Designing Place, Considering Power

How can design create spaces that are peaceful, safe, and equitable for everyone? What role do designers and creatives have in contributing to systems of power within placemaking? Join us for a conversation on the importance of place and power when designing for public dialogues and spaces.

This virtual panel discussion is being held in conjunction with Cooper Hewitt’s exhibition Designing Peace. Panelists will present examples of their own creative work that have sought to support more just and inclusive places. Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski will share about their project Conflict Kitchen. Bryan C. Lee Jr. will discuss Paper Monuments. Jonas Staal will share about New World Summit – Rojava. Jamie Bennett will moderate the discussion and audience Q&A.

About the Program
Program Length: 90 minutes
Interactivity Level: Low
Intended Audience: People curious about design, public space, and social activism. No previous design or design history knowledge is required.


Jamie Bennett (Moderator) works at the intersections of nonprofits, philanthropy, and the public sector with arts, culture, and community development. Bennett, former Executive Director of ArtPlace America, has held leadership positions at the Agnes Gund Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York Philharmonic, and United States Artists. He sits on the board and advisory councils for the David Rockefeller Fund, HERE Arts Center, The Heritage Center (Itówapi Owápazo) of the Red Cloud Indian School, the Make Music Alliance, the Starfish Accelerator, The Nature of Cities, and Weeksville Heritage Center.

Bryan C. Lee Jr. is an architect, educator, writer, and design justice activist. He is the Founder and Design Principal of Colloqate Design, a nonprofit design practice. Lee Jr. is also a founding organizer of the Design As Protest Collective and Dark Matter University. He has led two award-winning architecture and design programs for high school students through the Arts Council of New Orleans (local) and the National Organization of Minority Architects (national), respectively. He is the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) South Vice President. Lee Jr. is the recipient of many awards and fellowships including the 2018 Fast Company Most Creative People in Business, the youngest firm to win the Architectural League’s Emerging Voices award in 2019, and the 2021 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Emerging Designer.

Jon Rubin is an interdisciplinary artist whose public initiatives create platforms for collaboration, participation, and exchange. He has exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Mercosul Biennial, Brazil; the Shanghai Biennial; the Carnegie International, The Lyon Biennale; the Solomon Guggenheim Museum; as well as in backyards, living rooms, and street corners. He recently collaborated with Iranian-based artist Sohrab Kashani on The Other Apartment, a Creative Capital funded project occurring both in Tehran, Iran and Pittsburgh, PA. Rubin’s work has been reported on internationally by outlets including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, La Repubblica, and Al Jazeera. Rubin is a professor and chair of the Social Practice area in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University.

Jonas Staal is a visual artist whose work deals with the relation between art, propaganda, and democracy. He is the founder of the artistic and political organization New World Summit (2012–ongoing). Together with Florian Malzacher he co-directs the training camp Training for the Future (2018-ongoing). With human rights lawyer Jan Fermon, he initiated the collective action lawsuit Collectivize Facebook (2020-ongoing). With writer and lawyer Radha D’Souza, he founded the Court for Intergenerational Climate Crimes (2021-ongoing) and with Laure Prouvost, he is co-administrator of the Obscure Union. Staal completed his PhD research on propaganda art at the PhDArts program of Leiden University, the Netherlands.

Dawn Weleski co-founded and co-directed Conflict Kitchen. Their practice administers a political stress test, analyzing cultural behavior by staging underground brawls, revolutionary protests, and political offices as transformative social scenes. Previous work includes City Council Wrestling, a series of public wrestling matches where residents, wrestlers, and city council members personified their political passions into wrestling characters. They also worked on Fair Share Fare, a food futures research and climate emergency relief collective. Weleski has worked in hospitality and food service for over 25 years. Their current work as a bartender, baker, line cook, house cleaner, and emergency medical technician impacts their work with emergentCNY, a Central New York mutual aid network that exchanges goods and services during times of ever-present crisis.


This virtual program will feature a series of short presentations followed by a panel discussion and audience Q&A hosted through Zoom, with the option to dial in. Details will be emailed to you upon registration. This program includes live closed captioning. It will be recorded and available on Cooper Hewitt’s YouTube channel a week following the lecture. For general questions or if we can provide additional accessibility services or accommodations to support your participation in this program, please email us at or let us know when registering.

Special Thanks

Designing Peace is made possible with lead support from

Circular logo symbol next to [FORD FOUNDATION]

Major support is provided by Lisa Roberts and David Seltzer.

Generous support is also provided by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Helen and Edward Hintz, and the Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery Endowment Fund.

Additional support is provided by Agnes Gund, the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York as part of the Dutch Culture USA program, the Cooper Hewitt Master’s Program Fund, the Netherland-America Foundation, the Norwegian Consulate General, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

In-kind support is provided by Tretford Americas and Consolidated Flooring.