News Highlights - Archive

Ingrid Schorr
Ingrid Schorr speaks to 2022 CAST Graduates

May 5, 2022

"While the arts can be a source of intense pleasure, engaging in the arts can also bring us to a state of full awareness that may even become wide-awakeness. When we awaken the creative mind, we are capable of crossing borders, of inciting action, of making discoveries. We can envision the world as it should be. " Ingrid Schorr, Director of Brandeis Engagemetn spoke to the 2022 CAST Graduates. Read her welcome remarks.

Capstones 2022

May 5, 2022

Congratulations to our CAST minors who completed their capstone projects, presented at the CAST Graduation Ceremony 2022!

wire tree
Kobi Russell: Tree of Hope - an art installation exploring a culture of sustainability. The Tree of Hope asks anyone who approaches it to consider both the incredible beauty of Trees and all of the necessary resources that they provide––as a reminder that every living being is worth protecting! The installation was the first destination of the Culture of Sustainability Walking Tour which was offered on campus between May 1-4 as a part of the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Arts.

Watch the making of the Tree of Hope

a woman performing


Ella Deters:  a performance piece My Story isn't of Hope … Yet - an artistic articulation of the pain and suffering felt by the loved ones of those experiencing schizophrenia and a call for de-stigmatization of mental illness so that care is given before it is too late. (Song: Tamarack Pines by George Winston). 

Jaime Black in a red dress in the forest in the snow
Jaime Black | between us

November 9, 2021- February 25, 2022
Kniznick Gallery

Curated by CAST Chair Dr. Toni Shapiro-Phim

Water. Stone. Twigs. Bodies. The color red. These elements appear throughout Jaime Black’s exhibition, between us, honoring the interdependence between humankind and the natural and spiritual worlds. The artist, of mixed Anishinaabe and Finnish descent, focuses special attention on Indigenous women’s potency in all these realms as nurturers, as trust-builders, as knowledge-holders and knowledge-givers.

The photographs, video and poems on display tell stories alongside empty red dresses, which hang facing the four cardinal directions, dresses that, with their absence of bodies, allude to the thousands of Indigenous women and girls who have been missing or murdered across North America. Elsewhere on campus, clusters of such dresses will appear, a re-creation of Black’s renowned REDress Project, reminding us of the gendered and racialized violence experienced by Indigenous peoples in Canada and the United States. These dresses, along with Black's other work in the exhibition, ask us to consider ways to confront such injustice, while celebrating beauty, and reverencing women as the weavers of, as Black says, “the threads that bind and sustain us.”

Students in CAST 150b: Introduction to Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation have collaborated with Jaime Black, situating and contextualizing red dresses in specific campus locations.

Brandeis University is located on territories originally inhabited and stewarded by Indigenous Nipmuc, Pawtucket, and Massachusetts peoples.

Learn more about the exhibit, events, artists, and the REDress Project at Brandeis.

Life in Plastic: Artistic Responses to Petromodernity

November 8, 2021

Life in Plastic: Artistic Responses to Petromodernity  will be available in print in November 2021. The book was edited by Caren Irr, CAST Affiliate and Professor of English. From the publisher: "With impressive breadth and compelling urgency, the essays in Life in Plastic examine the arts and literature of the plastic age. Focusing on post-1960s North America, the collection spans a wide variety of genres, revealing the place of plastic in reshaping how we perceive, relate to, represent, and reimagine bodies, senses, environment, scale, mortality, and collective well-being." 

women dancing in a field and being filmed

Photo: Kathleen Norton/Philadelphia Folklore Project

Toni Shapiro-Phim Delivers Inaugural Presentation for INSPIRE SeminarToni Shapiro-Phim Delivers Inaugural Presentation for INSPIRE Seminar

September 15, 2021

CAST Chair and Associate Professor Toni Shapiro-Phim, along with Liberian singer and anti-violence activist Fatu Gayflor, delivered the inaugural presentation for the Peace Research Institute of Oslo's INSPIRE seminar series on September 15. They spoke about their documentary film, Because of the War.

crowd of people holding lights, photographed from overhead

Cambodian Pchum Ben ceremony of reconciliation with the dead. Photo by Ly Daravuth.

