Student Spotlight on Tia Dorsey (ARAD ’20) and her show “Where We’re From”

Tia Dorsey, a second year MA Candidate in the Arts Administration Program at Teachers College, recently had an opening for her new show of photographic works titled Where We’re From. She took some time to chat with Jessie Young, ARAD Program Coordinator, and answered a few questions about this new body of work and how her experience at TC has shaped her as an artist.

Headshot (Dorsey).jpeg

Jessie: Please tell us a little bit about yourself. What brought you to the ARAD program at TC?

Tia: Having had an extensive history within the arts, my enrollment within the ARAD program last fall was inevitable. I have always been interested in curating various Black dance forms in a way that would prevent them from becoming too “malleable” or even “less Black” for consumption, ultimately resisting the conformity brought on by the conventional spaces that typically support this art form (e.g., theaters, studios). I have learned that shifting these curated performances into unconventional spaces like that of museums, may drastically impact the direction of the dance curation field for the better. However, after being within the ARAD program for only over a year now, I can finally visualize what a career would actually look like for someone with my interests: museum curation within performance studies departments. As I am continuously exploring the possibilities within this career field, I have become even more interested in learning how I can utilize my resources at TC to achieve my goal of becoming an advocate for Black artists in museum spaces.

Jessie: What would you say is the main theme or themes that run through your artistic practice?


Tia: The preservation of Black art forms, but more importantly the Black bodies that create the culture surrounding these art forms. However, I would be amiss to not mention my roots as a DC native, which is something that I take pride in and have become committed to expressing in most of my work. Alongside this pride, though, I also must harp on the issues that plague DC as gentrification grows rampant in the city.

Right: Photograph from Tia Dorsey’s work in the exhibition, Where We’re From. Photo courtesy of Eden Hambric.

Jessie: When did you get interested in photography as a medium? What is it that you love about it?

Tia: I have always been interested in work by Carrie Mae Weems—to whom I owe my obsession with black & white photography—and Gordon Parks, but it was not until my own personal interest in the medium arose that I became serious. Since I come from a dance background, linking the two was not difficult. Capturing movement is a skill that I have yet to master myself, but it is something that fascinates me. Most people “curate” dance through videos or sometimes costumes, but film is seldom used to capture the stillness within movement. Why is that? Photography is an easy method we use to immortalize people every day, so why not use it to create permanent evidence of the Black dance forms, culture, and bodies that have shaped history in every way imaginable? This question is something

that ignited my interest in photography and will continue to push me to create more work.

Jessie: You have a show coming up at Teachers College. What artwork will be featured in it?

Tia: Where We’re From includes a mix of black & white and color prints, so it will be quite different from my first, entirely black & white show this past August. This particular body of work will be of service to those in DC and NY who grew up going to carry-outs and are now left to deal with their physical demolition and mental erasure caused by one of the many attacks on Black culture—gentrification.


Jessie: What do you hope your audience learns or experiences from seeing this body of work?

Tia: I hope that my work speaks for those who are forced to see their very specific cultural norms being stripped away from them vis-à-vis gentrification. Moreover, I hope that from my work people can witness how powerful capturing experiences are despite gentrification’s goal in erasing the physical spaces that we have cultivated such precious memories within. Finally, I hope this work helps to remind us Black artists that neither our bodies (as seen via my first show, what once was) nor our memories can be erased. This work seeks to make sure of it. Photo courtesy of Tia Dorsey.

Above: Photo of the Where We’re From Exhibition Opening. Photo courtesy of Eden Hambric

Jessie: What’s next? Do you have any other projects you are thinking about doing? Do you have any other shows coming up?

Tia: I always have something that I am working on, so it is a matter of which project is next! I am currently working on a project regarding Black DC fashion to somewhat conclude my DC-specific work—for now. I will never be done with work surrounding DC-specific culture, but I am preparing to work on another project that is a slight departure from it. Work for this project premieres in August 2020 and will cover heritage, identity, and tradition. My goal is to dig deeper, beyond my DC roots, and capture culture from another part of my heritage.


Jessie: How do you think your time at TC informs and supports your artistic practice?

Tia: I think that the two are deeply intertwined. The people that I met during my time at TC have made my artistic practice stronger and bolder. My photography professor, Eric Mason, has been one of those people who pushed me to create work that I am now confident in showing and sharing with peers within my field.

Jessie: Is there anything else that you would like to add/share?

Tia: As always, support Black artists! Their stories are important, and we must listen to them to not only understand how the past informs the present but also our future within the arts administrators field.

Above: photo courtesy of Eden Hambric. Photo of the Where We’re From Exhibition Opening.

“Where We’re From” is presented by Student Advocates for the Arts in partnership with the Chinese Calligraphy Club, Nayion Design, The Gottesman Libraries EdLab, the Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Community Affairs, the Office of Student Affairs, and the Arts Administration Program. It will be on display from December 5, 2019 to February 16, 2020, in the Grottesman Libraries at Teachers College (Offit Gallery, 3rd Floor).

You can learn more about Tia Dorsey’s artistic practice and view more works here


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