David Gersten is an internationally recognized artist, architect, writer and educator based in New York City. He is the Director of Interdisciplinary Learning at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, where he has been a Professor, since 1991. At The Cooper Union, he has served as the Associate Dean of the School of Architecture, under Founding Dean John Hejduk, as well as, Acting Dean of the school. Gersten is the founding Director and President of: Arts Letters & Numbers, a non-profit arts and education organization dedicated to expanding the experiences understood as education through creating new structures and spaces for creative exchange across a wide range of disciplines including: Architecture, Visual Arts, Theater Arts, Film, Music, the Humanities, the Sciences and Social Sciences. Arts, Letters & Numbers conducts workshops in educational and cultural institutions worldwide, while operating an ongoing series of programs: workshops, sessions, residencies, thesis programs, lectures, theater performances, exhibitions, events, music performances and films productions at its campus located in Averill Park, NY.
Gersten regularly collaborates with and advises international organizations, educational and cultural institutions, as well as, education policy groups on a wide range of subjects, including: art / science / humanities collaborations and the future of education. He recently: presented a keynote address entitled ‘Unlocking the Creativity of Youth’ at the UNICEF – EXPO, as well as, at the Chancellors Summit held at CAFA in Beijing.
Gersten’s works include: buildings, drawings, stories, essays, films, performances and constructions. His works have appeared in numerous international exhibitions and performance spaces and are held in the collection of the Canadian Center for Architecture, the New York City Public Library’s print collection and many private collections. He has published extensively in national and international publications on diverse areas of research including: The spaces and structures of education, emergent disciplinary geographies, spatial literacy, ethics and technology, market functionality and collective judgment, global resource distribution and the poetic / material / spatial imagination, the city and its transformations, and the linkages between: embodied experience, embodied cognition, memory, perception, language, space and education.
He has exhibited, lectured and served as a visiting professor at numerous universities throughout the world. In addition to serving as President / Director of Arts Letters & Numbers, he is currently: the Director of Interdisciplinary learning and professor at the Cooper Union, a visiting professor at Rhode Island School of Design, an International Visiting Professor at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, in Beijing, China, a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts in the UK and a member of the Board of Directors of Big Picture Learning.
Gersten is a graduate of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union. He has also pursued studies in phenomenology at the New School for Social Research as well as Islamic Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary.
In the shape of a festival - Come Make with Us was, as the title hints, an invitation to the audience to experience and participate in the works created during Summer at ALN. Through multiple stages, multiple artists and as obviously at ALN a wide range of different medias, the emergent works created during Summer Residency and Revolution:Thesis at ALN created a platform for interactions between audience, the works, the artists, the spaces and the continuous unfolding of the questions.
Revolution: Thesis at ALN together with the Summer Residency created the framework for Summer at ALN 2019. Revolution: Thesis at ALN was led by David Gersten, structured as a four week program and included a regular schedule of studio time, one-on-one studio visits with David, ALN Fellows and Visiting Artists, as well as, weekly seminars and listening critiques. The Summer Residency was a 2-4 weeks focused residency for artists interested in the opportunity to interact with ALN’s other ongoing programs and overlapping events. The Residency was structured to provide creative opportunities while developing meaningful relationships with other artists. While each of these programs had its own unique character, they both offered space for people to pursue their questions in conversation with others and create emergent works within a creative community.
Each year, Big Picture Learning holds ‘Big Bang’ an international conference on Student-Centered Learning. This conference is an intergenerational collaboration, where students and educators come together to learn from one another and from the community. This year Big Bang took place in Detroit, MI., in late July.
This year, Director David Gersten was invited to join Education Reimagine’ national working group for Learner Centered Education. The group is holding multiple meetings, bringing together diverse voices from across the country, to work towards expanding Learner Centered opportunities for more children. For the June, meeting held in Denver, Colorado, Associate Director Frida Foberg, was invited to challenge the norms of communication with new modes of expression.
This Fall we had the great honor of contributing to the ‘Future Unknown’ Chancellor’s Summit held at The Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing, China. The project grew from careful consideration of the mission and vision of CAFA and the principles driving the “Future Unknown” initiative to move art and innovation forward by building linkages to many educational and cultural locations around the globe.
Director David Gersten visited the University at Albany's College of Arts and Sciences to celebrate its 25th Anniversary celebration event on Tuesday, October 16. He sat down for a talk with Writers Institute Director Paul Grondahl.
