Past Member

Colin "Topper" Carew

Former Visiting Scholar
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Born and raised in Boston. Carew initially attended the Howard University School of Architecture. He earned a Bachelor in Architecture and Masters in Environmental Design from Yale, has had fully supporting fellowships at MIT (Community Fellow) and from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (Broadcast Fellow). The former allowed Carew to complete three films and study at MIT’s then film school with Ricky Leacock. The latter allowed him to spend time at the BBC/London and at the studios in Hollywood. He also has a Doctorate in Communications from the Union Graduate School/Institute for Policy Studies.

Carew started his film career by making documentaries about the relationship between neighborhood people and architecture, by using it as a community organizing and fundraising tool, and by teaching film to inner city youth. His home base for this work was The New Thing Art and Architecture Center, a community arts program in the Adams Morgan section of Washington, D.C. Carew was the New Thing’s founder and director. He would submit his own films to festivals just for the fun of it and ended up winning an abundance of awards. People would say, “you’re a good filmmaker.” And he would reply, “no, I’m an architect.” The fellowship at MIT allowed Carew to make the full transition into film. And to date, Carew has won more than 40 film and television awards, and 8 Gold Medals for design.

After MIT, he spent 4 years at WGBH (Boston) where he produced Say Brother, Tonite From Harvard Square and several national PBS series (Say Brother National Edition, and Rebop I & II). While at WGBH, Carew rose to the rank of Program Manager and subsequently shared responsibility for WGBH’s program development and production.

Following WGBH, Carew founded an independent production company, Rainbow Television Workshop. It produced content for PBS, HBO, Showtime, Nick and The Disney Channel. Other of his projects have aired in prime time on ABC, NBC, BET, FOX, TNT, TV One, and MTV. His theatrically released films include DC Cab (Universal Pictures) and Breakin‘ and Enterin’ (Shapiro/Glickenhaus). DC Cab was selected as one of the twelve (12) best movies about Washington. His prime time television series, Martin (FOX), enjoys the rarified distinction of continuing to be off network syndicated. Due to a poll, it is thought to be one of the two most popular Black television series of all time.

Carew has served on a number of boards. They include the National Urban Coalition, the DC Arts Commission, The Children’s Foundation, The Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston), The Negro Scholarship Fund, the Social Venture Network, the LA Children’s Museum, and the First African Meeting House. Carew presently serves on the boards of Urban Improv and the Young People’s Project. He has also served on a Presidential Commission on African American History and Culture.

Past awards of distinction include 3 Action for Children’s Television Awards, 4 NAACP Image Awards, a People’s Choice Award, and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. In all, Carew has produced (8) national television series, (15) independent documentaries, 4 theatrically released films,15 movies for television and 300 live concerts.

Since 2005, his new generation of work includes We Don’t Die, We Multiply: The Robin Harris Story (a feature length documentary); The Fine Art of Frying Chicken (a feature length documentary); The Chumbies (educational DVDs and musical CDs for children). More recently his work includes, Stop the Violence, Start to Love (a 24 hour television “stop the violence/peace appeal”); Web Technology 2.0, an educational television series; The History of Roxbury, a 1 hour special; and Peace Warriors, a television series featuring mothers who have lost their children to gun violence.

His recent documentaries include A Dream Deferred, Trauma, and The Children Will Lead. These films reveal the intensity of inner city life due to gun violence. Each film premiered as the centerpiece of an annual fundraising event (1 mil in 3 years). “Keepsakes” is his most recent television series. For it, seniors were taught the art of storytelling. And through their “keepsakes”, they then told and shared their stories about precious moments, precious items, and precious people in their lives.

In 2012, Carew was appointed as a Research Scholar at the Life Long Kindergarten Lab at the MIT Media Lab. There, with technology as an added tool, he is researching and developing new storytelling modalities and new film, animation and video production methodologies. He explores how they can intersect with new and old distribution platforms, and how they will collectively spawn new aesthetic, business and exhibition models.

Additional research focuses on innovative methods to teach computer coding, games, design, animation and filmmaking to underserved populations so they will become computer scientists, innovators, inventors, makers and doers versus consumers. In the Changing Places Lab at MIT, Carew used his background as an architect to discover how the convergence of art, culture, technology, and communications can encourage urban innovation, stimulate the urban economy, and improve the quality of urban life.

In 2016, Carew was elevated to the status of Principal Investigator and has launched the Techquity Research Group. In it, he is the Director and Founder of a new Innovation and Inclusion Initiative. His research and development involves the design, creation and assisted implementation of Innovation Centers at a select number of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities. They are labs conceived to spawn innovation and invention. The iCenters will contribute to the emergence of the next generation of HBCU inventors and innovators. He also Directs a collaboration with Google to design pre-college Computer Science and Physical Computation curriculums for 8-12th graders. Future research efforts will explore the ways in which technological innovation can impact other sectors of Black life ie, public education, civil rights, art, etc.

Carew continues to work on his personal film and art projects. He recently completed two (2) new films, In My Fathers Shoes and How To Grow. His ongoing personal philanthropic activities are inspired by his time spent as a voter registration worker in the South and as a community organizer in Washington, DC.

Recent honors include the Boston Neighborhood Network’s “ National Media Hero Award”; the national “Hometown Video Award” for the best Public Access Television “On Air” promotional campaign; and a 2013 MIT Martin Luther King Leadership Award. Due to his history of his involvement in the Civil Rights movement, he was the Keynote Speaker at Boston’s 2015 King Breakfast (1400 attendees) and at Boston’s 2016 Annual King Afternoon Celebration at Faneuil Hall (1200 attendees).