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Spelman College Faculty Stories

Faculty Stories

Carnegie/Rockefeller Division of the Arts Priority Award Winner Erin M. Washington

April 2022

Department of Theater & Performance 
Hip Hop Theater 
Medium: Digital Media

Spelman Carnegie/Rockefeller Priority Awardee Nydia BlasHip Hop Theater is an interactive digital map that celebrates Black creativity and innovation in theater and performance art in San Francisco during the 1990s.

With the displacement of Black residents in San Francisco due to gentrification and the influx of technology workers, the contributions of the Black community are being erased from the city's historical narrative. Thus, Hip Hop Theater's map serves as a launching point for exploring and studying Black spaces in the west and the resiliency of Black creatives who envisioned Black art and theater in ways that transcended traditional norms. 

The inspiration for Professor Erin M. Washington's project came from the innovative work of San Francisco artists Will Power and Rhodessa Jones, who formed a creative community that saw art as a tool for connection, reflection, and the blending of past, present, and future. The project continues their work in the digital space. Animators, DJs, playwrights, VR developers, and more will showcase their work in the digital venues that represent the real-life institutions where young Black artists in the 1990s were creating new artistic forms. 

Hip Hop Theater begins with mapping the early work of Will Power (former Distinguished Professor at Spelman College), an internationally renowned playwright, performer, lyricist and educator. He is and one of the pioneers and co-creators of hip-hop theater. This late 20th Century art form led the way for future iconic works such as Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton and dozens of hip hop education programs throughout the country. 

The Carnegie/Rockefeller Division of the Arts Priority Award allowed for phase one of the project to begin. During this phase, Professor Washington created a base for the digital platform, produced video interviews, edited material, and started the website development process.