Michael Bennett’s Life After Pro Football Is Well-Designed
Rather than analyzing NFL plays, Michael Bennett is focused on a mission to integrate social justice into his post-NFL career. This journey includes various endeavors, such as writing a boo (2018’s Things That Make White People Uncomfortable) and creating designs for public exhibition.
According to Bustler, in September, Bennett crafted designs that were showcased during New York City’s Archtober, described as “New York’s premier public design exhibition” by NYCxDesign.
During his time at the Heritage School of Interior Design he established a scholarship for Black designers.
“I want to open up a multi-disciplinary studio that would include furniture design, architecture planning, as well as community planning,” he told HSID in an interview. “I want to work in a central space with many other individuals where we can all work together. I feel like in design there are so many systemic injustices, and we can work to dismantle those. Unless we have designers and people who can understand that there are problems that need to be solved, there will be no solving them.”
Bennett has achieved that goal, according to Fast Company, the multi-hyphenate plans to open a design practice, Studio Kër in November.
Studio Kër, Bennett tells the outlet, takes its name from his Senegalese ancestry and it means home. Bennett draws his inspiration from historic figures Angela Davis and Booker T. Washington.
Bennett told Fast Company that his design ethos is one that works absent of labels.
“I think of myself more like a spatial designer, or a spatial practitioner,” Bennett said. “I just like space; so wherever media that needs to be expressed to talk about a particular emotion or talk about a particular idea, I want to dive into it. I don’t want to put a title on it.”
Bennett’s design display at the recent exhibit, entitled Public Display, was made of cross-laminated timber. Two panels of the material create the framework for a display framing slices of life or pieces of sky, surrounded by benches and stools, giving its viewers the opportunity to contemplate city life in a community space. Bennett said that it was the COVID-19 pandemic that first allowed him the space to breathe.
“Usually during life, the water’s so rough you can’t really see a reflection; and during COVID, the water was still, so we had a chance to reflect on a lot of things,” Bennett recalled. “During those reflections, you can’t hide. You have to truly look at yourself and see that in its purest form. I had a chance to realize my family is beautiful. I reached the highest of the heights, and it’s time to try something different.”
His brother, Martellus, is also a designer, retired NFL player, and similarly, a bit of a Renaissance man. Martellus has written four children’s books, one of which is getting turned into a Disney animated film. “I don’t think he always knew that—where he would go after—but I think he has this relationship with the game to understand that and know that it’s going to end,” Martellus said of Michael.
Martellus described how his brother and his design piece, Public Display, mirror each other.
“The piece by itself is strong, but it’s the strongest when people are around it, and why I think that is important is because I feel like Michael is the same way,” he told Fast Company. “I think Michael by himself is strong, but Michael with family and people around him is at his strongest.”