People

Diversity is a Push for Opportunity

This post is part of the Black History Month series.

Lauren Dandridge Gaines teaches lighting design at USC School of Architecture. She is dedicated to expanding what is considered standard lighting education for architects and designers. She guides her students by teaching a better understanding of the correlation between lighting, health and wellness and behavior, improved design techniques, the use of established and newer technologies, and practice at learning what light feels like. She uses small model building, detailing, real-life project designing, and local lighting walks and tours and the lighting industry standard calculation software AGI32. She is an IES award-winning lighting designer and recognizable figure in the lighting community.

A quote that inspires me

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Frederick Douglass

I love this quote because it is both humbling and empowering. It reminds me that struggle is a part of anything worth pursuing. The struggle might not be life or death, but the agitation of changing both oneself and the world requires more than what we have already done. It reminds me that discomfort is a part of the process, that uneasiness and second guessing, and questions are a part of a worthy endeavor…and that at the end, when you look back you will realize how far you have come.

Advice I would share

Don’t be afraid. Be cautious. Be mindful. Be aware, but never afraid. It does not accomplish anything except fraying your nerves.

A little known fact about me

I got into lighting because of a play I saw in middle school. There was a cool lighting effect and I thought, “I want to learn more about that…” and from there I started to study theatrical lighting. Exposure is so, so important.

Proudest accomplishment


I am most proud of my accomplishments as a professor. I have watched my baby lighting birds fly off and become powerhouse designers in major lighting and architectural firms like Fisher Marantz Stone, Oculus Light Studio, HLB, Illuminate Lighting Design and BOLD.

Thoughts on representation in the lighting industry

I would love to let anyone who has doubts about the efforts for diversity know that this is a push for opportunity, not replacement. I want to see a lighting industry that reflects the city I live in. I want young people, particularly young people of color, to know that this industry exists and that we want them in it, that we are willing to meet them halfway by showing up and extending ourselves to teach, develop and hire.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend