By Patrick Little and Dwight Whitaker
Place is a loaded and complex term. It can signal domination (“know your place”) or freedom (“a place of one’s own”), or it can reflect the connection between our selves and the spaces we inhabit. Because the term is complicated and fraught with meaning, we often substitute physical space for place, looking at the size of a room, the assessed value of a home, or the presence or absence of desirable features like windows. As we reflect back on our time at the Hive, we are reminded that sometimes we did exactly that, but we also had the chance to experience what a place for collaborative creativity might feel like.
At the celebration of Rick and Susan Sontag’s gift, Estela Sanchez spoke of how she had not really felt she had a place at the colleges, and how she had questioned her own sense of belonging. She then went on to describe how the Hive was that space she had sought, and how it filled her with joy to be able to help shape it. Later, during the campus-wide conversation led by students of color at CMC, Estela spoke out at a rally and invited the students and their allies to the Hive as a safe space. Her spirit of ownership of the Hive reflected one of our core values of the Hive as an open and welcoming place.
The core values also informed much of our attitude about designing the Hive as a physical space, using a portion of the Seeley G. Mudd library made available by President Oxtoby. “Creating permission to experiment and play” translated into creating a space that is not precious, where mistakes, marks, or changes are welcome. We wanted students to be unafraid to write or paint on a wall, to display their creations, and to share their work and expect feedback. Clovis Ogilvie-Laing created an artwork that crossed several rooms and reminded us about embracing failure.
From the beginning, the Hive has been a prototype of itself where we learned what spaces were too big, too small, too dark and sometimes just right. Each of the rooms acquired an informal name, such as the Inner Meadow and Scandinavia. Scandinavia, named for its IKEA furniture, surprised us because we were sure that a room with a sink, cinderblock walls and no natural light would likely be underutilized. Instead, the room’s sense of enclosure provides students a sense of privacy that allows them to share personally significant experiences safely.
The rough nature of the physical space also didn’t keep people from using it in beautiful and imaginative ways. A narrow hallway became an art gallery for work from Rachel Levy and Ken Fandell’s fluids and photography class, and for Albert Dato and Sarah Gilbert’s class uniting materials science and sculpture.
Perhaps the most striking use of the space was by Christy Spackman’s food and culture class, which transformed the Outer Meadow into a tasting place.
The Outer Meadow also became the home for dozens of mini-workshops, which filled the space with sketches, 3D printed objects, sticky noted on foam core boards, and Haitian art dolls. These workshops and classes hosted in the Hive taught us that the space we were using was too small, so this summer we are expanding the space to more double its size.
Estela gave voice to students who come to the 5Cs looking for a place that is inclusive, welcoming and generative. Our hope has been for the Hive to be a focal place, where students have a profound sense of belonging, connecting, and creating.
– Pat and Dwight