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Hip-Hop Architecture Camp receives national recognition as a 'top innovator' for 2017

December 22, 2017

UW-Madison’s Michael Dando played a key role in leading a Hip-Hop Architecture Camp earlier this year at the Madison Central Library, an initiative that was recently recognized by the Urban Libraries Council as a “top innovator” for 2017.

Michael Ford, an architect designing the Universal Hip-Hop Museum in the Bronx, hip-hop artist Rob “Dz” Franklin and Dando led workshops in urban planning and architecture at the library for kids ages 10 to 15 in February 2017. The students listened to and discussed popular hip-hop tracks that address urban life and social justice before planning neighborhoods, parks and buildings based on their ideas for what Madison needs.

Michael Dando continues to work as the
educational lead for the Hip-Hop
Architecture Initiative. 
“This award speaks to the genius that young people possess when given the opportunities to think about and speak about their realities, and to envision meaningful ways to build up their communities,” says Dando, who today is a postdoctoral education research fellow with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER). “It also recognizes the vital place of hip-hop culture and art in public discourse, and the need to include these brilliant voices in the democratic process. Hip-hop culture is more than beats and rhymes just as neighborhoods and communities are more than simply bricks and mortar. This award recognizes the importance of this fact and shows there are organizations and people dedicated to forwarding democratic education, youth engagement and to ensuring that every voice has an opportunity to be heard.”

The Urban Libraries Council (ULC) recognized the Madison Public Library’s collaboration with the Hip Hop Architecture Camp as one of 10 “Top Innovators” from across the country in the Race and Social Equity category. A panel of expert judges selected this partnership from a pool of over 250 submissions as one of 10 library practices that best embodies the 21st century library’s role as a community leader and pioneer for positive change.

“Now, more than ever, libraries must act as leaders in their community to provide resources that many have taken for granted,” ULC President and CEO Susan Benton said in a news release announcing the honor. “During times of economic and social difficulties, these libraries have stepped up to the challenge of inspiring change while helping their communities thrive.”

During his involvement with the summer camp, Dando was a Ph.D. student with the School of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction.  He connected with Ford through a mutual interest in bringing critical thinking and academic skill building into schools and learning environments in culturally relevant ways, specifically through hip-hop culture.

Hip-Hop Camp logoDando then worked with the City Planning Commission (Imagine Madison), the public library, Ford and Rob Dz’s hip-hop collective “Kidz these Dayz” to develop a culturally sustaining and engaging curriculum. This work centered hip-hop practices (rap, graffiti, dance and beat making), as well as the aesthetic elements such as free-styling, the cultural importance of neighborhoods and cities, and the ideas of remixing and sampling as meaningful practices. This allowed the team to bring language arts and social studies (geography and history) into the curriculum.

Dando, who earned his Ph.D. this past spring, also focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) content areas, with particular focus on architecture -- such as repetition, form, function and more. Camp attendees worked with particular academic content areas such as design-based thinking, geometry and scale in order to design their own “ideal block.”

Thanks to a fellowship through the School of Education’s Partner Schools Network, participants in the camp received support materials and resources, and ultimately held a showcase event to put a spotlight on the students’ work at Union South’s Marquee Theatre. The group premiered the music video, had a walk-through gallery of student work and took part in a moderated community talk back with camp participants and artists.

Dando today is the educational lead for the Hip-Hop Architecture Initiative and will be working with the Universal Hip-Hop Museum, the Urban Arts Collective and a collective of nationally recognized artists to develop a curriculum that centers critical thinking, academic excellence and community engagement.

Hip-Hop Architecture mini documentary
To learn more about the Hip-Hop Architecture Camp, check
out this mini documentary posted to YouTube.
“It was great to have the support of the Madison Public Library in launching this initiative and tackling issues of diversity and inclusions in STEAM-related fields in an innovative way,” Ford said in a news release. “Without the help from the library, members of the City's planning department and Madison residents who volunteered, I'm not sure the camp would have been able to grow to what it is today -- a nationally recognized program funded in part by Autodesk. I hope this award and display of willingness to partner on innovative projects results in more community organizations approaching public libraries to implement their programs.”

To learn more, check out this this mini documentary posted to YouTube.

The library plans to host a second Hip Hop Architecture Camp with Michael Ford in the summer of 2018.