The Sam Fox School’s popular program at Sumner High School — the Sumner StudioLab — will continue for an additional three years thanks to funding from WashU’s Office of the Provost. The first year of the program was funded by the Mellon Foundation through the Divided City initiative.
The high school is historically significant for its role as the first high school for African American students west of the Mississippi River. When it was slated to close in 2021, the Ville neighborhood and community advocates searched for ways to keep it open. Aaron Williams, AB ’08, was instrumental in setting forth a plan that emphasized arts education and community collaboration.
Matt Bernstine, associate director of the school’s Office for Socially Engaged Practice, noted the importance of supporting the fabric and organizational structure the StudioLab is building in the neighborhood. “We are mindful of our position and want to play our part,” he said.
Now, the StudioLab offers space for Sumner High School students, WashU students, and local residents to come together to discuss and design Sumner’s future. Last year, Senior Lecturer Michael Allen taught two courses on site at Sumner StudioLab, giving students a direct view of the social issues they studied. Allen wants students to understand their roles as neighbors and fellow inhabitants. “Any commitment that you launch in class can be a lifelong practice,” he said.
Read more about the Sumner StudioLab in The Ampersand, a publication of WashU’s College of Arts & Sciences.