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Posted 17.04.19

Plymouth College of Art appoints Stephanie Owens as Head of School for Arts + Media

By Phillip Buchan

Stephanie Owens, a former Director of the Cornell Council for the Arts (CCA) at the US Ivy League institution, Cornell University, and Founder and Director of Empathy Academy, an art research platform for the future of art, design and matter with collaborators from universities in Europe, Asia and Latin America, has been appointed as Head of School, Arts + Media.

Stephanie is an interdisciplinary artist, creative researcher, and curator interested in the influence of digital networks on contemporary aesthetics and the production of subjectivity. As Founder of Cornell University’s first art biennial, Stephanie led its focus on the intersections between art, design and nanoscience. This landmark event for the university included a site-specific, 46-foot sculpture by internationally acclaimed artist Kimsooja made in collaboration with the Wiesner Nanomaterials Lab and was the subject of ‘Collaboration on Campus: Nanotechnology and Contemporary Art’, a documentary by Art21 (Art in the 21st Century). The resulting iridescent 4-metre-high artwork is the first sculpture to use nanopolymer on an architectural scale, and recently exhibited at Frieze Sculpture 2018, London.

"The college has such an inspiring vision, about what it means to be an artist in the 21st century, that I felt compelled to relocate to the UK to become a part of it." – Stephanie Owens

Stephanie has a BFA from Syracuse University and an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, with a specialism in fine art painting. She has taught digital media, art, aesthetics, interaction design and contemporary art theory at: Cornell University, College of Architecture, Art and Planning; Parsons The New School for Design, MFA Design & Technology Program; and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Stephanie said of her appointment: “I’m excited by the prospect of joining an institution that’s modeling new ways to think about creativity, and the role of the artist relative to society. Plymouth College of Art’s vision for lifelong creativity and the transformational power of education really align with the same thinking that has driven my own career, as an artist and an educator.”

“What Plymouth College of Art is doing, creating a lifelong continuum of creative education, is really courageous and new, both in England and in the United States. This is what the world needs right now. The college has such an inspiring vision, about what it means to be an artist in the 21st century, that I felt compelled to relocate to the UK to become a part of it.”

“Another thing that has drawn me across the Atlantic is Plymouth College of Art’s commitment to material practice and dedicated physical spaces to make, which internationally are becoming a rarity. I’m particularly interested in materials and material science. Traditionally trained artists have an immediate familiarity with and interest in matter and materials - grinding paint, kneading clay, blowing glass and developing unique pigments - these are all examples of artists using materials to think ideas into being. What’s exciting is that right now, material scientists are starting to synthetically extend the properties of existing materials, redesigning materials at a molecular level, and this is going to offer completely new possibilities to students and staff at Plymouth College of Art.”

Paul Fieldsend-Danks, Academic Dean at Plymouth College of Art, said: “We are delighted to be welcoming Stephanie Owens into our community and look forward to working with her in shaping our future ambitions for arts and media education at the college. Stephanie brings with her new energy and thinking in the development of creative learning, not least through her inspirational and innovative work bridging the arts and sciences in the US, and her expertise in shaping communities of practice.”

As an artist, Stephanie works in digital media focused on network-based installations and immersive interactive applications. Stephanie exhibits her work internationally including shows at the First Beijing International Media Arts Exhibition (Beijing, China), Dashanzi Art Festival (Beijing, China), 5th Ewha Media Art Exhibition, (Seoul, Korea) and the Machinista International Arts and Technology Festival. Frequently a speaker on art and technology, she recently presented papers at SIGGRAPH (Los Angeles), Consciousness Reframed: Art, Identity and the Technology of Transformation (Lisbon) and presented her work as an invited panelist on Network Aesthetics at The School of Visual Arts (NYC).

As Lead Designer and Art Director at Reset Interactive and as Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Oddcast Interactive in the 1990s, developing websites and interactive digital content for the film, television and music industries, Stephanie’s clients included Warner Brothers Studios, MGM, HBOMTV, SONY PicturesUniversal Studios, and Paramount Pictures. This period saw her pitching, designing and coding websites for artists including Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., television series such as The Sopranos, and working closely with the Wachowskis on the concept and creation of whatisthematrix.com, an interactive media website that launched The Matrix movie franchise.

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