The School of Making Thinking challenges disciplinary conventions of art-making, thinking, and living.
VISION We envision a world where the arts and radical pedagogy play a key role in shepherding the social justice and economic changes most needed in our time. In this world, a great diversity of artists - including BIPOC, LGBTQ+, lower income, rural, diversely abled, and parents of children - are supported with the community and critical thinking resources they need to grow their creative practices and amplify their cultural impact.
MISSION SMT creates immersive artist residencies and arts programming responsive to community needs and in pursuit of equity, justice and sustainability. We employ radical pedagogy and strategic program design to shape our gatherings and to holistically support artists and thinkers in their practices.
Our programs ask: How does art deepen thought and provoke questioning? How is thinking enacted through creative mediums? And how can an environment be structured or resist structuring in such a way that these questions can not only be asked, but be lived as well?
SMT was founded in 2011 and is a federal nonprofit 501c3.
Sophie Traub is a queer performing artist and performance creator with extensive strategic, artistic leadership and facilitation experience through their work designing and running residencies for The School of Making Thinking since 2013. Sophie is invested in impact-focused arts programming, facilitating individual and group transformation through creative processes towards social change. Sophie completed their Masters in Theatre and Performance Studies from York University in Toronto in 2019, focusing on the politics of cultural production and group dynamics in collaboration. In recent years, Sophie was an Associate Curator for the Canadian National Arts Centre’s Cycle on Climate Change, and worked with ToasterLab on GROUNDWORKS Performance Project at Alcatraz led by Dancing Earth, the California-based pan-Indigenous dance company. Since 2019, Sophie is a lead contributing artist to Beyond Boom & Bust, a performance company with a mandate of cultivating economic and social resilience through performance in rural southern Oregon, where they now live. Sophie has trained extensively in movement theatre techniques such as Viewpoints, Suzuki, and Grotowski, and holds a long background of working in experimental devised theatre productions and in film in the US and Canada, to much acclaim.
Raven Cassell Co-Vice Chair, Board Member
Raven Cassell is a theatre artist; an actor, writer, producer and educator based in New York with her fingers dipped in African diasporic communities in Africa and Latin America. Her work lies at the junction of diaspora studies, visual art and storytelling. She's interested in investigating and experimenting with the way we learn, engage and produce stories.
Raven is currently in development for her debut play, For the Love of Jazz(a jazzical) for which she is starring in and co-producing. She’s earned a BFA in Dramatic Arts with concentration in Acting and Writing from The New School for Drama and her residencies include Dramatic Need, South Africa; Thread, Senegal; and The School of Making Thinking, NY, USA. She’s performed in The Black Joy Project, JAGfest 2.0, BRIClabs, The Fire This Time Festival, NY International Fringe Festival and other self-produced works.
“The theater has been a vehicle of transformation, the grounds where I could confront, explore and transgress my intersectional identities.” – Raven Cassell
Thea Fitz-James Board Member
Thea Fitz-James is part academic and part theatre practitioner. She holds a PhD in Performance Studies at York University, where she wrote about queer performances of textiles in activism and performance art. Thea is a theatre maker and performance artist, having created work with FADO in Toronto (Daughter’s Disease), Secret Theatre in Halifax (No Filter), and Summerworks (Naked Ladies). Her solo performance piece, Naked Ladies, made international news when it was banned in Singapore in 2017, and her other solo show Drunk Girl has toured internationally to the US and Australia. She has curated performances for the Cucalorus Festival, co-founded and ran the queer performance cabaret, Dark Day Monday, and worked as a digital program manager for Artscape Toronto Inc. Her current research focuses on queer performance and communities of accountability in the Canadian Fringe touring community. Thea is currently teaching theatre history, theory and administration at Queen's University as an assistant professor. Thea Fitz-James identifies as part of the queer community (as a pan/bi sexual), and part of the ‘Mad’ community, and is a white, cis female settler.
Akeema-Zane Board Chair, Board Member
Akeema-Zane is an artist and researcher whose practice centers the literary, music, cinematic and performance traditions. She has been artist-in-residence, student, fellow and performer at Groundation Grenada, Cave Canem, The Maysles Documentary Center, Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism, and The School of Making Thinking. At The School of Making Thinking, she was a part of the 2018 Immersion 2.0 cohort, where she designed her first Virtual Reality experience which featured herself. She is currently serving on the Board of Directors of The School of Making Thinking. As a native New Yorker she is proud to have spent many years working at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture where she worked as an archival curriculum researcher for her last post there. Collaboration is a major tenet of the artists’ practice and one of her collaborative works “Sonic Escape Routes: Shall We Fly Or Shall We Resist” was featured in the 59th Ann Arbor Film Festival. Her published writings include: There’s a Monopoly on Change, Interlude, When Money Can’t Buy You Home and Basil Grows from Mother Earth.