This year brought with it our 3rd annual Festival, where we once again celebrated and shared the works created over the course of our 2018 Summer Workshop, Hinges, Mirrors & Eclipses. With 45 participants, representing an incredible range of fields and nationalities, it was the largest workshop in the history of Arts Letters & Numbers, resulting in a truly memorable festival.
Hinges, Mirrors & Eclipses is grounded in the idea that the spatial, poetic and material imaginations provide a unique means of registering and creating transformation, of engaging the world and making a contribution. Working from the principle that our capacity to act in the world is rooted in our capacity to recognize and comprehend transformation, the workshop covers a large arc of content, asking questions of our world, our disciplines and our humanity.
In February Director David Gersten and Fellow Troels Steenholdt Heiredal met with Kimberly Ruth, the host of BTRtoday's Art Uncovered to talk about the origins of Arts Letters & Numbers, the upcoming Summer Workshop: Hinges, Mirrors & Eclipses and how Arts Letters & Numbers has related to, influenced and enabled Troels' personal artistic pursuits.
Director David Gersten was recently honored to deliver a Keynote address at UNICEF’s EXPO 2017 held in Astana, Kazakhstan. Expo 2017, gathered well over one hundred nations sharing projects and ideas within the theme of ‘Future Energy’, with UNICEF focusing on ‘Advancing the Rights of Children through Innovation’.
On August 3rd we opened our doors for the second Arts Letters & Numbers festival: this year titled Constitution. The 3-day festival presented works created during our annual four-week summer workshop, bringing together participants from a wide range of disciplines including architecture, photography, dance, music, literature, film, theatre, painting and drawing.
With CONSTITUTION, Arts Letters & Numbers proposed a dynamic crucible of free thought, a space where the widest spectrum of who we are could ask the questions of our time and create works that would bring us forward. A space where many elements could come together to create the alchemy of transforming how we experience today into how we will experience tomorrow.
In this poetic speech, David Gersten, founding director of Arts Letters & Numbers, provides profound insights into spatial literacy as he delves into the complex richness of the conversations between our surroundings and how they shape our experiences.
David Gersten recently presented two talks on John Hejduk at the Cooper Union School of Architecture:
Part I: Hejduk, Hamlet and The Ghost Promise
Part II John Hejduk: Through the Wall
This immersive festival presented works created during Zoëtrope Sun, a four-week summer workshop, bringing together architects, artists, filmmakers, musicians, composers, physicists, poets, photographers, actors, mimes, chefs, and scientists.
During the four-week intensive workshop, we brought together Architects, Artists, Filmmakers, Musicians, Composers, Physicists, Poets, Craftspeople, Photographers, Actors, Mimes, Chefs, Magicians, Historians, Scientists, and Scholars to co-construct a disciplinary Zoëtrope: a living system of knowledge-transformation turning within light and time, water and clouds, life and still life, cameras and projectors, nights and days, words and voices, an emergent microclimate that evokes the origins of life itself—animation, anima, zoë, life—a “Zoëtrope Sun”.
Over the course of 2 months, 40 RISD students worked closely with David Gersten and Michael Harrison. The works emerged in to ‘Galapagos In C’: an interactive, multimedia performance combining architecture, performance, and music.
Inspired by the Galapagos Archipelago and the knowledge transformations that emerged from Darwin’s five-week experience within their dense bio-diversity, the Galapagos workshop invoked the first principle of the theory of evolution. When individual agents are brought into proximity, they interact, building new linkages. Under the right circumstances, these symbioses create transformations, catalyzing new forms. The proximity and interactions within diverse agents is fundamental to the emergence of new logos, new species, new modes of being, the events of variety and variation; knowledge evolves, comprehension evolves, new forms emerge. Recognizing these diverse forms of agency as a diversity of ‘ways of knowing,' we begin to understand a living system of knowledge permutations—thereby, a 'general assembly of education.'
The 2015 summer’s workshop was arranged as a five-week intensive program. Inspired by the Galapagos Archipelago and the knowledge transformations that emerged from Darwin’s five-week experience within their dense bio-diversity, the Galapagos workshop invoked the first principle of the theory of evolution. The structure and nature of the questions offer different ways in which the experience can be meaningful for each individual and where the contribution of one’s own work supports the larger body of work.
