Crawford has a personal connection to the course topic. She grew up in Chicago surrounded by artists who were affiliated with BAM, notably her father, photographer Bob Crawford (1939–2015), and today is widely recognized for her scholarship examining race and ethnicity through the lens of American visual culture, including her writings on BAM (particularly on the movement’s iconic Chicago mural the Wall of Respect) *. Crawford is committed to what she describes as “socially inflected and service-oriented art history” and to “reaching people who may not have had opportunities to study in traditional institutions or be familiar with or comfortable going to art museums.” She created BAM School Modality with those ideas in mind—as an independent project operating outside of college and university structures and free for all participants.
In recruiting participants, Crawford reached across and beyond institutional boundaries, enlisting both unaffiliated individuals and college and university students from around the United States and abroad—from Nigeria, China, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Their institutions included Chicago State University, Howard University, Morehouse College, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Spelman College, Stanford University, University of Chicago, University of Oxford, University of Toronto, and Yale University.
“One of my goals,” Crawford said, “was to create a rare opportunity for an eclectic group of students, including those not enrolled in universities, to learn alongside one another.”
An important outcome of the course is that participants, who now refer to themselves as the “BAM Fam,” want to continue meeting and learning together. In the spirit of BAM’s tenet of generosity, Crawford and fellow BAM School Modality facilitator Fred Moten are underwrote free Saturday morning dance classes for the BAM Fam and others that will be taught by Blackburn this fall.