Satellite: The Artist and Educator as Orbital Connectors
2024 Mid-America College Art Association Virtual Conference
Invisible orbiters dispersed among the sky watch, collect, and report back on what they have witnessed. Artists and educators are satellites set on a polar-orbiting path, observing slivers of the world at a time, collecting data through tuned instruments, and sending out signals for others to intercept and interpret. We facilitate the linear to curve, distance to shrink, and information to transfer. In a world where distance is growing physically, politically, economically, and ideologically, artists and educators position themselves in the information space. We provide data points in an attempt to provoke, inspire, and transform the pieces of the world we interact with. We are a network of satellites distantly collaborating to build a higher resolution image of our world.
MACAA invites both professionals and students (graduate or undergraduate) to submit abstracts for papers, presentations, or workshops to be held virtually via Zoom that engage with the topics of distant collaboration, connection through technology, data access, tension in technology, space, or any other interpretation of the artist and educator as orbiting connectors.
Along with the classic format of conference presentations, MACAA also invites individuals to propose workshops and presentations aimed at skill sharing for both professionals and students. We highly value the importance of sharing research, but recognize many of our practices also rely heavily on a set of skills. The MACAA 2024 Virtual Conference seeks to broaden its scope to incorporate these skill-based workshops in order to provide our members with an experience additional to research-based panels. Examples of what these panels may be, but are not limited to are, utilizing AI in one’s practice, grant writing, applying to exhibitions, donor retention and fundraising, publishing a book, and/or Adobe software tips.
To propose a paper, presentation or workshop session for our 2024 Virtual Conference, please review the sessions below and then submit an abstract (250 words maximum) by following the proposal link.
If you have any questions, please email Jason Schwab at email@example.com.
2024 Virtual Conference Fee
This year we will be combining the conference registration fee with the membership fee into one easy payment. The payment portal will become available in early December, but as you are planning for the conference, below is the fee for the 2024 MACAA Virtual Conference
Full-Time Faculty - $170 ($100 Conference Fee + $70 Two-Year Membership Fee)
Artist, Independent, Adjunct, Retired - $120 ($70 Conference Fee + $50 Two-Year Membership Fee)
Student - $85 ($50 Conference Fee + $35 Two-Year Membership Fee)
Full List of Panels and Session Chairs
Digital Methods for Discursive Design
Chair: Dr. Juan Salamanca, Assistant Professor, Graphic Design
A contemporary stream of practice in visual communication and interaction design is the use of discursive design to embody ideas that address neglected things or concerns related to racism, identity marginalization, reduction of agency, or climate change, to name a few concerns about social life. Discursive design , as well as critical design  and speculative design  are thought-provoking design strategies that produce artifacts to vehicle conversation about how values and conceptual scaffolds shape our culture and behavior.
Although discursive design projects are often based on ethical issues related to social struggles their design methods hardly encompass the scope and plurality of such extraordinarily complex problems, as discursive design privileges designer-centered voices and short-term analysis of systemic consequences, whether intended or unintended. We invite design researchers and practitioners to share design projects that extend discursive design by using digital methods, technologies, or processes that incite democratic reflection and provoke critical thinking about design interventions at diverse scales of time and socio-cultural context.
We are particularly interested in hosting a session that bridges design methods and frameworks with creative coding, co-creative AI, generative computational design, social simulation, data visualization, digital illustration, to speculate on reflective fictions about ecology, politics, justice, or identity.
1. Tharp, B. M., & Tharp, S. M. (2018). Discursive design : critical, speculative, and alternative things. The MIT Press.
2. Malpass, M. (2017). Critical design in context : history, theory, and practices. Bloomsbury Academic, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
3. Dunne, A., & Raby, F. (2013). Speculative everything : design, fiction, and social dreaming. The MIT Press.
Our Students Are Not Robots:
Chair: Marvin Eans, Assistant Professor of Art and Design
In today's society, technology has revolutionized the way we connect with one another, bringing us closer than ever before. With easy access to vast amounts of information and instantaneous communication, technology has undoubtedly enhanced our interactions. However, amid this convenience, it is crucial to recognize that online connections do not always translate to authentic engagement. It is all too easy to forget that behind every email, text, or announcement thread, there is a real human being with thoughts, feelings, and emotions. In the fast-paced digital world, we may unintentionally lose sight of the importance of genuine human connection and empathy.
