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Michigan Modern Sets Summer Symposium

Designer Todd Oldham will deliver the keynote address at the "Michigan Modern: Design that Shaped America" symposium in Grand Rapids, Mich., this summer.

Oldham, best known for his fashion lines, interior design, books and television appearances, will help kick off the symposium that focuses on Michigan's central role in the development of Modernism, from June 19-21, at Kendall College of Art and Design at  Ferris State University. An exhibition of the same title opens at the Grand Rapids Art Museum May 18-Aug. 24.

"We have moved the discussion to West Michigan where companies like Herman Miller and Steelcase created products that influenced how people lived and how they worked in offices around the world," said Brian Conway, state historic preservation officer. "A recreation component has been added to play off West Michigan's resort industry. For example, the fiberglass boat industry originated in Holland and led the construction of pleasure boats that were popular and affordable."

Oldham recently published a 672-page, 15-pound book that pays homage to textile designer Alexander Girard, one of the most prolific and versatile mid-20th century designers. His work spanned many disciplines, including textile design, graphic design, typography, illustration, furniture design, interior design, product design, exhibit design and architecture. Among Girard's many accomplishments were his bold, colorful and iconic textile designs for Herman Miller from 1952-1975.

Michigan innovators—architects, designers, manufacturers and education institutions—have influenced design throughout the country and internationally.

"What began as the design of buildings, automobiles and furniture became synonymous with American life and further influenced the design of everything from boats to pop-up tents," Conway said.

Other symposium highlights include:

* Debbie Millman, host of Design Matters, will interview Jim Miller Melberg, designer of sculptural play forms for playgrounds during the 1950s and 1960s;

* Emily Bills, managing director of the Shulman Institute, will discuss Michigan's influence on California Modernism; 

* Donald Albrecht of the Museum of the City of New York will discuss Norman Bel Geddes, "the man who streamlined America";

* Mira Nakashima will discuss the contributions of her father George Nakashima, including his Origins line, designed for the Widdicomb Furniture Co.; and 

* Marilyn Moss will discuss the work of fabric artist Bill Moss, creator of the modern pop-up tent.

The symposium will offer tours of modern structures like the Marcel Breuer-designed St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Norton Shores, and the opportunity to visit Herman Miller design and manufacturing facilities, including the factory where the wood components for the iconic Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman are made. A tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Meyer May House in Grand Rapids is also among the seven tours offered.

The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is hosting the symposium as part of its Michigan Modern project, which began in 2008. The symposium is held in partnership with Kendall College of Art and Design and the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM).

"KCAD is pleased to be part of an event that promotes Michigan's central role in the development of Modernism, and we look forward to welcoming people to our campus who share our passion for design," said David Rosen, president of Kendall. "Michigan's design industry has never waned. It continues to innovate and have influence well beyond our borders."

Symposium details and registration are available online.  








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