recently, food systems, indigenous sovereignty, and the public monument.

MASS’s work has been recognized and published widely. Most recently, MASS received the 2018 J. Irwin and Xenia S. Miller Prize, the 2018 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Architecture, and the 2017 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Architecture.
Michael is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, and is currently teaching a studio at University of Michigan, Taubman College.

Michael is from Poughkeepsie, NY, and holds a Master of Architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design and a Bachelor of Arts from University of Chicago.

Hank Willis Thomas
Hank Willis Thomas Studio LLC
New York, New York

HANK WILLIS THOMAS is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. His work is included in numerous public collections including the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. His collaborative projects include Question Bridge: Black Males, In Search Of The Truth (The Truth Booth), and For Freedoms, an artist-run initiative for art and civic engagement. In 2017, For Freedoms was awarded the ICP Infinity Award for New Media and Online Platform. Thomas is also a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship (2018), the AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize (2017), the Soros Equality Fellowship (2017), and is a member of the New York City Public Design Commission.