Kellen Cooks – 2022 Cornell Biennial

KELLEN COOKS

Dreaming-on-Hudson: The Politics and Power of Speculation in the Hudson Valley
Curriculum and Exhibition

This exhibition, curated by Kellen Cooks (B.S. URS ‘23), principally represents the progress of his Dreaming-on-Hudson curriculum at Ossining High School in Ossining, NY, located in Westchester County in New York’s Hudson Valley. This curriculum principally focuses on collaboratively redesigning and co-teaching the SUNY Racism, Classism, and Sexism (commonly known as SUNY Race) course at Ossining High School. Throughout the 2022-23 school year, the course is utilizing creative mapmaking to root social constructs in local and personal experience, explore various local histories relevant to race, class, gender, etc., and encourage and inspire students to reimagine what Ossining and the Hudson Valley could be in the future. The SUNY Race course has been taught for the last 17 years by Jillian McRae and Samuel North, and for the 2022-23 school year, Kellen Cooks, along with Ossining Village Historian Joyce Sharrock Cole, have joined the class as teaching assistants, helping implement and integrate the Dreaming-on-Hudson curriculum. Materials produced by the students over the first two months of the school year are exhibited alongside maps produced by Kellen Cooks and Thomas Petluck (B.S. URS ‘22), who are both 2019 graduates of Ossining High School and have both been drawing speculative maps since as early as 6 years old, and examples of environmental speculation from institutions and community groups in Ossining.

Through these multiple approaches, this exhibit explores how spatial imaginations are produced from socially-diverse suburban communities, and how youth imaginations relate to the plans of established institutions within Ossining and the Hudson Valley. From this project, we can universally learn to question how the way in which a place is told shapes its identity, its communities, its development, and its future, within the Hudson Valley and beyond.

Kellen Cooks (United States)

Kellen was born in Bridgeport, CT, and raised in Ossining, NY. He still calls the Hudson Valley home, and the region is the focus of his undergrad thesis, which revolves around how speculative narratives have shaped the identity of the Hudson Valley from the past to the present, and how environmental speculations influence the region’s future through their collective imagination and their development and governance structures. In this exploration of spatial narratives, he is developing a curriculum kit and plan alongside Jillian McRae, Samuel North, Joyce Sharrock Cole, and the Just Places Lab that utilizes creative mapmaking to represent Hudson Valley teenagers’ present understandings of their community, and dream of their community’s future.

During his time at Cornell and after, Kellen would like to dream alongside communities about equitable and decolonial futures, and work towards making those dreams a reality within their landscape, especially with communities who often lack the privilege to turn their spatial dreams into a reality. This career goal could translate into housing policy and justice work, high school teaching, getting a PhD, community organizing, or politics. He is not quite sure yet, and wants to keep himself flexible as he explores career pathways focused around spatial justice.

In his free time, Kellen likes singing R&B and Indie music, exploring new and familiar places, hanging with friends and family, reading sci-fi, and watching his beloved Knicks.

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