NEW COURSE on Conflict Transformation and Sustainable Development

June 18, 2021

Announcing a new CAST course, CAST 180a Creative Approaches to Conflict Transformation and Sustainable Development, taught by CAST co-founder and Director of Peacebuilding and the Arts Cynthia Cohen. Students will join a global community of inquiry in an exploration of how and why artistic and cultural initiatives are aligned with the demands of complex contemporary challenges. In the fall of 2021, the course will focus on unresolved legacies of violence and oppression, and on sustainability, especially in relation to the climate crisis. Students will explore key concepts, review case studies, and collaboratively design new initiatives and advocate for them with policy-makers and funders. The course will be taught virtually, facilitating engagement with researchers from across the globe. Learn more about the course.

Jane Sapp speaking on Zoom
Jane Sapp Speaks to 2021 Graduates

May 7, 2021

"We have to flood this injustice with so much justice." -Songwriter and activist Jane Sapp, to the 2021 graduates of the CAST Minor. Watch Sapp's talk and performance.

flyer that says Connecting for Creative Change!
Capstones 2021

April 29, 2021

Congratulations to our CAST minors who completed their capstone projects, presented at "Connecting for Creative Change" on 4/29/21.
Addressing microaggressions, stigmas of mental health issues, isolation, histories of loss and displacement and more through music, poetry, podcasts, conversations and other kinds of creativity, students shared how they are taking innovative steps to make the world a more caring, safe and beautiful place for us all.
woman playing violin
April Ginns: Whose Voices Are Being Heard in the Indie Electronic Scene?
Aviva Davis: The 20%: Honoring Jews of Color and Their Creations
Joanna Marcus: Journeys Through Art
Leah Sagan-Sworsky: Music Collabs
Sophie Brill WeitzSophie Brill Weitz: Marking Lives Lived with Stumbling Stones
Listen to the podcast Sophie created, an edited collection of interviews that Sophie conducted with her grandfather, mother and other relatives related to the family’s wish to have stolpersteine (stumbling stones) placed at the last voluntary residence, before the Holocaust, of her grandfather and his family in Belgrade, Serbia. (Stolpersteine are commemorative brass plaques placed in the pavement in front of the last known residence of choice of victims and survivors of the Holocaust.) What does it mean to remember, and to be remembered, Sophie and her family ask.
The event was part of the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts, April 25-May 1. 
graphic of sticker with hands raised holding microphone, paint brush, script, and pencil
New CAST Sticker Design!

April 23, 2021

Jennifer and Lauren Podhorzer (both '24) created the winning designs for our new CAST sticker. Ideas were proposed during a UDR-hosted sticker design contest. The Podhorzers' stickers made the grade and were distributed at Social Deis-tance DIY on April 23, 2021, a UDR event at which participants decorated clipboards and designed pins with social justice themes.

Attend future CAST events to collect more stickers!

Camila Cano sitting at a table
Camila Cano ’23 Helps Create CAST 125a: Confronting Gender-Based Violence

February 16, 2021

Camila Cano ’23 not only serves as CAST co-chair Toni Shapiro-Phim's TA for CAST 125a: Confronting Gender-Based Violence, but she helped create the course. Read more.


Mandel Center for the Humanities Working Group on Fighting Anti-Blackness in Our Curricular, Research, and Creative Spaces

January 25, 2021

Organized by: The interdisciplinary minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST), Tom King and Toni Shapiro-Phim, co-chairs.

This ongoing and interdisciplinary MCH Working Group aims to create a space for (1) uncovering and fighting anti-Blackness in our institutional, scholarly, creative, and curricular frameworks and practices; (2) facilitating our development as artists, researchers, educators, community-engaged practitioners, and administrators; and (3) following the leadership of our colleagues working in such areas as DEI research and implementation, Black and African American studies, and critical race studies and supporting, promoting, and celebrating their work at Brandeis. The MCH Working Group welcomes participation by all faculty, administrative staff, and graduate students at Brandeis who (1) understand creativity, broadly defined, as a key component of their practice, research methodology, or object of study; (2) commit to centering the voices and knowledge of those whose lives have been rendered most precarious by anti-Blackness; and (3) commit to the process of learning together in community and to the principles for engagement established at our first meeting(s).

