Institute of Black Imagination.

Black Imagination  is an act of liberation.

Whether in the built environment, urban planning, or social domain, the world we find ourselves in has been designed.  By whom?  For whom?  All design is predictive, meaning the designer assumes the burden of foreseeing the utility of any given system, and rarely is there a modular function embedded for the end user to adjust to their needs. In a world not designed with us in mind, Black people have continually hacked, remixed, and jerry-rigged the spaces, objects, and ideas that we confront, and in that process, have not only brought about our own deliverance, but that of others as well.


The Institute is a learning framework, designed to foster critical discourse around the exclusionary nature of design, particularly in the built environment.

It originated in 2018 as a library.  A library built around an acquisition of over 1,900 books from the personal archives of the great multi-hyphenate artist Geoffrey Holder.  As a dancer, choreographer, graphic artist, costume designer, actor, stage director, photographer, musician, composer, singer, sculptor, writer, and producer, Mr. Holder was Black imagination personified. 

In 2020, the Institute developed a podcast to incorporate Black and Brown voices around the broader concept of design thinking.  However, the podcast transcends any one discipline, we each contributor forming a constellation in the galaxy of the Black Imagination.

About this platform.

What happens when you lose access to your imagination? What future lies ahead when dreaming has become a luxury good? Built by an international team of creators and storytellers, this site was designed to actively engage the user, returning the agency of exploration to the individual. It's an interactive portal into a world of Black vision and thought: ever shifting, ever expanding. Play in the galaxy. Expand the sphere of the podcast player. And keep coming back… there will always be something new for you to discover.


The Institute is a fiscally sponsored organization in a two-year pilot phase.  It remains nimble with only two senior members managing the creative vision (Dario Calmese) and business and legal operations (Tiffani Brown).

Who is Dario Calmese?

Sitting at the nexus of art, fashion, and academia, Dario is an artist, writer, director and brand consultant. He received his master’s in photography from the School of Visual Arts and his bachelor’s in psychology at Rockhurst University in Kansas City.  Classically trained in the performing arts, he uses his knowledge of movement, gesture, and psychology to create complex characters and narratives that explore history, race, class, and what it means to be human.

In 2020 he made history as the first Black photographer to shoot a cover for Vanity Fair in it’s 106-year history with his portrait of Oscar-winning actress, Viola Davis. 2020 also saw the launch of his widely-acclaimed podcast, The Institute of Black Imagination, featuring conversations from the Pool of Black Genius through the lens of design.

Dario serves on the global advisory board for Estee Lauder Companies and is a professor at The New School’s Parson’s School of Design in New York City. He is currently a NYC Urban Design Forum Fellow and his show direction for the fashion brand Pyer Moss has been consistently hailed in Vogue and The New York Times as the “Best show of Fashion Month.”

For  any question or potential interview requests, write to:

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