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“What I tell my students—and most of them are writers—is that the only way for them to get to a place where they’re making what they should be making, writing what they should be writing, is to work from a place of courage.”

Claudia Rankine is a skilled poet, playwright, essayist, and professor. She explores, across genres, how the act of witnessing is necessary in maintaining the social contract. During this period of immense global change, witnessing as an act is a powerful act for artists, who can incisively question the moral trajectory of a nation.

In this episode, hosted by Getty Research Institute associate curator Dr. LeRonn Brooks, Rankine shares her thoughts on the role art and artists play in determining the course of history, her approach to teaching a new generation of artists, and the importance of introspection and intention in shaping our collective future.

Rankine is professor of creative writing at New York University. She is the author of three plays and six collections, including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; she has also edited several anthologies, including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. In 2016, she co-founded The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII). Her most recent book is Just Us: An American Conversation (Graywolf, 2020). She is a recipient of numerous awards and honors, including MacArthur, Lannan Foundation, and Guggenheim fellowships.

Waist-up portrait of curator LeRonn Brooks

Curator and host LeRonn Brooks

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Claudia Rankine

LeRonn Brooks: Hello, I’m LeRonn Brooks, Associate Curator for Modern and Contemporary Collections at the Getty Research Institute. Welcome to Art + Ideas. I’m your host for a three-episode series about poetry and visual art.
Claudia Rankine: What I tell my students—and most of them...

Music Credits
“The Dharma at Big Sur – Sri Moonshine and A New Day.” Music written by John Adams and licensed with permission from Hendon Music. (P) 2006 Nonesuch Records, Inc., Produced Under License From Nonesuch Records, Inc. ISRC: USNO10600825 & USNO10600824

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This post is part of Art + Ideas, a podcast in which Getty president Jim Cuno talks with artists, writers, curators, and scholars about their work.
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