In March 2015 a group of 25 people from all over the world, and representing a wide spectrum of disciplines, convened upon a snow-covered House on the Hill to take part in “Oppenheimer’s Table” - a workshop examining and expanding upon the nature of 132 doodles generated from the secret joint committee meetings held in 1947 and chaired by Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer.
On May 9th, 2014 Arts Letters & Numbers acquired the house on the hill above the mill. Built in 1859, this house previously served as the original mill owner’s residence. Now it has become the residence for Arts Letters & Numbers ongoing programs. This moment in the evolution of Arts letter & Numbers demanded our present tense creativity. We decided to focus our third summer workshop on the very immediate questions we are all asking: What is space between the house and the mill? How do we inhabit this new geography?
The 2013 summer's workshop grew out of the perfect combination of planning and poetry. Building from the experiences of our first summer workshop, and incorporating discoveries found through our recent work, we developed this summer’s workshop titled ‘Exquisite Broken Circle; Suddenly a Chora’. Structured through six disciplines; construction, drawing, film/photography, writing, theater and music/sound the workshop was conceived of as a disciplinary exquisite corpse. Each of these disciplines worked in parallel and in close proximity, directly interacting though a framework of shared questions and actions.
"Exquisite Broken Circle" an Arts, Letters & Numbers workshop was held at Brown University. Conceived of as an embodied "exquisite corpse," participants from multidisciplinary backgrounds engage in action, re-action and reenactment within the construction of two half-circle arcs set back to back. Within each arc space of performance, a set of live-feed cameras and projections loop the image(s) and the performer(s) in an infinite mirror of responsive and repetitive movement that creates a dialogue between the performers and each set of actions.
Circles: Drawing on Friendship" was the first of the Art, Letters & Numbers workshops to be held in our Mill in Upstate New York. Through a deep intellectual, emotional, and creative questioning, we drew up a series of works and created new structures, new spaces, new stories which culminated in a celebratory performance. The collective creative urgency was a crucible of emotive precision from which we pour the foundation for our future workshops.
The 'Aarhus Arc' was built by 150 master students at the Aarhus School of Architecture. In an act reminiscent of the Globe Theater, the arc was carried in large segments through the snow and (re)constructed within the school’s theatre. Performing as a wall, a drawing board/film screen, it divided the space, inviting people to whisper through it, draw through it, cut through it. Through these acts of empathy for those on the other side, the arc transformed into an architecture, a theater, a film, a drawing, a conversation, an action, a school, and a contribution to a city culminating in a series of performances of magical moments, smoke and fire!
The 'Open Book' Workshop was an initial step towards what has become Arts Letters & Numbers. The students from the studio "Making Real" participated in this collaborative workshop orchestrated by David Gersten and Anne Romme. The workshop explored the interrelations between gravity, bodies, drawing, time through inhabiting plans on floors, sections on walls, and the space in between.
Director David Gersten was recently honored to participated in ‘Future Unknown: Global Education Summit’ held at CAFA (Central Academy of Fine Arts), Beijing, China. Future Unknown gathered Artists, Designers, Technologist, Educators and Futurists for a two-day exchange on the future of education.
Times Union's Paul Grondahl wrote a piece about Arts Letters & Numbers after experiencing our first 'Tasting' event - where we brought many of the cultural influential leaders and initiates, from the capital region, together in the Mill. Read the article and learn about how where we are today links back to Broadway, Albany!
Right before the summer started we got a visit from Amy Griffin, Arts Writer for the Albany Times Union and Exhibition Coordinator at Opalka Gallery. Director David Gersten and Associate Director Frida Foberg showed her around the facilities and painted the picture of what Arts Letters & Numbers is actually about.
Terry Riley’s canonical 1964 piece “In C” was accompanied by Community MusicWorks alumni with composer and music scholar Stuart Isacoff of the Wall Street Journal, playing piano.
In this talk, David addresses questions of transformation from a number of perspectives, specifically looking at the interdependence of our conceptions of risk and our spaces of education.
The architectural act of building the model, created and contained the deep relationships between care, craft and community; Craft gathers us together, through the collective actions of constructing a model of the school, a community was formed, a remarkable connective tissue emerged within the studio. This structure, this social contract ultimately embodies The Cooper Union.
Act Two begins… I am so deeply moved by this moment: how all of this is actually happening is just a bit beyond me: it is a dream, but we are all awake.