CREATING COMMUNITY FROM THE GET GO

By Sarah Montague

First-year Parsons student course Jaden Matthews wasted no time in making his creative mark; he’s started a creative collective for students called Nibbling Conscience.  

Matthews is studying Design & Technology, and says that New York was a dream destination:

My dad came here right after college and met my mom here, and since I was a kid he always talked about it with a lot of passion and a lot of excitement, and there was always this sense of renewing yourself when you come back.

He also really appreciated Parson’s educational architecture:

One thing I really loved about Parsons was its ability to enforce interdisciplinary education.  He says disarmingly,

 I find myself kind of being like scatter-minded where I want to do one thing at one point and another thing at another point, and it seemed like Parsons was the place to do that best.  

I point out that John Roach, whom I also interviewed for Parsons Notes, designed the First Year program with just this in mind.

So a great opportunity as an individual to follow more than one path before the path opens up.  

But Matthews couldn’t see an easy way for students—especially new ones—to create community, and to create in a community.

I have friends who were second, third years, fourth years, and I have friends who were first years.  And the first years always loved that there was so much different action amongst different majors. They were in classrooms with fashion students and design technology students and fine art students and illustration. And so there was this like melting pot of classes.

Yes, but…

They felt like the classes didn’t give them the creative freedom. They wanted to  really push their practice forward. 

Conversely, older students began to experience more personal freedom, but the paths seemed narrower:

When talking to second, third year and fourth year students, they felt that in their classes, as the time went on, they were given more freedom to do more personal projects.

But they started to miss the interdisciplinary education that was once provided.

“So they were now in a space exactly like, ‘OK, now I have the chance to do what I want to do. But I don’t have the people around me that I really want to do this with.’”

For Jaden and his collaborators, the obvious solution was to establish a creative community free of Parson’s lines of demarcation.

We’re gonna make a collective that can bring people in together of different interdisciplinary roles, different creative backgrounds and pushed out different projects based off what students want. So if a student comes in and it’s like, ‘Hey, like, I’ve got this great script idea I’ve really wanted to do. I’m a writer. I’ve wrote the script down to a T, and it’s perfect, and I just want to get it out there, but I’ve never shot on camera before.’

Or

“‘I don’t know how to do the graph design stuff. My main character has this weird space outfit on that I don’t know how to make.’”

They can come into a setting like Nibbling Conscience, preserve the time and space on a certain date share their idea. We’ll pull in students connected to our collective that are in different disciplines, as well as professors.   We’ll pull everyone in.

That’s the road map, but Matthews admits the idea hit a speed bump in its early days:

There seemed to be a gap to be closed between how people behave in conversation–“Everyone’s like, Oh, I’d love to make this cool scarf, or I’d love to make this movie. I’d love to write this book, or I’d love to do this sort of thing—and what happens if they are invited to an intentional space:

We’re noticing that if we have a meeting, and we get 15 or 20 people, no one really wants to say any ideas.  It’s hard for people to come to spaces they’re not comfortable with, and just share their idea, especially if they don’t know what they’re getting out of it, and why they should do it in the first place.

So Nibbing Conscience decided on a “show not tell” strategy.  It will hold its first public event, a short film festival of works made cooperatively, on May 11th in the Vera List Courtyard.  The current core team includes Advisor Phoenix Scott, and

Bridget Campbell (Fashion Consultant); Jake Custodio (Graphic Designer); 

Justin Millien (Graphic Designer); Anders Nelson (Film DP) and Andrew Zhang  (Graphic Designer).

We’re creating four different short films to present students made by the body of the current Nibbling Conscience students.  We all are coming together and saying, ‘All right, let’s just embody what this collective means.  

Which is first of all, to state the obvious, that films involve people with varied skill sets, all coming together in a finished product.  But, there is also an embedded message: creators coming together can embody a collective that is both stable and fluid.

The screening will showcase the collective’s work up to this point, and the short films we have produced thus far. Our goal is to provide a portfolio for the collective to then help influence and inspire further work down the road!

I ask where the intriguing name “Nibbling Conscience” came from. I was expecting Matthews to cite some mid-Victorian genius of the era of Oscar Wilde’s Yellow Book (1894-97) but no, the name is as sui generis as the concept.

I don’t know. I think I might have scrolled past something that said “nibbling.” And I guess the idea was like, Okay, what if you have an idea, something in your in your head, and it’s like nibbling away at you because you can’t get it out there to the point where it’s almost unbearable. And this is the space to kind of like, take that step.

However, Matthew and his collaborators did look to some models, including the early days of Milton Glaser’s Push Pin Studios, founded in 1954 with fellow artists Seymour Chwast, Reynold Ruffins and Edward Sorel. 

They banded together [to create graphic designs and posters]  but then they would also kind of separate into their own stuff, which is kind of what I found most interesting.   It’s what Nibbling touches on as a student collective. It’s like, since they’re doing their own things. It’s just a space for them to push their personal projects out. 

Right now, that means the collective’s event on May 11th and the simultaneous launch of its website.  

Milton Glaser once described Push Pin as being run “like a bunch of art students trying to change history”.  The same may be said, provisionally, of Nibbling Conscience.