Prototyping the Future
Visionary and futurist Divine Bradley MFA ’22 turned his passion for reimagining and transforming education into an immersive learning experience for the Bennington community.
By Halley Le '25
On a breezy September afternoon, Bennington College observed the launch of Prototypia, an immersive learning experience curated by MFA Fellow in Public Action Divine Bradley.
Divine Bradley is a creative consultant with more than 20 years of experience across sectors, from entertainment and fashion to education and community engagement. He joined Bennington in 2021 to explore the possibilities of turning a college campus into an incubator for ideas for the future.
“Bennington allows for people to be very imaginative in their quest to create,” said Bradley. “I want to create a program on a college campus that gives students hands-on resources and tools to become entrepreneurs, ideators, educators, and I want the school to be able to invest in it even after I leave. Like a blank canvas, Bennington would be the perfect place to execute my vision.”
From his vision manifested Prototypia.
“Currently offered as a Fall 2022 course, Prototypia is a playground of practice. Students are sent on missions on and off campus, where they learn how to use tools, collaborate, and create, and they can collect badges for the skills they exercise,” explained Bradley. “The badges help them unlock new opportunities–both in the course and outside, to participate in a grand finale at the end of the term.”
As part of their missions, students may generate prototypes, which are products and works of art that will be showcased at the Studios Showroom (currently located at the Left Bank in North Bennington), or ideas and projects that will inform the next Prototypia quests.
“I prefer to think about [Prototypia] as an experience, or a learning theme park. From 2:00 to 6:00 pm each Wednesday, students will enter the prototyping world through CAPA, and embark on adventures of their own choosing,” said Bradley.
An example of such adventure is a trip to the Makery in North Bennington. Located at the Vermont Art Exchange, the Makery is where Prototypians can check out fiber arts, wood-working, fabric dyeing, print-making, and more. Or, they can even attempt to put together a dual bicycle!
The first Prototypia class engaged in an art workshop outside of Jennings with Amy Anselmo, a community partner from the Vermont Arts Exchange and program lead at Prototypia. Students worked collaboratively to draw Bennington landscape on different mediums. Photo by Bradley ‘22.
“If a student says, ‘I want to do improvisational acting,’ Prototypia will give them a taste test of what they want to do,” said Bradley about another experience. “What if they improvise at a restaurant, inside of a school, or at a senior center? What if they improvise to promote a local service or create a commercial? What if we can provide them with a wide spectrum of life opportunities in a gamified manner?”
In tandem with Prototypia came KNKXN (pronounced: kon-nek-xion), an online platform that lets users follow Prototypia’s events, learn arts and crafts from fellow artists, and showcase their own adventures. KNKXN currently exists as a 24-hour stream in CAPA where the audience can enjoy carefully curated content by Prototypia’s makers; however, KNKXN will soon reach students as a domain and a Youtube channel.
“A crucial part of Prototypia involves sharing participants’ works and journeys. It is important to celebrate people’s success,” explained Bradley, “It is just as important to show the efforts and struggles and trial-and-errors process behind one’s accomplishment. Nothing comes overnight.”
Behind the Experience
Nothing came overnight, and neither did Prototypia. Many members of the Bennington community contributed to this unconventional learning theme park, and Bradley is excited to recognize their dedications.
“We partnered with local businesses, organizations, local artists, residents of North Bennington, the municipality, and the school administration to co-create experiences that are in alignment with what students are interested in trying,” said Bradley. “And the experiences themselves are largely based on students’ input.”
Bradley previously offered two courses: Play! and Spaceships, where students can reimagine academic experiences based on their favorite games or redesign spaces for new purposes and functions of learning. Spaceships and Play! helped inform the learning experience Bradley envisioned, and in a sense, they were slices of the “Prototypia way” to approach education.
Casey Alperovitz ’24, who took Spaceships in Fall 2021, was so enthralled by the work that he decided to stick around and help out in the summer.
“Divine is really motivated when it comes to ideas, and when I have seemingly impossible ideas, he shows me how they can be executed and helps me progress,” said Alperovitz as he redesigned CAPA into a Prototypia portal. “I am creating a mockup with a prism on the wall and beams of lights scattered and reflected into each other and will transform the space in the next weeks.”
Bradley also collaborated with students during two Field Work Terms to produce drafts of Prototypia. He called his companions “Social Imagineers” and his team, “CampUs Studios.” Together, they laid out the foundation for the immersive learning experience. They picked out locations, designed quests, wrote story lines, breathed life into characters, and created visuals to elevate the experience.
Divine Bradley and several members of the Winter 22 FWT cohorts, who created conceptual drafts of Prototypia. Photo by Audra Schwalm (@audra_photographer)
Chuna '25, another “Social Imagineer,” was excited to share about their work in the Summer 2022 Field Work Term. In contrast to students from the Winter Field Work Term who created the conceptual draft of Prototypia, Chuna designed the physical spaces that host the experience and a comic that acted as a guide to the educational playground.
“Personally, I enjoy world building, character designing, and visualizing something that previously existed only as an idea. Divine and I had many conversations about how Prototypia can help an individual better understand what they want to do in life, and benefits the community by giving spaces usage,” said Chuna. “I am grateful to be a part of this project; to be able to envision it, bring it to life, and put it on paper as a comic book is a big accomplishment of mine.”
Captain Bo, a “mentor” character of the Prototypia experience, played by CampUs’ program lead and community partner Amy Anselmo. The image on the right shows a conceptual draft of Captain Bo, made by Chuna ‘25.
Photo by Bradley MFA '22 and Chuna '25.
Prototypia is an experience designed by students, enjoyed by students, and sustained by students’ input. As the journey continues, CampUs Studios members will better understand what students enjoy, and the feedback loop will help Prototypia self-sustain.
Many Bennington staff, faculty members, and community partners were involved, and Bradley paid homage to the Vermont Arts Exchange, Roasted Beans, Pangea, McCullough Library, Powers Market, Lake Paran community, and many other residents of the College as well as the wider North Bennington area.
“I have had visions of Prototypia for almost 20 years. When I was 17, I opened up a community center in Brooklyn, where I would meet students who were graffiti artists, dancers, or poets, and help them use their skills to make a difference in their community,” said Bradley. “As I went on to open more community centers and educational opportunities, I began to dream of a company designed to do good that is not a non-profit. CampUs Studios is a company for public action, and I am beyond grateful to see it making an impact on the community."
Bradley had the pleasure of watching his decade-long vision come to life, and he plans to commit the next five years to install a stable and sustainable system for Prototypia at Bennington before embarking on his next “social imagineering” quest. He will continue to take input from students, faculty and staff members, and community partners to amp up the best Prototypia experience there can be.