For more information, please contact Tom King ( or Toni Shapiro-Phim (

Toni Shapiro-Phim
Coexistence in the Aftermath of Mass Violence

January 5, 2021

The newly published Coexistence in the Aftermath of Mass Violence: Imagination, Empathy and Resilience (Eds. Eve M. Zucker and Laura McGrew) includes a chapter by CAST co-chair Toni Shapiro-Phim. The book demonstrates how imagination, empathy, and resilience contribute to the processes of social repair after ethnic and political violence. Adding to the literature on transitional justice, peacebuilding, and the anthropology of violence and social repair, the authors show how these conceptual pathways — imagination, empathy and resilience — enhance recovery, coexistence, and sustainable peace. Read more about the book.

protesters around a maypole with flags and signs

Taking to the streets in Mexico City to protest violence against women

New Course Spring '21: Confronting Gender-Based Violence

January 1, 2021

Gender-based violence: What is it? How is it manifested? And what roles have art and creativity played in confronting it?

CAST Co-Chair Prof. Toni Shapiro-Phim offered this new course, CAST 125a: Confronting Gender-Based Violence, in spring 2021. Read about Camila Cano '23, who helped Toni create the course.

Engaging with multiple forms of creative expression and several different social change frameworks as they address and counter various aspects of gender-based violence in discrete cultural and historical contexts, this course explores gender-based violence as a grave violation of human rights, and the creative, innovative and meaningful methods through which particular communities and individuals counter such violation, including as it intersects with race and socioeconomic status. These methods might range from art installations in galleries or public spaces to formal theatrical productions, from the choreography of street protests to graffiti, films, pop-up concerts and podcasts, many involving survivors of gender-based violence in the creative process. In 2021 the class focused in particular on the experiences of those who identify as women, have been assigned to or perceived of as members of that category, or who identity and present as femme. The course will usually be offered every third year.

Liberian Women's Chorus members

The Liberian Women's Chorus for Change

"Because of the War" featured by UNESCO Art-Lab

November 6, 2020

CAST Co-Chair Toni Shapiro-Phim's documentary film, Because of the War, was the focus of part of the UNESCO Art-Lab's International Human Rights Day celebration on December 10, 2020. UNESCO screened the trailer and interviewed Dr. Shapiro-Phim as well as Fatu Gayflor, one of the Liberian anti-violence activists and artists who share their stories in the movie.

About the film: In West Africa and North America, four Liberian women -- mothers, singers, dancers, survivors of civil wars, refugees and immigrants -- use their music to address injustice and inspire action for social change. Fatu Gayflor, Marie Nyenabo, Zaye Tete and Tokay Tomah share their stories in this film, deepening understandings of the active, constructive roles the arts and artists can take in moments of crisis in the lives of families and communities. 

Also, read Toni's UNESCO Art-Lab Talks essay, "Liberian Women's Chorus for Change, Artist-Heroes in our Midst."

Filloux headshot

Photo Credit: Vandy Rattana

Renowned Playwright Catherine Filloux Working with CAST 150b Students

September 1, 2020

In the Fall of 2020, CAST 150b students had a special opportunity to work directly with renowned playwright Catherine Filloux, who visited class multiple times during the latter part of the term. Under the guidance of this award-winning author of works that address human rights and social justice the world over, students took the raw transcripts of Filloux's interviews with survivors of the Cambodian genocide and fashioned the transcripts into monologues, which they read for the public (via Zoom).

Catherine Filloux is an award-winning playwright who has been writing about human rights and social justice for over twenty-five years. Her plays have been produced around the world. Among the many honors she has received are the 2019 Barry Lopez Visiting Writer in Ethics and Community Fellowship; the 2017 Otto René Castillo Award for Political Theatre; and the 2015 Planet Activist Award. Filloux’s plays have been widely published and anthologized. She received her M.F.A. at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts’ Dramatic Writing Program and her French Baccalaureate in Philosophy, with Honors, in Toulon, France. She is a co-founder of Theatre Without Borders, and the first Art & Peacebuilding Scholar at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego.

Weiner headshot
CAST Student News: Richard Quinn Weiner selected as Schiff Undergraduate Fellow

May 28, 2020

CAST minor Richard Quinn Weiner '21 (they/them/theirs) was selected in May 2020 to receive one of the ten Schiff Undergraduate Fellowships for the 2020-2021 Brandeis University academic year for their project 'Generations of Impactful Scholarship' with their faculty mentor, Tom King.

