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Listen, Share: Race & Empathy in the Mann Lobby

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As part of the Cornell Council for the Arts Biennial of 2016, Professors Corinna Loeckenhoff (Dept. of Human Development), Anthony Burrow (Dept. of Human Development) and Francois Guimbretiere (Dept. of Information Science) have created an installation for the Mann Library lobby—the Race & Empathy Project—that invites the Cornell community to reach across boundaries, share stories and find empathy.

In collaboration with the Intergroup Dialogue Project at Cornell,Professors Loeckenhoff, Burrow and Guimbretiere conducted a series of interviews capturing a range of race-related experiences and perspectives on the Cornell campus to serve as starting points for further conversation. Interview excerpts have been gathered together for a listening booth that has been set up in the Mann Library lobby. In the privacy of the softly enclosed and sound-buffered booth, Cornell community members can retrieve and listen to the stories these interviews present, record a response or share their own story.

The focus of the 2016 CCA Biennial is on the cultural production of empathy. There is growing evidence documenting a racial empathy gap in American society. The national news of the past couple of years has highlighted in especially stark and painful terms the social, political and civic divisions that exist across racial identities in the United States. As many studies have also shown, interracial conversations can be experienced as particularly stressful, creating another difficult barrier to dialogue and understanding. The Race & Empathy project originates with the knowledge that powerful stories of racial empathy do exist, and when shared, can provide opportunities to celebrate basic human emotions—joy, happiness, suffering and grief—together. The project aims to help create space on the Cornell campus where this kind of sharing can be experienced and fostered.

A talk with the project's contributing artists took place at 11AM on Saturday, September 24 in the Mann Lobby. The listening booth will be in place in the Mann Library lobby through Friday, November 11th. All members of the Cornell community are welcome to stop by, listen to a story or two (or more!), and tell one of their own.