• Stephen Burks: Shelter in Place
    Stephen Burks
    Monica Obniski
    High Museum of Art, Atlanta
    Sep 16, 2022 to Mar 05, 2023
    High Museum of Art

Stephen Burks experimenting with the idea of a “hairy” textile by hand stitching threads into the weft at Bolon’s factory in Ulricehamm, Sweden, 2017. Courtesy Bolon. Photo: Julia Esque

Stephen Burks: Shelter in Place explores ideas concerning domesticity—namely, how can we design our interiors to enable joyful living while empowering creativity? In the wake of several global crises, designers have responded by redefining our relationship to our homes, including interrogating the modernist trope of better living through design. As an African American designer, Stephen Burks has forged a unique path by embracing the challenge to advocate for hand production as a strategy for innovation at three scales of industrial production—the hand, the body, and the interior. Beyond presenting several key projects from Burks’ workshop-based design practice of the last ten years, a new speculative project—Shelter in Place— proposes that agency is given to the user through their creative involvement. This exhibition demonstrates Burks’ holistic approach across the disciplines of art, architecture, and design that echoes Bauhaus principles of synthesizing craft, community, and industry.

Stephen Burks is an American industrial designer who believes in a pluralistic vision of design that is inclusive of all cultural perspectives. His studio Stephen Burks Man Made has been commissioned by many of the world’s leading design-driven brands to develop collections that engage hand production as a strategy for innovation. He studied architecture at Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) and Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), where he also studied product design. Burks is a recipient of several awards, including being the only African American to win the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Product Design. In 2019, he became the first Harvard Loeb Fellow from the discipline of product design and is adjunct assistant professor of architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University.

Monica Obniski is the curator of decorative arts and design at the High Museum of Art, where she is responsible for collecting, exhibiting, and programming a global collection of design, which includes a yearly architectural piazza commission. Her curatorial practice engages social issues and is rooted in architecture and design history. She has held curatorial posts at the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Obniski received a master’s from the Bard Graduate Center and a doctorate from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The High Museum of Art collects, interprets, and preserves works of art, striving to engage and educate its local, regional, national, and international audiences, while promoting scholarship through research and publication.