Barnes and Noble College reported that “students are struggling with the decreased engagement and effectiveness that comes with online learning.” This communicates that there is definitely still room to improve in this area. “In February, Barnes & Noble College (BNC) also released a report called, “College 2030” that includes a survey of students, teachers, and institutional administrators. BNC found that 44% of students said the value of college has declined due to the pandemic.” 
This virtual panel aims to foster meaningful discussions centered around effective strategies for enhancing student engagement in higher education within the context of a virtual world. The focus will be on sustaining both the learning process and the essential relational experience through collaborative professional partnerships.
1. Newton, Derek. “The Worst Of Times For Online Education.” Forbes, Forbes. Magazine, 1 Apr. 2021, www.forbes.com/sites/dereknewton/2021/03/31/the-worst-of-times-for-online-education/?sh=50d563853a5a.
2. Newton, Derek. “The Worst Of Times For Online Education.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 1 Apr. 2021, www.forbes.com/sites/dereknewton/2021/03/31/the-worst-of-times-for-online-education/?sh=50d563853a5a.
Chairs: Mario Bocanegra Martinez, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design and Courtney Windham, Associate Professor of Graphic Design
“There's time, later for logic, for editing, for justifying all that type, for putting up those responsible roadblocks that we all must, on some level, choose to embrace. The studio, at least a little piece of it, is not the place for such duty-bound thinking. Somewhere, somehow, it must be the place for thinking through making.” Jessica Helfand, Design Observer, 2006.
A creative encounter is a moment in the creative process where we make connections in situations others may overlook. This frees us from preconceptions and drives us to seek new knowledge and insights. Creative encounters can disrupt our sense of what we know with unexpected connections, but they also inspire intuitive leaps, surprises, and reflections, which can lead to beautiful ideas for transforming abstract concepts into concrete creations.
Are you a designer, artist, or educator that steps into your studio and allows yourself to think through making? Mario F. Bocanegra M. and Courtney Windham, both educators who believe in learning by doing and thinking through making, are hosting the Creative Encounters panel with the goal of sharing their experiences and gaining insights from others. What is the relationship between your thought processes and the path by which you translate those into creative work? What strategies or projects have you used in the classroom for fostering and encouraging spontaneity in students' iterative processes? Designers, artists, and educators spanning various disciplines, willing to generously share their approaches to navigating creative encounters, are encouraged to submit proposals.
Fostering Inclusivity and Belonging through South Asian Design Educators Alliance
Chair: Archana Shekara, Professor of Graphic Design
Illinois State University
There is a greater need in today’s world to readdress art and design education to include histories, and perspectives of people whose cultures are marginalized, stereotyped or erased by dominant cultural groups. Decolonization has become a trendy word, but finding pathways to bring visibility to minoritized communities engaged in art and design practice can be complex. How can art and design be inclusive and broaden narratives which promote beyond Euro and American centric realm? The globally popular Bauhaus school’s design methodology and curriculum is currently challenged as educators question diversity, inclusion, representation, and relevance. How can designs be honest and authentic in showcasing the multicultural societies we serve?
Several design organizations around the globe are emerging with innovative strategies, goals and solutions addressing gaps and connecting with diverse groups through dialogues and collaborations. South Asian Design Educators Alliance (SADEA) is a platform for South Asian design educators to build a global design community of acceptance and belonging. The panelists from SADEA will share their mission and goals on how the organization is elevating the unique creativity emerging from South Asia and its diaspora in a global context. Its initiatives in seeking allyship with the larger design community, providing mentorship to students, hosting biannual events with intentionality, and empowering design educators and scholars from diverse backgrounds dedicated to exploring, understanding and advancing South Asian design in all forms.
What am I teaching?
Chair: Samantha Herbert, Associate Professor of Graphic Design
The discipline of graphic design feels always on the brink of being absorbed or overtaken by something else—another discipline, another job description ... It emerges from then submerges into forms and technologies that are not reliant on graphic design for their existence, proliferation, or success. Yet graphic design as a professional practice persists without clear definition or boundaries. It persists as an academic discipline without a cohesive theoretical foundation to inform its teaching, learning, and practice.
