From photography to krump, Norris Duckett III (Art MFA 19), known in the dance community by his krump name “Cosmic,” has been bridging the gap between community and the arts. He sees where there is a negative space and shapes his art and practice to fill it.
Duckett started his journey in the arts in graphic design, but shifted to photography because he wasn’t finding the photographs he needed for his design work. After getting his associate’s and bachelor’s degrees from Antelope Valley College and California State University Northridge, respectively, he attended CalArts, studying in the Photography and Media Program. Even though his métier was in the visual arts, Duckett used his time at CalArts to “go outside the boundaries that are written for course outlines.”
“There are different pieces that you can pick up to help you with different things,” said Duckett. “It’s about how you apply it to get the maximum out of what you do. Mixed media is a big word. Art is big—it’s not one little thing.”
That philosophy translates into his professional life as well. Through his company Norris Photography, he works in commercial and fine art photography, driven by what he wants to do rather than what will make him the most money. He currently works as an arts educator at Citrus College in Glendora, California, focusing on making the class the most conducive to learning by using techniques outside of the textbook, like comedy.
“It’s fun for me,” Duckett said. “You have to care about the individual student and get them motivated. I don’t know what you want to do, but I can guide you on what you can do. You gotta hit start on the future, no matter how young or old the person is.”
In this same way, Duckett has guided many young people by founding the nonprofit Krump Society, creating opportunities for these upcoming artists to create community amidst isolation. Duckett himself was introduced to krump—a hip hop dance form that originated in South L.A.—in high school, watching the evolution of clown dancing to krump in the cafeteria. Coming from a background in sports, he took an interest in break dance, but when he landed on krumping, Duckett said it felt like “finally!” But new things often face resistance.
“You take the boombox away and give me detention, but you don’t take my basketball. Why is it being taken? Only because it’s new and different. People in positions of authority shut new things down.”
Although krump was new, Duckett saw how it helped him avoid unhealthy lifestyles and wanted to bring that to others, instilling in them a sense of identity, positivity, and structure. His whole family is involved in krump, the older two of his four kids having earned a name for themselves within the krump community. He felt he needed to create a support system for children and youth, especially to fight the feeling of being alone before, during, and after the pandemic.
In hopes of expanding the prominence and community of krump, Duckett has been working to get krump included in the 2028 Olympics, set to take place in Los Angeles. Using the hashtags #la28 and #krump4theolympics, he has started many campaigns to make sure more krump artists get seen and that the dance form gets more recognition. So far, the journey has received both praise and flack.
“Krump deserves to be in the Olympics because it’s a piece of every dance style, it is a piece of life,” Duckett said. “It has elements of different dances and sports in it. It’s one of the most ultimate. With krump in the Olympics, it will be a transition for people but it will be a good experience as well.”
Citing the historic exclusion of hip hop from many spaces, he said that it has always been difficult to get in but it has always been possible. He said that through a unified front, manifestation, and a more accepting Olympics community, krump can mirror hip hop’s trajectory. Hip hop has taken over and can be seen and heard everywhere.
“Krump is next.”