Keren Alshanetsky '17

DuBois ’83 Directs Museum Honoring Girls of Color

Vashti DuBois ’83

Vashti DuBois ’83

Vashti DuBois ’83 is the founder and executive director of the Colored Girls Museum, a memoir museum honoring the stories and history of black women. Located in the Germantown area of Philadelphia, Dubois created the space in September 2015 to rectify the continual neglect of black women’s experiences and labor. Featuring artifacts pertaining to the herstory of Colored Girls, the museum respects these objects as containing both personal and historical significance. It acts as an exhibition space as well as a place to research, gather and heal.

As reported in the Chestnut Hill Local, Dubois first visualized the Colored Girls Museum during her time as an undergraduate student at Wesleyan. For her first exhibition she crowd sourced the objects to put on display from friends:

DuBois, a theater artist and literacy coach, came up with the idea of a museum of black women’s artifacts during her sophomore year at Wesleyan University. When she began to re-knit her life three years ago after her husband of 16 years, Al Stewart, died in a car crash, she asked her friends to donate objects. The first exhibit, “Open for Business,” was a 2015 Fringe Festival event.

In the exhibitions she puts on, Dubois seeks to break stereotypes surrounding women of color. Describing her ultimate motivation for creating and sustaining the museum, she explains:

“So much depends on cleaning women, child care workers and other colored women who remain anonymous. The museum shows colored girls from the ordinary to the extraordinary.”

The Colored Girls Museum, 4613 Newhall St., is open Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. The suggested donation is $10. More information here.

Tyrnauer ’91 Creates Film About Urban Activist Jane Jacobs

Matt Tyrnauer ’91

Matt Tyrnauer ’91

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer ’91 is the producer and director of Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, a new documentary about author and activist Jane Jacobs. Most famous for her influence on urban studies and urban planning, Jacobs’s legacy will be playing out on screens in nearly 20 cities across the country.

The documentary film chronicles her rise as a critical voice and visionary during the urbanization movement of the 1960s. Fighting to preserve urban communities against the threat of destructive redevelopment projects, Jacobs did much to influence modern understandings of urban environments and the American city. A review in The New York Times draws connections between the city that Jacobs lived in during the 70s and the version we are left with today:

In the 1970s … Mr. Trump acquired the Commodore Hotel, near Grand Central Terminal, in exchange for big tax breaks that would extend for decades. In the author’s view, this was the beginning of the end for New York — the beginning, as she puts it, of displacement for working-class New Yorkers as the city sought to save itself from further decline by ingratiating itself to the wealthy, here and abroad. Oligarchs didn’t just arrive on West 57th Street in 2013; they had, in fact, been systematically courted for a very long time.

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City is playing in select theaters across the country. Check out the schedule and buy tickets here. It is also available to watch on demand here.

Shankar ’94 Named 2017 Guggenheim Fellow

Shalini Shankar ’94

Shalini Shankar ’94

Anthropologist Shalini Shankar ’94 has been named one of 173 recipients of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship for 2017. Winners of the annual competition were chosen from a pool of 3,000 applicants that includes scholars, artists and scientists who are advanced professionals in their respective fields. She was chosen on the basis of prior achievement as a productive scholar who has published several works on teen and youth culture, as well as her exceptional promise to continue research in the social sciences.

Shankar, who studied anthropology in Wesleyan and received her PhD in the field from New York University, is a sociocultural and linguistic anthropologist. An associate professor of anthropology and Asian American studies at Northwestern University, she has conducted ethnographic research with South Asian American youth and communities, and is one of three Guggenheim Fellows of Indian origin this year. The News India Times elaborated on her achievement:

Shankar will be based in Brooklyn, N.Y., during her fellowship and will research Generation Z, exploring how this demographic category can be defined in ways that more centrally account for the contributions of immigrants and minorities, according to the Guggenheim press release.

Shankar has written and studied the emerging generation of Indian-Americans and received numerous grants and fellowships. Her books include ‘Beeline: What Spelling Bees Reveal about Generation Z’s New Path to Success’ (Basic Books, May 2018); ‘Advertising Diversity: Ad Agencies and the Creation of Asian American Consumers’ (Duke University Press, 2015), and ‘Desi Land: Teen Culture, Class, and Success in Silicon Valley‘ (Duke University Press, 2008). Her co-edited volume ‘Language and Materiality: Theoretical and Ethnographic Explorations’ (with Jillian Cavanaugh) is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press.

As a Guggenheim Fellow, Shankar receives a grant to further her research over the next year and allow her to work with as much flexibility and creative freedom as possible.

Clarkson ’94, of Sapphire Ventures, Featured in ‘Forbes’

Elizabeth “Beezer” Clarkson ’94

Elizabeth “Beezer” Clarkson ’94

Elizabeth “Beezer” Clarkson ’94, managing director for Sapphire Ventures, was recently profiled in Forbes magazine. A 2014 “Forty Over 40 Women to Watch” honoree and one of 2016’s “Top 30 Women Rising Stars in Institutional Investing,” Clarkson is highly regarded in the tech and venture communities. The Forbes article, Want To Be Appreciated, Give Someone A Shot by Whitney Johnson, details both Clarkson’s background and her commitment “to magnify opportunities for other women,”—or “give them a shot,” in the vernacular of the Broadway hit, Hamilton.

