Louis Massiah Speaks at Sam Fox School Recognition Ceremony

Louis Massiah.

Posted by Liam Otten May 4, 2021

View the recording of the ceremony + Massiah's keynote speech here>>

The Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis is pleased to announce that filmmaker Louis Massiah, founder of the Scribe Video Center in Philadelphia, will serve as keynote speaker for the school’s spring Recognition Ceremony.

The virtual ceremony—which will begin at 11a Thursday, May 20—will celebrate graduating students from the Sam Fox School’s undergraduate College of Art and College of Architecture, and from the Graduate School of Art and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design.

“Louis Massiah is a thoughtful documentarian and a dedicated advocate for grassroots participatory filmmaking,” says Carmon Colangelo, Ralph J. Nagel Dean of the Sam Fox School and the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts.

“In both the films that he directs and the projects that he shepherds, Massiah demonstrates a deep commitment to community,” Colangelo adds. “His work captures the texture of daily life through intimate portrayals—at once respectful and celebratory—of local cultures and overlooked histories. He has forged a path that is at once inspiring and a powerful example of socially engaged artistic practice.”

The faculty speaker for the Recognition Ceremony will be Constance Vale, assistant professor of architecture. The graduate student speaker will be Taylor Dow of the MFA in Illustration & Visual Culture program. The undergraduate student speaker will be Noor Bekhiet, who is earning a BA in architecture as well as a BSBA in economics and strategy. For more information, visit samfoxschool.wustl.edu/commencement.

The Bombing of Osage Avenue
Film still, "The Bombing of Osage Avenue" (1986).

About Louis Massiah

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Massiah studied astronomy and physics at Cornell University, and worked as a television science writer before earning a master’s degree in visual studies from the Film/Section at MIT. A few months later, in the fall of 1982, he launched the Scribe Video Center from a one-room office at Brandywine Workshop, Philadelphia’s renowned printmaking atelier.

Now with a staff of 13, Scribe provides emerging and established independent filmmakers with training and support in all aspects of digital video and audio production. Major initiatives include “The Precious Places Community History Project,” which encompasses 107 collaboratively produced documentaries; “Muslim Voices of Philadelphia”; and “The Great Migration - A City Transformed”; as well as a current project, “The Tenants of Lenapehocking in the Age of Magnets.”

Massiah directed the documentaries “The Bombing of Osage Avenue” (1986), “Cecil B. Moore” (1987), “W.E.B. Du Bois – A Biography in Four Voices” (1996), “Louise Alone Thompson Patterson: In Her Own Words” (2002), “A is for Anarchist, B is for Brown” (2002), “Gifts – A Portrait of Toni Morrison” (2014), and “How to Make a Flower: Le Méthode MOBO” (2020). In addition, he directed two films—“Power!” and “A Nation of Law?”—for the landmark PBS series “Eyes on the Prize II” (1990). Created by St. Louis native and WashU alumnus Henry Hampton, whose archives are housed by University Libraries, “Eyes on the Prize” chronicled three decades of the American Civil Rights Movement, beginning in the early 1950s. Massiah’s installments focused on strategies for Black political empowerment in the late 1960s and the repressive and often-violent responses of local, state and federal government. He is currently working on a film about the writer, filmmaker and cultural worker Toni Cade Bambara.

Massiah is co-programmer of the screening series “We Tell: Fifty Years of Participatory Community Media” which has travelled across the United States to 24 university and community venues. Other projects include the “President’s House” site, a five-channel permanent video installation commissioned by the U.S. National Park Service; and a video installation featuring 44 documentaries from Scribe for the Musée des Civilisations Noires in Dakar. Major awards include a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (popularly known as the “genius grant”); two Rockefeller/Tribeca fellowships; and a fellowship from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. He has been a visiting professor and artist-in-residence at Swarthmore College, Princeton University’s Atelier, the Center for Experimental Ethnography at the University of Pennsylvania, Howard University and City University of New York.

Huey Newton
Film still of Huey Newton, "A Nation of Law?", part of the PBS series "Eyes on the Prize II" (1990).

Commencement ceremony

In addition to the Recognition Ceremony, and with guidance and approval from St. Louis regional health authorities, Washington University plans to hold in-person Commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2021 on May 20 and 21 on the Danforth Campus. Due to limitations on gatherings and crowd sizes due to COVID-19, the university will host multiple, smaller ceremonies on Francis Olympic Field in place of the traditional university-wide Commencement ceremony in Brookings Quadrangle.

The ceremony for Sam Fox School and Brown School students in the Class of 2021 will take place at 6:30p May 20. Writer, social justice advocate and NBA Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will deliver the Commencement address. For more information, visit commencement.wustl.edu.

The Sam Fox School also will hold a pair of online awards ceremonies for students. The College of Art and Graduate School of Art Awards Ceremony will take place at 6p May 14, and the College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design Awards Ceremony will take place at 7p May 19.

W.E.B. Du Bois
Film still, "W.E.B. Du Bois – A Biography in Four Voices” (1996).