For undergraduate students the subject of graphic design is form and the technologies of production. Students learn to manipulate type and image; they produce posters, websites, books and apps... ; they venture into the realms of motion, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. The forms are concrete, but for many students the most basic purpose of graphic design—to communicate a message to an audience, customer, or user—remains an abstraction.
Outside of college-level design education there exists myriad certifications for graphic design most of which teach only the Adobe Creative Suite. Anyone with a computer can call themselves a graphic designer, yet year after year our classes fill with eager students paying substantial tuitions to learn graphic design.
What are we teaching?
This session seeks papers from design educators in general whose research interests are developing in this space from pedagogical, theoretical and/or practical points of view; from design faculty at the beginning, middle or end of curriculum revision and facing the daunting task of deciding what learning, in four short years, is most necessary to prepare their graduates for a life of design; and finally for design educators who have somehow moved beyond concerns of form, theory, and practice to re-envision both the education and practice of graphic design as we know it.
Chair: Barbara Giorgio-Booher, Teaching Professor of Art
In today’s rapidly evolving academic landscape, collaboration across disciplines is essential for fostering innovation and addressing intricate challenges. This session aims to celebrate and explore the multifaceted nature of interdisciplinary collaboration. Undergraduate research, mentoring, exhibitions, performances, competitions, and similar endeavors provide fertile ground for students from varied disciplines to converge, contributing their distinct perspectives and skills. The integration of technology further expands the possibilities for collaborative endeavors, necessitating adaptability and flexibility in academic pursuits. Yet, academic boundaries can present hurdles for interdisciplinary work. How have you successfully navigated these challenges? What insight and advice can you offer to educators and researchers?
This session invites proposals that weave together narratives and insights from the rich tapestry of interdisciplinary collaboration. Educators, researchers, and practitioners who have first-hand experience in fostering interdisciplinary cooperation are invited to participate. Additionally, students who have actively engaged in such projects and are eager to share their own firsthand experiences are also invited to participate.
Chair: Setareh Ghoreishi, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
Design can be seen as a universal language and communication tool used through different cultures. Graphic design focuses on visual communication as a productive tool to explore global discourses which engage with personal and cultural experiences. Utilizing different personal experiences as a resource through which people may become familiar with cultural design methods, graphic design can then be used as a tool to facilitate the understanding of the art and crafts of other cultures. International backgrounds provide an ideal platform for learning about cultural variety.
This panel will demonstrate the connection between a community and the visual elements of cultural design through discussion with panelists from different disciplines. By comparing non-Western to Western and American designs with the aid of design tools, we can see connections and common design principles displayed across diverse and dynamic cultures. Within this context, my aim for this discussion is to look for approaches to introduce the public to design. This panel will examine the importance of design and diversity in communities through the distinguishing features of culture, which can help people see things from new perspectives.
What’s in your Portfolio?
Chair: Lee Clark, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
Gone are the days where a portfolio full of brilliant design is enough to score your dream job. Technology is advancing the marketplace at an accelerated rate and connecting design disciplines in unexpected ways. Companies are spending fortunes to innovate and stay competitive in an ever increasingly competitive and complicated marketplace where companies can get “blockbustered” overnight if they miss out on an innovation or the creation of a digital product or service. Designers are being called on for human centered design solutions and are straddling the line between designer and creative technologist to stay employed.
What’s in your portfolio? What do you look for in a design portfolio? What is your experience with hiring designers or creating a design portfolio in today’s innovation centered marketplace? What should students be focused on putting in their portfolios? What makes a brilliant portfolio?
This MACAA session invites presentations for Graphic Design and features breakout portfolio sessions with industry leaders. We welcome industry employed creatives, headhunters, professors, career services portfolio experts and any other industry professionals who are passionate about sharing their expertise and real-world strategies, and knowledge on building a competitive design portfolio for the current marketplace.