As Quinn describes, "For my Schiff Fellowship project, I am expanding upon my English senior honors thesis, within which I am studying the way the phrase 'gender identity' takes on different meanings and uses among various academic and lay populations. Essentially, I am trying to unravel a giant miscommunication, one which has led to unproductive and nonsensical conversations around gender and gender identity, impeding research, justice work, and individuals' searches for language and recognition. With this in mind, under the mentorship of Prof. Tom King, I will be exploring the ways my research findings can be creatively and effectively communicated to a variety of audiences (including through the creation of a blog, an academic unit, and an oral research presentation) in hopes of reducing that miscommunication and hopefully the barriers it creates."

As a Schiff Fellow, Quinn will receive a $2000 stipend to support their research, and their Faculty mentor will receive a $500 payment to support their own research endeavors. Learn more about the Jerome A. Schiff Fellowship.

Smith headshot
CAST Affiliated Faculty Faith Smith Receives Dean of Arts & Sciences Faculty Service Award

May 27, 2020

CAST Affiliated Faculty member Faith Smith (AAAS, ENG, LALS, WGS) was one of five Brandeis faculty members recognized for excellence in the classroom with a 2019-20 teaching award. Smith received the 2020 Dean of Arts & Sciences Faculty Service Award, which is given to an outstanding faculty member of the graduate school who has impacted his or her students' education inside and outside the classroom. Read more about Smith's award at BrandeisNOW

Read a testimonial from Dannie Brice '20 about Smith's course, AAAS 124a, After the Dance: Performing Sovereignty in the Caribbean inspiring her senior thesis.

report cover
Special Edition: Creative Approaches to Transitional Justice: Contributions of Arts and Culture

March 31, 2020

The International Journal of Transitional Justice

Volume 20, Issue 1, March 2020

A special edition of The Transitional Journal of International Justice called "Creative Approaches to Transitional Justice: the Contributions of Art and Culture" was guest edited by Dr. Cynthia Cohen, director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts. The edition features the following contributions:

Support for color images came from Elaine Reuben '63, CAST supporter and Board Member of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life

CAST minor Sarah Terrazano '19 assisted Cohen in the screening of initial submissions to the special issue.

clown holding cardboard box

March 23, 2020

Sustainable Brandeis is eager to improve our recycling and composting rates. They turned to CAST for help with their outreach to the Brandeis community. The recycling clown video was created by CAST affiliated faculty member Sabine von Mering (WGS, CGES) and undergrad Perry Letourneau, and cosponsored by CAST. 

Toni Shapiro-Phim
Announcement: Appointment of Toni Shapiro-Phim

May 22, 2019

CAST is delighted to announce the appointment of Toni Shapiro-Phim as Associate Professor of Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation and Assistant Director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts (outside the tenure track). Beginning fall semester 2019, Professor Shapiro-Phim will co-chair the CAST minor, offer its core course (CAST 150b), develop new CAST-designated courses, and support the program in Peacebuilding and the Arts. Read the full announcement.

POETIC JUSTICE, the Brandeis Poetry Slam Team
POETIC JUSTICE Enters Semi-Finals

April 12, 2019

Brandeis' Poetry Slam Team in Top 20 Collegiate Poetry Teams

POETIC JUSTICE, the Brandeis Poetry Slam Team, was officially one of the top 20 collegiate poetry teams in the country. The team competed at semi-finals against Barnard, NYU, Oberlin and University of Miami.

Poetic Justice's travel to the semi-final slam poetry competion was sponsored by CAST with financial support from The Max and Sunny Howard Memorial Foundation (through the support of Naomi Sinnreich, P’13).


April 2, 2019


Concert & Book Launch Event

Let’s Make a Better World: Stories and Songs by Jane Sapp is a resource for music educators, chorus leaders, activists and cultural workers. In it, the nationally admired cultural worker, musician, educator, and activist, Jane Wilburn Sapp, shares her approach to social transformation and its roots in African-American musical traditions. Sapp tells the story of her childhood, nurtured by the Black community while living in the brutal world of the Jim Crow South. She describes her participation in the Black Power movement and introduces us to her mentors. She shares 25 songs she has written with young people and sung with people of all ages, and tells the stories behind each song while offering suggestions for teachers and chorus leaders. The book also includes scores, and all of the songs can be heard on podcasts where Jane’s approach to cultural work is illuminated through conversations with activists, cultural workers and music educators.