Clarkson found her first post-college position—a financial analyst at Morgan Stanley—through what is now Wesleyan’s Gordon Career Center, before following the path of the booming tech industry west, relocating to San Francisco. A former Wesleyan trustee, she holds an MBA from Harvard and has 20-year career as a strategy consultant and investor for various firms and large companies. Quick to give credit to those women who helped her early in her career, Clarkson is eager to assist others.

Describing the ways Clarkson works with entrepreneurs, Johnson writes:

Clarkson embraces the unconventional, as willing to jump industry boundaries and try new roles as she was to move cross country. Today she champions innovation through investment in early stage venture firms in US, Europe and Israel, but her interest is humanitarian and charitable as well as professional. She is as an advisor to Tala, a women-led mobile technology and data science company [founded and led by Shivani Siroya ’04] that is working to change the way credit scoring and financial services work around the world. Formerly she served on the Investor Advisory Council to Astia, organized to providing accelerated funding and enhancing the growth of high-potential, women-led startups.

Johnson also notes that Clarkson uses the question “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” as her personal inspiration, challenging herself to accept opportunities—and she offers this guidance to others, as well.

Music by Myhre ’05 To Be Broadcast on NPR’s Mountain Stage in May

Jess Myhre '05

Jess Myhre ’05

Jess Eliot Myhre ’05 is a professional touring musician with the band Bumper Jacksons. Their newest album, “I’ve Never Met a Stranger,” will be broadcast nationally on NPR’s Mountain Stage on May 5. The live performance will air on more than 200 NPR stations around the country, and the band will perform five original songs from the record.

The group originally began as a duo—Jess Myhre (clarinet, vocals, washboard) and Chris Ousley (acoustic and electric guitar, vocals, banjo)—crafting a sound inspired by the jazz clubs of New Orleans and southern Appalachian folk music festivals.

In the Delaware State News, the band discusses its growth from this duo in 2012 to its current configuration :

Eventually The Bumper Jacksons grew to its seven-member size after a few of the musicians casually dropped in on a few gigs with the duo.

“We were very loosely formed and it became almost modular depending who was available for different gigs. Guest musicians would join us for different songs,” Ms. Myhre said. These days, Ms. Myhre handles vocal duties, clarinet and washboard.

The Bumper Jacksons have a steadily rising list of honors: Washington Area Music Awards Artists of the Year, Best Folk Album, Best Folk Group for 2015; Strathmore Artists-in-Residence for 2015-2016; Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Touring Artists for 2016-2017 and others. They have also just signed with Opus 3 Artists (among greats such as Yo-Yo Ma, Roseanne Cash, Bela Fleck and Wynton Marsalis) for their national representation.

Lowe ’13 Grows Art Girl Army Organization

Sydney Lowe ’13

Sydney Lowe ’13

Film and TV producer Sydney Lowe ’13 is the founder of Art Girl Army (AGA), an organization that generates networking opportunities and fosters community among young women with creative careers. The collective originally started in Lowe’s small New York City apartment as a space for her and her friends to collaborate, provide support to one another and share their experiences as women working in creative fields, which largely lack gender, sexual and racial diversity. Since 2014 it has developed into an online global community of nearly 3,500 artists, including illustrators, comedians, dancers and more.

Lowe enjoyed ample opportunities to connect and collaborate with her peers as an undergraduate at Wesleyan. In an interview with Artsy, she explains how transitioning to the competitive environment of New York City made her miss being part of a supportive, creative community:

Chayes ’07 Wins Award for Women in Theater

Jess Chayes ’07

Jess Chayes ’07

Brooklyn-based director Jess Chayes ’07 has recently won the Lucille Lortel Award from the League of Professional Theatre Women (LPTW), which annually recognizes an aspiring woman in theatre who shows creative promise in the field. As a founding co-artistic director of The Assembly, a collective of multi-disciplinary performance artists, Chayes has co-created and directed eight original productions. These include I Will Look Forward To This Later and HOME/SICK, which is a NY Times Critics’ Pick.

Chayes founded The Assembly Theater Project with three other Wesleyan alumni: Stephen Aubrey ’06, Edward Bauer ’08, and Nick Benacerraf ’08. Together they created a collaborative and thriving community. Determined to show the effectiveness of solidarity and team effort, Chayes’ work is always risk-taking as well as thought provoking.

Recent directing includes Half Moon Bay (Lesser America), Primal Play (New Georges), The Bachelors (Williamstown Theater Festival), The Sister (Dutch Kills) and The Netflix Plays (Ars Nova). She has developed new work with The Vineyard Theatre, The Playwrights Center and New York Theatre Workshop, among others. Chayes is a NYTW Usual Suspect, a co-founder of The New Georges Jam artists’ lab, and alumna of The Civilians R&D Group and the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab. She’s also worked as an associate director on Peter and the Starcatcher (Brooks Atkinson Theater and New World Stages) and Misery (Broadhurst Theater).