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Alumni Tales

February 06, 2017
By Cecilia Coetsee

Abram Coetsee at TED

From October to December 2016, Abram Coetsee (class of 2002) was part of TED’s latest initiative, the TED Residency Program. TED’s mantra, “Ideas Worth Spreading”, is the driving force behind the TED Residency. According to their website, the program is “an incubator for breakthrough ideas…free and open to all via a semi-annual competitive application. Those chosen as TED Residents spend fourteen weeks at TED headquarters in New York City, working on their ideas. Although some may produce artwork, a manuscript, or an amazing theorem, each Resident will also develop a TED talk and deliver it on a TED stage.” These talks are later featured on the TED Residency YouTube channel, and possibly TED.com as well.

Abram thoroughly enjoyed being part of the vibrant community culture of TED, and benefited from coaching and rehearsals in the in-house TED Theater. His passion for, and fresh perspective on the need to preserve large scale graffti made him a good fit for the Residency. The program is always on the lookout for inventors, advocates, entrepreneurs, and social activists. TED is an acronym for Technology, Education, & Design.

On Wednesday night, December 13th, Abram delivered his TED talk, “Why Graffti should be Immortal.” He used examples like the Divine Comedy, which Dante wrote while declared an exiled criminal, to show how throughout history, our shared global heritage is often only valued in retrospect. His focus was on the destruction of a renowned NYC graffti art sanctuary, 5 Pointz, which he showed as a tragic loss to our collective culture. At the former site, graffti enthusiasts, led by the prominent artist Meres, revitalized a derelict building and created an international community landmark featuring myriad of participants. In a collaboration between the fields of art, technology, and education, Abram is now helping to reproduce the lost building in a virtual reality, digital reconstruction. Other participants in the Residency program delivered equally fascinating and diverse talks, on topics such as crowdsourced trash cleanup, low-cost materials for health and dignity during childbirth in developing communities, and creating Facebook video messages reuniting homeless people with their families.

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