“Learning never stops."
Dr. Jarvis Watson has joined SVA as its new director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We sat down with Dr. Watson to explore his vision for the College and the role of arts and humanities education in building better futures.
On diversity and community: “Diversity work is something that has to be based on relationships, on how we connect with each other, on how we are as we are looking at a system and a community. We’re as strong as the person to the left and right of us, as well as the person in front and the ones we’re trying to bring up behind us. It’s about always having this multidirectional understanding and intersectional perspective.”
On the role of arts and humanities: “We all have to find ways of translating and interpreting, but also being able to be multilingual and multifaceted in how we get the information to the community. How else do you extend who you are outside of art, music, the humanities? Everything just stays inside? How do you communicate? How do you express yourself? How do you connect with another person?”
How does continuing education support the goals of diversity, equity and inclusion? “Learning never stops. You never stop building upon your foundation in regards to what you identify as ‘expert’ or ‘professional.’ Your ability to translate, to communicate and to articulate different perspectives can get to a wider audience because now you’re using an additional skill set to get the message out. And you’re doing it in different ways that everyone is able to appreciate, whether it’s a generational thing or—now we’re looking at diversity not just in ethnicity but also diversity in how you receive information—how you connect with your humanity and your art, how you connect yourself with the community in different disciplines within the arts. It’s how you develop a sense of empathy.
In order for us to really understand how to move forward together, we have to be vulnerable in sharing our challenges, our fears, our hopes and dreams that sometimes people want to guard. Once you get into a continuing education process, you will get exposed to what you know and what you don’t know. That’s also the challenge. If you practice, if you put time into it, you’re going to get better. What’s part of your past doesn’t have to be part of your future; that chapter has not closed. The canvas still has space for some paint to be placed there, the book is still not finished, the credits haven’t rolled up yet. There’s a sequel to people’s lives in continuing education.
You don’t retire from being a genius, you don’t retire from being who you are. Continuing education brings out an identity that has been suppressed because of stereotypes or boundaries that have been put upon you, because you look a certain way, or you’ve come from a certain place or a certain time.”