2022 Diversity In Design Scholarship Recipient: Emily Pan

Emily Pan is a lighting designer and sound designer for theatre and dance studying at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is also a self-taught artist in media design. Her passion in the arts lies in telling stories touched by BIPOC and AAPI identities, and she draws inspiration from the experiences and cultures of people around her. 

Pan spoke to Live Design about her passion for design and what this scholarship means to her.

Live Design: Why did you apply for the Pat MacKay Diversity In Design Scholarship?

Emily Pan: I stumbled upon the scholarship accidentally but I became inspired by the scholarship's goal to highlight diversity in this industry. Since I study in a BA program, I don't often get the chance to meet other designers, let alone BIPOC designers. I thought this scholarship was a wonderful way to connect with other artists like me, who also value diversity and culture in design.  

LD: What made you interested in the fields of lighting and projection design?

EP: I've always seen the world from a strongly visual perspective and I'm fascinated by the idea of influencing a story in the most subtle ways through light and sound. In college, I realized that I couldn't study something that was solely in STEM or the humanities, and technical design turned out to be this perfect balance between the two. This pushed me to study and pursue lighting in college for the first time. 

LD: What are some of your career goals?

EP: After college I really hope to continue working in design and collaborating with artists from all backgrounds. I hope to continue telling BIPOC and underrepresented stories through the performing arts. A small dream of mine would be to work on projects where I could combine a multitude of design areas into one. Then at some point way down the line, I hope for an opportunity to teach and give back to the communities that supported me so much already.

LD: How can the industry better serve underrepresented communities?

EP: This scholarship is already definitely a really good way of supporting students in underrepresented communities. One of the hardest things that members of underrepresented communities often have to deal with are the feelings of not having a space and not having our stories be told. Creating a space to celebrate the work of theatre design students from across the country or finding ways to connect recently graduated artists with the professional community would really help to show that we have a space in this industry as well and that we should keep telling our stories.

LD: Who or what are your influences, in terms of people or events?

EP: Personally, I find myself influenced by all the events in my life and all the lives and experiences of those around me. Everytime I collaborate with other artists on a project, I grow infinitely more than if I had been working alone. I am most inspired by people as I know that even the smallest of stories contain experiences I have yet to or will never get the chance to live through. After all, theatre and performance is a reflection of human life, and what better way to reflect that than to explore the journey ourselves. Since I can't live a million lives, I can only hope to experience a shred of that through the stories of those around me.

LD:  Are there particular challenges you have faced?

EP: I think living overall just might be a challenge - I've dealt with my fair share of struggles from finding technical design much later, to being the only Asian American in a room, and even smaller struggles like not being able to settle on one singular design area. However, I know all these struggles will only challenge me to grow more and I always have to thank all of the people who have been around me and supported me until this point.

LD: What is your number one bucket list item?

EP: I would love to travel everywhere possible. It seems like it will always be number one on my bucket list as there's no limit to how much of the world I have yet to see:)(I'm also incredibly curious what it would be like to travel to Antarctica)

LD: Has the pandemic changed how you view your work or the industry?

EP: For a second my commitment to working in this industry definitely faltered during the pandemic and over the years I had to keep learning and relearning the significance of creating and celebrating art in our lives. I think, as a result, my passion and commitment has only grown stronger. I have come to appreciate the collaboration with other artists and the presence of our own identities and cultures embedded in the art we create infinitely more.