Modern and Contemporary Design Seminar

January 2019

Professor David Brownlee taught this Spring 2019 seminar in collaboration with Philadelphia Museum of Art curators Dr. Kathryn Hiesinger, Buck Senior Curator of European Decorative Arts after 1700, and Michelle Fisher, Madeira Assistant Curator of European Decorative Arts. The course provided a brief overview of the history of modern and contemporary design, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to today, and then engaged students in the hands-on analysis of objects, the design of exhibitions, working with artists and designers, and the discussion of urgent topics in the study of contemporary material culture.

Participants came from the graduate and undergraduate programs in History of Art as well as the schools of Social Policy and Practice and Liberal and Professional Studies. In an early team project, students made suggestions for the integrated rehanging of the museum’s collections of nineteenth century paintings and decorative arts. A later assignment called for the in-depth analysis of an object in the museum collection, and the final exercise was a short research paper.

Highlights of the semester included Michele Fisher’s presentation of the planning for her “Designs for Different Futures” exhibition, which opened at the PMA in October 2019, and a visit from Jaime and Isaac Salm, co-founders of MIO Culture, a consulting firm that epitomizes the entrepreneurial energy and creativity of today’s design culture.  A visit to the university’s Pennovation Center, an incubator laboratory, gave students the opportunity to speak with the designers of robots that fly and crawl and of human tissue that can be fabricated in a 3-D printer.

Jaime and Isaac Salm, co-founders of MIO Culture

Another Generosity (2018 by Eero Lundén, Ron Aasholm, and Carmen Lee) photo © Andrea Ferro

Pennovation Center