Ford Foundation president Darren Walker and MacArthur “genius” artist Teresita Fernández already had a long history of collaboration before coming together for this discussion with host Charlotte Burns about social justice, leadership, art, beauty—and power.
“The truth is that equity is not given. Power is not given. The history of power is always that it is taken,” Fernández says. “If you want your table to be diverse and inclusive, somebody’s going to have to get up.”
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President of the Ford Foundation
Darren Walker is president of the Ford Foundation, a $13 billion international social justice philanthropy. He is co-founder and chair of the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance and the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy.
Before joining Ford, Darren was vice president at Rockefeller Foundation, overseeing global and domestic programs. In the 1990s, he was COO of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, Harlem’s largest community development organization.
Darren co-chairs New York City’s Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers, and serves on The Independent Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform and UN International Labour Organization Global Commission on the Future of Work. He serves on many boards, including Carnegie Hall, the High Line, VOW to End Child Marriage, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the recipient of 16 honorary degrees and university awards, including Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Medal.
Educated exclusively in public schools, Darren was a member of the first Head Start class in 1965 and graduated from The University of Texas at Austin. He has been included on Time’s annual 100 Most Influential People in the World, Rolling Stone’s 25 People Shaping the Future, Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, and OUT Magazine’s Power 50.
Teresita Fernández (b. 1968, Miami, FL, lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) is best known for her prominent public installations and experiential large-scale sculptures that evoke striking landscapes. Her work, often inspired by natural wonders—meteor showers, the aurora borealis, cloud formations, fire, and the night sky—invites an individualized experience of the work and the space it occupies. Fernández places particular importance in her choice of medium, playing with the limitations of materials and employing those such as gold, graphite, and other minerals that have complicated histories often tied to colonialism. All of her work, from her immersive installations to her small graphite panels, is characterized by an interest in perception and the psychology of looking. In 2015, Fernández installed her largest public art project to date, Fata Morgana, in New York’s Madison Square Park. The work was composed of six mirrored canopies suspended above the park’s central lawn, and its title refers to the visible yet illusory line that hovers right above the horizon. In using metal to achieve the effect of a natural floating apparition, Fernández challenges the inherent characteristics of the material.
Teresita Fernández’s upcoming museum retrospective, Teresita Fernández: Elemental, will tour throughout the United States and will survey over 20 years of work, from the beginning of her career to present day. The exhibition will explore the way in which Fernández’s practice has engaged in the dematerialization of landscape into its fundamental parts of light, space, darkness and matter. The exhibition will also showcase the artist’s most recent bodies of work, in which she contrasts the sublime nature of traditional landscapes with the current politically charged climate of the United States. The retrospective Teresita Fernández: Elemental will open Fall 2019 at Pérez Art Museum Miami October 16, 2019 – February 23, 2020; Phoenix Art Museum March 21 – May 24, 2020; and New Orleans Museum of Art Summer 2020 – Winter 2021.
Executive editor of In Other Words
Charlotte Burns is the editor of In Other Words, our weekly newsletters and podcasts. She was previously the US news and market editor for The Art Newspaper, as well as a regular correspondent for publications such as the Guardian and Monocle. Previously, she worked with the London dealer Anthony d’Offay on special projects. For several years, she was a consultant at the cultural communications agency, Bolton & Quinn. She also worked at Hauser & Wirth in London.
Burns received a Masters degree (with Merit) from the Courtauld Institute in Art and Cultural Politics in Germany, 1890-1945, as well as a first-class B.A. honors degree in English and History of Art from Birmingham University. She moved to New York in 2010.