Audrey Evans Co-Vice Chair, Board Member
Audrey Evans is a librarian, researcher, and community builder based in the Hudson Valley and NYC. Most recently, she lead network engagement strategy at Data & Society Research Institute where she designed programs to engage artists, academics, computer scientists, advocates, activists, policymakers, and individuals from impacted communities to grapple with the social, political and cultural implications of technology in society. The aim of this network building practice is to deepen the public’s understanding of issues arising from data-centric and automated technology, to work towards building collective approaches to hold power accountable, and to ensure that technologies are developed, governed, and used in ways that promote justice and fairness.
Her work as a research practitioner bridges various fields and modalities: archival studies, ritual studies, oral history, genealogy, doula work, facilitation, and embodied, somatic practices.
Audrey received a Bachelor's Degree in Philosophy and Religion from Hendrix College, a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science (MLIS) from the Palmer School of Library and Information Science, and an End of Life Doula certificate from the University of Vermont (2023). She is excited and curious to integrate her studies and personal experience with death, grief, and mourning into social change work.
Tchaiko Omawale Board Member
Tchaiko Omawale is a writer/director whose filmmaking is influenced by growing up in 8 countries by age 16. Themes of living in and in-between, fill her work. Her impulses for fantasy connect to African indigeneity and the healing powers of body and spirit. She centers an ethic of care, a creative process grounded in intuition and deep listening to her body, her dreams and motherhood.
Her debut feature film SOLACE, about a Black girl navigating an eating disorder, is streaming on Paramount + and KweliTV, and won Special Jury Mention for Best Ensemble cast at the LA Film Festival and an Audience Award at the New Orleans Film Festival. Workshopped in a South African township, the audience was invited to recognize their community's relationship to self-harm and disordered eating with compassion. The film's outreach included a conversation about food, trauma and the Black body with Roxane Gay.
Her fantasy short film SITA, exhibited in the Project Row House show “Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter,” co-curated by Simone Leigh, the first Black woman to represent the US at the Venice Biennale.
Tchaiko’s recent episodic work includes QUEEN SUGAR, CHERISH THE DAY, SACRIFICE and GOOD TROUBLE.
Matt Pearson Secretary, Board Member
Matt Pearson is an environmental designer and musician whose projects range from performance to cultural exhibitions in science, beauty, art, editorial, and technology. His work spans various settings and scales, including both civic and commercial, object and environment. He strives to convey intent and emotion through formal excellence in his work.
Matt currently serves as a physical spatial designer for RAANY, a multidisciplinary design firm specializing in exhibitions, museums, and educational environments, developing a new natural history museum and educational center in Abu Dhabi. Prior to that, Matt successfully collaborated with neurological researchers at University of Louisville to develop a seating device for children with spinal cord injury and win commercialization funding from NIH. For many years, Matt has consulted as an immersive scenic and interactive designer for HBO, Sundance Film Fest, Complex Magazine, Domino Park Brooklyn, Toyota, Cornell Tech, Adidas, Cucalorus Film Festival, and more. A trained singer and pianist of many styles, Matt performs with small groups specializing in the musical techniques of jazz through gospel and other devotional traditions. He teaches voice and music to children through the Maryland Fine Arts after school African Cultural Enrichment (ACE) program.
Jaimes Mayhew Treasurer, Board Member
Jaimes Mayhew makes participatory, interdisciplinary work that addresses identity and how it is expressed through land use, speculation and ecology. From installation, photography and video to fiber art and performance, Mayhew’s work is conceptually tied together through experimentations of queering relationships between humans, places and things. Mayhew has exhibited nationally and internationally, and reviews of their work have appeared in Hyperallergic, Art Papers, and The Creators Project, among others. An article about Mayhew’s work titled “Performing Trans Ontology: The Body (and Body of Work) of Jaimes Mayhew” was published in the academic journal Feminist Frontiers in late 2020. Mayhew holds an MFA in Intermedia and Digital Art from University of Maryland Baltimore County and a BA in Film from Emerson College. He currently teaches graduate and undergraduate classes in the Studio Art program at American University.
Clay Scofield Board Member
Clay Scofield (they/them) is a nondisciplinary artist dabbling in a variety of media to find meanings that fall through the cracks of specialization. They engage in a process of transformational play across media. Their work includes (but is not limited to) performance, video, poetry, and essay exploring how to being, not-knowing, ambiguity, and refusal. They strive towards models of artistic engagement that prioritize world-building, self-making (or -being?), radical-imagining, connection, and process over production.
Their work has been featured in publications including Number, Nashville Arts, Wussy, and Dinner Bell. They have performed and exhibited nationally. They have been an artist-in-residence with Cucalorus, the School of Making Thinking, Lazuli, and the JHU-MICA Film Centre. They received an MFA from Indiana University, Bloomington, in digital art, and a BA from Vanderbilt University. They are currently based in Iowa City, Iowa, studying poetry at The Writers’ Workshop and serving on the board of directors of SMT. They are 70 percent water, 100 percent heart.