From the introduction, “If You Really Want to Know Me:”

Too often social change work focuses on what communities don’t have: there aren’t enough economic resources; the education system is not responsive; and racism keeps Black people from reaching their full potential. But I began to wonder what would happen if we focus on what we do have... We have each other, our songs, our stories, our imaginations, our experiences surviving and making ugly beautiful. We know how to make a way out of no way. – Jane Sapp, p. 25

Purchase the book now!

academy of american poetsA poem by Sarah Terrazano '19, "Fire in the Woods," which examines the layers of occupation at Walden Pond (challenging Thoreau's primacy), was the selection for the 2019 Academy of American Poets Prize. The award was given as part of Brandeis' 2019 University and College Prize for the Academy of American Poets. An outside judge selected two poems, one for each prize.

Sarah served as an undergrad as the Peacebuilding and the Arts Undergraduate Assistant at the Ethics Center. A writer and poet, she was an English/Creative Writing major with minors in CAST and Hispanic Studies. She was also the Editor-in-Chief of The Brandeis Hoot newspaper. 

Read Sarah's poem.

A Reflection on Ebony Axis

By Sarah Nzisabira, CAST student

LaShawn Simmons ’18 founded Ebony Axis, a poetry zine for Black women, with help from a CAST grant in 2015. Nzisabira reflects:


"I am forever grateful for the spaces I have shared ever since then with real poets, particularly poets of color. An individual who I am particularly appreciative of would have to be Brandeis and CAST alum, LaShawn Simmons ‘18, who cultivated one of the most culturally impactful and transformative spaces I have ever been in - Ebony Axis. Ebony Axis is a literary magazine dedicated to women of color on Brandeis’ campus and with each annual publishing comes a coffeehouse-esque sort of open mic/reading/celebration which I have attended each year since my start at Brandeis. Ebony Axis has been a literal and metaphorical healing space for many women of color, particularly Black women, as it allows us to take a physical and mental break from all that comes with being a Black woman studying on Brandeis’ campus and provides a space dedicated specifically to sharing, communing with and celebrating ourselves."

Opening of the CAST Creativity Lab

March 12, 2018

5:30 pm
The International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life
Abraham Shapiro Academic Complex (ASAC), Room 327

We are excited to announce the opening of our new CAST Creativity Lab, Monday, March 12, at 5:30 pm, in conjunction with the 20th anniversary celebration of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, where it’s located. The first space of its kind for CAST and Creative Writing students on campus, the Lab will be a place to meet and collaborate on projects or work individually. Designed and implemented by CAST senior Marcelo Brociner, the Resource Room is filled with comfortable chairs, a computer and desk, and a bookshelf of CAST-related books, movies, and other materials for use and inspiration. It is a welcoming, calming space that offers students a place other than the library to get work done and tap into their creativity. Helping design the space, and serving as mentors, have been Elizabeth Bradfield, Associate Professor of the Practice of English and Co-Director of the Creative Writing Program, and Kristin Parker, Deputy Director of the Rose Art Museum.  Both are also members of the CAST Advisory Committee.

The Creativity Lab is located in Room 327 in the Ethics Center, which is on the third floor of the Abraham Shapiro Academic Complex (ASAC, the building across from the Heller School and next to the Mandel Center for the Humanities).

April 28, 2017

Read Vice President for Planning and Institutional Research Dan Feldman's address to our Class of 2017 CAST minors.
LaShawn Simmons

October 9, 2015

This Brandeis NOW article features CAST minor and Posse Scholar LaShawn Simmons '18, who created Ebony Axis, a zine for Black women on campus.

CAST Design Labs


Students assisted 4 established organizations with projects whose goals necessitated creative mechanisms. Their resulting reports are below:

LaShawn Simmons, Sarah McCarty, Bronte Velez
Grants Awarded for Student Projects Related to Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation

October 1, 2017

CAST Student Grant recipients were chosen by a subset of the CAST student committee. Read about the student grant recipients and their projects.

four faculty grant winners linking arms

December 15, 2014

The faculty committee of the minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST) awarded grants of $2,000 each to four members of the Brandeis faculty for research and creative projects.