Information and Emotion:
Chairs: Robert Finkel, Associate Professor of Graphic Design and David Smith, Associate Professor of Graphic Design
This MACAA session invites presentations that intersect Graphic Design with Social History. This session aims to create a conversation around the impact design can have in communicating evidence-based research with emotionally driven visual narrative strategies that are revealing and edifying for audiences.
This session invites presentations from educators, students, historians, writers, graphic designers, and other professionals who document history utilizing graphic design as part of their process and outcomes. Presentations might address such questions as; How did the design process affect the outcomes? Were there conflicts about how graphic design might clarify truth or color opinions? Did the use of graphic design humanize perceptions? The intention of this session is to deepen the conversation about how design must balance responsibility of creating a narrative while also being an impartial steward of content.
Textiles as Teacher
Chair: Cat Mailloux, Assistant Professor of Studio Art
Before AI, the iPhone, the internet, globalization, industrialization, enlightenment, there was what historian and weaver Elizabeth Wayland Barber calls the “String Revolution”. A piece of organic matter, a length of a plant, or a bit of sheep’s wool was twisted into a string. That, Wayland Barber argues, was the most significant moment for the evolution of humankind.
Every generation re-discovers textiles. We’ve seen it’s many shape-shifting forms throughout history, to name a few, in abolition and anti-slavery movements, women’s suffrage, the waves of feminism, human rights movements in Latin America, the uplifting of the quilts of Gee’s Bend, and the Aids Memorial Quilt to name a few. How, then, are artists and educators discovering textiles today? How do we teach it, and how does it teach us?
These questions invite those working in/teaching in textiles directly and indirectly, welcoming all ideas fiber related. What does the contemporary textile classroom look like? What does the history of textiles teach us today? How do principles of textiles wander into your studio work or teaching practice? Does pattern making influence how you teach slab building in clay? Does quilt making inform your painting practice? Fibers have always taught us about the material world and how to live in it. What is it teaching you?
Chair: Alicia Little, Lecturer
Color is often labeled as feminine, ornamental, primitive, and the last consideration in a sculptural process or interior space. When we see places or objects in our environment made up of several colors, often the first association is a lack of sophistication. What ways do we thoughtfully examine, question or push against traditional Western color associations today? How has capitalism and mass production changed the way we experience color, in turn affecting how various artistic disciplines and industries approach and utilize color? This session welcomes those who explore color beyond traditional methods and beyond the two-dimensional picture plane. Those working with painting, natural dyes, pigments, fibers, found objects, glaze chemistry, and color in digital space are all possibilities. Papers, workshops, or experimental presentations are welcome.
Chair: Devon Ward, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
In 1973, Ivan Illich reframed the concept of conviviality to be a “technical term to designate a modern society of responsibly limited tools.” According to Illich’s interpretation, a convivial tool might be one that is well-crafted, functional, and aesthetically compelling, but which also promotes social and ecological flourishing. How might this concept be applied within the context of UI/UX and the design of digital interfaces?
The current state of UI/UX design employs valuable psychological principles into the design process to create compelling applications. For example, a mastery of gestalt principles can lead to an intuitive interface and a better experience within an application. An understanding of compensatory and non-compensatory decision-making processes can lead to a simplified interface that reduces information overload. However, these principles can also lead to the development of deceptive UI patterns or dark UI patterns. What would convivial UI patterns look like?
This session is calling for designers, educators, and artists who work with and teach interactive media, UI/UX, AR/VR/XR and AI. How can we design digital applications that move away from the concept of social media and instead focus on convivial media that promotes stronger human social bonds, truth and trust, both online and offline.
Not Your Grandma’s Adobe Software: Practical Tips and Tricks for Beginning Designers
Chair: Greg Blair, Assistant Professor of Art
This panel will explore skill sharing through the presentation and demonstration of some of the most useful tips for using the various applications in the Adobe Creative Cloud. Tips or tricks should be aimed towards increasing the knowledge base, productivity, or inspiration of design students and beginning designers. Tips can range from little known functions or shortcuts to personal preferences and lessons learned through experience with the software. Tips and Tricks can be for any of the available applications in the Creative Cloud and are not limited to a particular type of design or function. Presenters may decide to give a live demonstration of their tips and tricks or give a descriptive and anecdotal presentation of what they have learned by working with the Adobe software. Some specifics topics might include: What should all design students know about working with Adobe? What are the essential shortcuts that designers should know? What are some of the best little-known ways to create something? What are some of the best tips to increase creativity or productivity? What are the best methods for working across applications or platforms? This panel is seeking presenters and encourages any potential presenter to create their own interpretation of the panel title. Once the presenters have been selected, the panel hopes to provide wide ranging insight into how to use the software in the most effective, comfortable, and prodigious ways possible.
