Get to know Curtis D. Young, SOAPBOX Co-Chair in 2015 and longtime LP supporter who officially joined The Laundromat Project’s Board of Directors in January 2017:
As a supporter of the arts, what do you feel is your connection to the arts?
I’ve been a lover of the arts and culture from the moment I picked up the alto saxophone in sixth grade. I didn’t know how much that would impact my life, but it has had a profound impact. I attended the Flint School of Performing Arts in addition to a traditional school. I also attended Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp each summer growing up, where I was surrounded by creativity most of my day. Music was my connection and entry point into the world of arts and culture.
What attracted you to The LP and excited you most about joining the board?
I was first attracted to The Laundromat Project’s commitment to making art and cultural programs more accessible to communities around New York City. I also fell in love with its mission to amplify the creativity that already exists within communities by using arts and culture. Back in 2014 I served on the host committee for The Laundromat Project’s annual Soap Box benefit and was co-chair in 2015. It’s been a pleasure to stay involved over the years and I’m extremely excited to take my support up a level while serving on the Board of Directors.
You have an extensive career in educational programming and language exchange. Can you tell us about an organization or project that was a particular highlight of your work?
I’ve been fortunate to have a colorful career, not only in education but also politics, which at time seem to be polar opposites, especially these days. I do feel that education is what I am most passionate about at this stage of my life.
One highlight was working at iEARN-USA (International Education and Resource Network). iEARN pioneered the use of technology in education connecting students around the world on collaborative project based online learning activities. Their projects aimed to have students learn with the world and not just about the world. With the current political climate in which we currently live, this simple act of understanding and working with others beyond our borders is what we more students need. Additionally, we were funded by the U.S. Department of State to implement several citizen diplomacy programs, one of which was the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES Program). This program afforded students from predominantly muslims countries opportunities to study in the United States for one academic school year, living with an American family. It has been truly life changing for thousands of youth globally. These same students returned to their home countries with a greater understanding of the world and equipped with more tools to make a difference in their local communities. Another amazing program I worked on there was the National Security Language Initiative for Youth. That was my baby for many years!
It was my experience in education technology and collaboration at iEARN that led to my current position at the Ross Institute, where our work centers around research in globalization and education, the functioning of the mind, brain and education, and curriculum development that fosters intercultural understanding.
Please tell us about an artist, curator, activist, or project that has influenced or inspired you:
I attended Hampton University, home of our nation’s oldest African American Art Museum. In the museum’s permanent collection are several pieces by John Biggers. In fact, two of his most prolific murals hang in the Harvey Library where I spent many long nights. I recall several times during my undergraduate days stopping in my tracks, almost mesmerized by the larger than life murals playing on abstract and symbolic themes associated with liberation, justice, history of African Americans and overall inspiration to all students passing. John Biggers is by far a unspoken inspiration for me and so many Hamptonians inadvertently.
Has The LP changed the way you think about art? If so, how?
Simply stated, The LP has helped me see my community as a piece of art within itself.
What’s The LP value that keeps you engaged in our work?
Propelled by Love! We need so much more of this in the world.
What song gets you going when work is hard?
“Brand New” by Pharrell Williams
What have you been reading lately?
“The Empathic Civilization” by Jeremy Rivkin
Where do you do your laundry?
Oddly enough, in my home. Long story.
What’s your/a favorite food?
Baked Macaroni and Cheese