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Cara Michell

Cara Michell is an urban planner and artist in NYC & Boston. Currently Assistant Professor of Race and Social Justice in the Built Environment @ Northeastern University.

Cara’s conceptual art work has been exhibited with the design collective, Intelligent Mischief, at the Boston University Art Galleries. She has written for the Atlantic’s CityLab, The Site Magazine and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Preservation Leadership forum.

Before joining the Northeastern school of Architecture faculty full time, Cara was an Associate and Senior Urban Planner at WXY architecture + urban design. Previously, she worked at BrookMcIlroy in Toronto where she served as an urban planner on urban design, transit oriented development and Indigenous Place Making Council Projects.

In 2015, Cara co-founded and co-chaired the inaugural Black in Design conference with Courtney Sharpe and the Harvard GSD AASU. Memorabilia from the first conference has recently been accessioned onto the Smithsonian collection at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

How I work:

“My artwork explores the question, “who gets to use public space?” from a variety of angles. On a personal level, the focus of those angles alternates between how I fit into “the public,” and how “the public” impacts me. As a Black woman, the question of how I fit into any public space has always been a tricky one. I have been aware, from too young an age, of how performative my identity needs to be in public space. Whether my goal is to meet, exceed or subvert expectations, I am always performing in order to keep moving, especially in my professional life. That tension between performance and professional practice is present in both my urban planning work and my artwork today.

“…I use my personal experience to empathize with the experiences of others. I also use my artistic understanding of form, material and emotion to inform my city-planning work and vice-versa. That is why my work, often influenced by urban systems and social tensions, expands from looking outwards and mimicking what I see to looking inwards and expressing my truth.”

“Transparent Objects” from Performing Spatial Justice.
Photo by Intelligent Mischief,
“Performing Spatial Justice” photo-collage.
  1. ID Foldout from “Performing Spatial Justice” and the “Black Body Survival Store,” Boston, 2016-17. Photo by Nathan Tyrell.
  2. “Bed,” Panama Canal, Princeton University, 2014.
  3. “Why We Wear Them,” The Site Magazine, 2019.
  4. “Envision Cambridge Map Table,” Project by Interboro Partners, Cambridge, MA, 2016.
  5. “Black Body Survival Store” with Intelligent Mischief, Occupancies, 808 Gallery, 2017. Photo by Nathan Tyrell.https://nathan-tyrell.squarespace.com/
Photo by M. Theresa Simao
Van Alen International Council: “Private Means to Public Ends”. Introducing members to Downtown Brooklyn planning projects in 2019.