Chair: Chris Stagl, Associate Professor of Graphic Design
This session will look at how to take creative classroom projects and transform them it into tenure focused initiatives beyond the classroom by leveraging publishing opportunities, grant writing, exhibition prospects, community engagement, and more. This session will be powered by multiple presenters who have had success of molding their classroom efforts into successful, tenure-track, line items.
My personal portion of this session will be a deep-dive exploration into the creation, management, and delivery of a film festival. This festival was initially created from a simple idea of showcasing student films from a single motion graphics course and quickly became a multi-faceted state-wide initiative that would require over four months of dedicated time, resources, funding, and advertising. Three years later what started as a single assignment is now a nation-wide festival entered by hundreds of student filmmakers.
This presentation will speak directly to best practices that may be applied to any project creation no matter the discipline, how to leverage your resources, and what pitfalls to avoid - ultimately revealing a truly collaborative project and the successes of those involved: faculty, students, staff, external agencies, the community, and industry professionals.
Chair: Annie Peters, Lecturer of Graphic Design
In the modern classroom, technology is as prevalent and expected as the air we breathe and the books we read. Through the lens of emergent technologies we can enhance the learning experience and redefine what it means to be an art and design educator, closing the informational gap (ie., chasm) between the artist, the educator, and the student.
Technologies like Augmented Reality create experiences with space, dimension, and time -- far beyond the typical application of print design or other 2D applications. It is this experience that begins to diminish the gap between student and educator, providing opportunities for closeness and growth that otherwise might not occur.
Inventive technologies such as AI, AR, VR, Video Conferencing, UI/UX, and Web provide opportunities for art and design educators to onboard the next generation of artists and designers in an educational environment ripe with advancements suitable for students’ intended pursuits beyond higher education. This session seeks presenters who are exploring the implementation of emergent technologies within the classroom, speculating at classroom futures through the lens of technological advancement and diminishing the informational gap between student and educator.
Artists As Satellites
Observing the Anthropocene
Chair: Sara Gevurtz, Assistant Professor of Animation
Artists can act as satellites, observing, collecting data, and then sending out signals to the broader world through various means. This panel seeks to look at ways that artists do this. Artists can be literal, by using satellite images to point out the unnatural linearity and geometry which agricultural activities impose upon the natural landscape or metaphorical, exploring how mankind’s activities render the landscape as anything but natural. Artists can use various medias to draw connections between human activities and the environment in which we find ourselves. This panel seeks to focus how artists can communicate ecological and environmental topics, and act as satellites, endeavoring to provoke positive change and inspire awareness in the way in which humans interact with the environment. In addition to the individual artist acting as a satellite, artists can work with other artists and scientists to create a network of satellites to create work addressing these issues. So, how can working in collaborative modes and on environmental topics, can artists use art to interpret and bridge between different audiences, from the expert to the non-expert, and gain empathy for climate themes?
Building Community & Bridges:
Chair: O. Gustavo Plascencia, Dean of Visual Arts
The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed us to reimagine the education model and address the inequality and structural biases that affect students, staff, and faculty from a different lens. My experience as an immigrant, queer person of color, navigating a foreign academic environment when I came to this country over 20 years ago is one of the driving factors for my experiment of Art Administrator as Social Practice.
I joined my current institution in July 2020 after my predecessor’s short eight-month tenure, I worked remotely for the first six months, and the #BlackAtNWSA started to get some traction in social media. I was faced with a hard leadership transition while facing the reality of the social and political climate. As an art administrator, I naively thought I needed to “lead” by providing a “homecoming” for these artists. Instead, I learned that what they wanted was a collaborator to build bridges by listening to their experiences, and a partner who was willing to work together to face the challenges together.
