Building Bridges Across Difference - Jacob Carter


Jacob Carter has been helping develop an initiative on the UMass Amherst campus called Building Bridges, which draws on the power of solidarity and creative expression to bring people together and create a bridge across difference.


In January 2017, I attended an emergency meeting in response to the travel ban and proposed the idea of a creative response that would draw upon the powerful phrase seen in protests around the world, “Build Bridges, Not Walls”. Thereafter, a group of us began meeting weekly to discuss how we could engage the campus in building bridges across difference.


We began designing two large banners to launch the initiative, which now flank the Fine Arts Center with the text Building Bridges. CIE members contributed to this effort by translating the phrase ‘building bridges’ into over 20 languages that make up the text of the large letters and the College of Education contributed financing to help print these banners.


Building Bridges has become a campus wide initiative. As the Project Coordinator, I am working closely with a team of people, including CIE graduate Sonia Lindop, to co-facilitate two courses on campus, one for immigrant workers and one for worker artists. In both courses we follow a non-formal and dialogic approach to our sessions with a focus on storytelling and building community.  


In addition to these two courses, the team has designed three art installations that prompt public engagement around the theme of building bridges across difference. At gatherings and meetings around campus, we invite individuals to answer the questions: “What differences do you want to bridge and/or connect, and how can we accomplish this?” Responses are written or drawn on cards that prompt reflection and creative expression on the theme of building bridges across difference. Once completed, the cards are collected and assembled as a mosaic on one of the art installations on campus.