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Announcing the Winter 2021 Penny Stamps Speaker Series

The Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design has created a new $25,000 prize to advance the project of one graduating senior.

The Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series is pleased to announce the Winter 2021 lineup, bringing respected leaders and innovators from a broad spectrum of creative fields direct to your screen of choice with the support of our streaming partners, Detroit Public Television and PBS Books.

All events will be webcast on Fridays at 8pm (ET) at and Subscribe to the Stamps Speakers Series YouTube channel to receive notifications about upcoming premieres. You can also watch the talks and join the conversation on the Penny Stamps Series Facebook page.  

Winter 2021 Penny Stamps Speaker Series Events


January 22, 2021

Ayana Evans is a NYC based performance artist who grew up on the south side of Chicago. The sensibilities of both locations heavily influence her work with the body, race relations, and gender bias. During the Fall 2020 semester, Evans created a new work of performance art for video as part of the Stamps School’s Witt Visiting Artist program. A video of the performance “You Better Be Good to Me,” will premiere as part of the program.

A related event, Is Acceptance The Future of Art? will feature Evans in a virtual discussion with Reginald Jackson, Director of the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan, as part of the 2021 U-M Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium and the U-M Arts Initiative series, “The Future of Art.” 



January 29, 2021

Pausing for a moment of post inaugural reflection, following one of our nation’s most contentious presidential elections, this conversation brings together filmmaker, scholar, journalist and cultural critic, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. with prominent historian Eric Foner to contemplate how a divided nation comes together. The two will discuss Reconstruction, the all-too-brief period following the Civil War when the United States made its first effort to become an interracial democracy. The program will also preview Gates’ most recent project, The Black Church, which will premiere on PBS in February.



February 5, 2021

Mexican artist Pedro Reyes has won international attention for large-scale projects that address current social and political issues. Through a varied practice utilizing sculpture, performance, video, and activism, Reyes explores the power of individual and collective organization to incite change through communication, creativity, happiness, and humor. He designs ongoing projects that propose playful solutions to social problems. From turning guns into musical instruments, to hosting a People’s United Nations to address pressing concerns, to offering ecologically-friendly grasshopper burgers from a food cart, Reyes transforms existing problems into ideas for a better world.



February 12, 2021

Through the activation of public spaces around the world, Taiwanese-American artist Candy Chang creates work that examines the dynamics between society and the psyche, the threshold between isolation and community, and the ways shared places can cultivate reflection, perspective, and kinship. With a background in urban planning, Chang has worked with communities in Nairobi, New York, Helsinki, New Orleans, Vancouver, and Johannesburg, where she observed universal challenges of the democratic commons. 

This Speaker Series event is an online premiere of a live event from the archives, which the artist has graciously granted permission for in light of the ongoing circumstances of isolation. The event took place in 2014 with support from Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Arts Engine, and the Institute for the Humanities.



February 19, 2021

Internationally celebrated Spanish artist Jaume Plensa is one of the world’s foremost sculptors in the public realm, with award-winning projects spanning the globe in such cities as Calgary, Chicago, San Diego, Montréal, London, Paris, Dubai, Bangkok, Shanghai, and Tokyo. Plensa’s monumental sculpture Behind the Walls was recently installed outside the front doors of the University of Michigan Museum of Art. Plensa will be in conversation with Christina Olsen, Director of UMMA, and U-M students.

Behind the Walls is a University of Michigan Museum of Art purchase made possible by the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family. This event is presented in partnership with UMMA.



February 26, 2021

Inseparable from computers since the age of two, Sophia Brueckner believes she is a cyborg. As a software engineer at Google, she designed and built products used by tens of millions. At the Rhode Island School of Design and the MIT Media Lab, she researched the simultaneously empowering and controlling aspects of technology with a focus on tangible and social interfaces. Since 2011, Brueckner has taught Sci-Fi Prototyping, a course combining science fiction, extrapolative thinking, building prototypes, and technology ethics at MIT, Harvard, RISD, Brown, and the University of Michigan. Brueckner is currently an assistant professor at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design



March 5, 2021

Jad Abumrad is the host and creator of Radiolab, a public radio program broadcast on nearly 600 stations across the nation and downloaded more than 12 million times a month as a podcast. Abumrad employs his dual backgrounds as composer and journalist to orchestrate dialogue, music, interviews, and sounds into compelling documentaries that draw listeners into investigations of otherwise intimidating topics. He’s won three George Foster Peabody Awards, and in 2011 Abumrad was honored as a MacArthur Fellow.

For this speaker series event, Abumrad will be in conversation with Chris Azzopardi, editor of Q Syndicate, the national LGBTQ wire service serving LGBTQ publications across the United States.



March 12, 2021

Chitra Ganesh is an artist living and working in Brooklyn. For the past 20 years, Ganesh’s drawing based practice has shed light on narrative representations of femininity, sexuality, and power typically absent from canons of literature and art. Ganesh’s installations, comics, animation, sculpture, and mixed media works on paper often take historical and mythic texts as inspiration and points of departure to complicate received ideas of iconic female forms. Her work Sultana’s Dream was recently acquired by the University of Michigan Museum of Art and will be featured in the upcoming exhibition Oh, honey… A queer reading of the collection.

This presentation is part of UMMA’s 2021 Doris Sloan Memorial Program. 



March 19, 2021

Sun Young Park, PhD is an assistant professor in Stamps School of Art and Design and the School of Information at the University of Michigan. In this talk, Park presents work that investigates opportunities to empower and activate vulnerable patients through two case studies: patients in an emergency care setting and pediatric patients with cancer. The results of the studies reveal the details of the adaptation behaviors and experience of patients during an emergency care and pediatric cancer patients, shedding light on a need for redesigning Health IT systems to engage patients, who have not been sufficiently considered in the current system design. 



March 26, 2021

Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist, a pioneer of spatial video art, has been a central figure within the international art scene since the mid-1980s. Rist’s career rise coincided with the vast technical advancements seen over the past four decades, a reality that Rist has responded to through playful exploration of new possibilities. Through large video projections and digital manipulation, she has developed immersive, color vivid installations. Her installations and exhibition concepts are expansive, finding within the mind, senses, and body the possibility for endless discovery and poetical invention. 

In partnership with the Ann Arbor Film Festival.



April 2, 2021

Raney Aronson-Rath is the executive producer of FRONTLINE, PBS’ flagship investigative journalism series, and a leading voice on the future of journalism. Aronson-Rath oversees FRONTLINE’s acclaimed reporting on air and online and directs the series’ editorial vision, executive producing over 20 documentaries each year on critical issues facing the country and world. Under her leadership, FRONTLINE has earned two Oscar nominations, and has won every major award in broadcast journalism, including Peabody Awards, Emmy Awards, an Institutional Peabody Award, and the first Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Gold Baton awarded in a decade.


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Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series