This panel is looking for artists, educators, art administrators, and community leaders who could share their experiences in creating community. These strategies or projects could include how to hold space with different communities to build bridges, how to start partnerships with local art organizations to find and create support beyond the classroom, or examples of curriculum or programming changes driven by aligning budgets to the mission and values of the institution.
Chair: Zen Cohen, Assistant Professor of Art and Visual Studies, Coe College
Found, Director, Co-Curator, Open Air Media Festival, Iowa City
The use of generative technologies (AI platforms) has been widely debated across academia and the art world. This session seeks to address the impacts of AI technology on the field of digital art with a focus on how these platforms might be used in college-level digital art courses. How might these platforms be potentially helpful in assisting students, particularly during the beginning stages of studio projects? The session will begin with defining the fundamental concepts of “digital art,” and explore how the field of computational artmaking has evolved since the early 1980’s. We will discuss the ethical dilemmas and considerations associated with using machine learning and the ways educators can encourage responsible and ethical use of these technologies in the artistic process. This session seeks educators who are engaging with these topics, both in their art practice and pedagogy. Panelists are invited to present a range of tools, resources, and case studies employed to effectively integrate machine learning into their digital art curriculum.
University Art Museums as
Catalysts for Inclusive Engagement
Chair: Vivian Zavataro, Executive & Creative Director
University art museums hold a unique position within higher education institutions, acting as vibrant hubs that connect people, ideas, and disciplines across campuses. This session will explore the orbital hubs that connect people, ideas, and disciplines across campuses. This session will explore the orbital nature of university art museums and their role as vital connectors that engage a diverse audience and intersect with multiple academic departments. Through case studies, best practices, and interactive discussions, this session will emphasize the ways in which university art museums serve as conduits for fostering creativity, interdisciplinary collaboration, and inclusivity across the academic landscape. We believe this session aligns with the conference theme and addresses the growing importance of university art museums in fostering holistic, inclusive, and interdisciplinary educational experiences. This session seeks panel presenters engaging with the university art museum as catalysts for inclusive engagement.
Interconnectivity: We will discuss the essential role of university art museums in connecting diverse audiences, departments, and disciplines within the academic community.
Intersectionality: We will explore the inherent intersectionality of university museums, focusing on how their collections and programs intersect with different fields, cultures, and perspectives.
Collaborative Initiatives: Panelists will share successful examples of collaborations between university art museums and various departments, illustrating how these partnerships enrich the academic experience.
Inclusivity Strategies: We will discuss strategies employed by university art museums to reach and engage with a diverse student and faculty population, fostering a more inclusive and equitable environment.
Community Building Through Art
Chair: Doris Short, Assistant Professor, Art and Graphic Design
Arts and culture define and connect us, celebrate our diversity and unite us. A strong cultural foundation makes our communities resilient, sustainable and vibrant places to live and work. In this talk you will get inspired to get your community together and connect through art.
Many of communities have experienced hardship, historic oppression or other challenges that would benefit from the power of arts and culture to promote healing, resilience and connection. Artists, designers and arts organizations are an important resource in our path to building stronger connections. Opportunities for more even-footed conversation among groups lead to insight and a shared sense of community, and in turn lay the groundwork for exploration about how to maintain vital cultural and community traditions while inviting much-needed campus or neighborhood investment. Art and artists aren't only in museums or concert halls -- they are all around us. Every one of us has the ability to create and to imagine a way to make our community healthier or stronger. The session seeks panel presenters engaging with the community and creative campus or community arts programs.
• We will discuss the cultural and historical power an artist have to promote healing, resilience and connection through community art.
• Panelists will share successful examples of community and campus art and the impact it had
• We will discuss how community art are bringing people together across boundaries -- increasing understandings across disparate and historically unequal groups, and supporting the agency of underrepresented communities to create, maintain and share their own stories.
• We will discuss strategies to get university funding or grants for community arts.
To propose a paper, presentation or workshop session for our 2024 Virtual Conference, please submit an abstract (250 words maximum) by following the proposal link: Submit a Proposal