Kath Weider-Roos

Kath Weider-Roos's photo

Creative Arts Producer

Kath Weider-Roos holds the conveniently-obscure job title, Creative Arts Producer at A&D. With access to this blog format, she may now become A&D's official "embedded reporter, " roaming the halls in search of yet more untold and uncensored acts of making. She knows how to use a video camera. In addition to these covert operations, Kath co-curates Sounds of the State on Michigan Radio with Stephanie Rowden.

Posts by Kath Weider-Roos

Coloring Outside the Lines

Coloring books.

Granted, they are not what you fantasize about when you think about art school. Neither are they an obvious place to start when approaching a lesson in abstraction and conceptual thinking.

Yet, (somewhat to the dismay of his freshman students) this is exactly how Ed West began his  CFC (Concept, Form & Context) class this winter – by handing out coloring books and a fresh pack of crayons.

“My dad, who wasn't crazy about the idea of art school in the first place, was mad when he heard about what we were doing,” said freshman Della Paul. Other students thought it was a demeaning exercise, and protested that they were being treated ‘like children.'
“I always get some resistance when I first start this exercise,” Ed admits.

The students, and even Della's father, eventually grasped Ed’s point – that nothing is too mundane to be a source for creative...

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The Beatles without John Lennon

Discovering the power of the image through Photoshop

This image is slightly mind-bending the way it plays tricks with time and history. And, god, it even makes me want to cry! It does all this without using any original art work or words.

What it does use is...Photoshop.

The image was created by a freshman, Chelsea Noel. This is her response to an assignment in Seth Ellis' class, Digital Studio 1, a required course for all A&D students on the fundamentals of digital tools such as Photoshop. Seth's goal in this class was to figure out a way to teach the technical fundamentals of the program while also teaching students about the power of visual communication.

“It is a foundation course after all, " he says. "Drawing is essentially about learning how to look. Photoshop, as a tool for making and manipulating images, can also prompt students into really looking at visual information and examing how meaning is created."

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Life on the Road: Self-Portraiture

13 states. 23 cities.

Erika Hess is the new recruiting officer at A&D. Her new job has her living out of a suitcase and communing with strangers in airport lounges and hotel check-in counters. She travels to high schools around the country, talking to prospective A&D students and high school art teachers, and representing A&D at National Portfolio events. 

A practicing artist herself, Erika soon realized it wouldn't be easy to keep up with her creative activities on the road.

So she came up with a plan – a small plan,  but a plan that would keep her away from C.S.I. reruns and help her stay connected to her right brain.

She decided to document each hotel room experience with a self-portrait. Rules: use any mirrored surface to capture the composition and, wherever possible, use the hotel's provided stationary and pen.

Here's a sampling of Erika's life on the...

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Observe. Study. Respond

the culture of A&D, what is it?

I've been noticing some strange things popping up around the school lately – little huts in corners, odd signs on doorways, large bulletin boards with markers and duct tape attached.

Students in Rebekah Modrak's CFC: Culture class are the culprits. They have been studying us – ie. the culture of A&D – all semester and now they have made their move to affect this culture in some way.

During her weeks of studying the school, its building and its people, Marla Jones noticed that, despite this being a school of "art and design," the actual architecture of the building was very traditional, devoid of color, with hard edges and bland surfaces. She decided to alter the environment for us by adding splashes of surprise and warmth, wrapping surfaces in wools and other materials which she knit herself.

Allison Knoll, on the other hand, noticed all the inner beauty of the...

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How sometimes art class is like going to the dentist

Now lie back in your chair, please. Sorry, we don't have the full body bibs they give you at the dentist's office, so here, use this cardboard box to protect your clothing....

Now, sit still, we're going to fill your mouth with a pleasant-tasting neon-pink goo, otherwise known as alginate, a mold-making material used to make dental crowns...

...or, in this case, personalized cup holders.

Very personalized. 

Let me explain.

These are students in TMP: Construction (Tools, Materials, and Processes) who have been traveling from studio to studio, getting a whirlwind tour of various media. They've arrived at the ceramics studios where Roland Graf and Jeremy Brooks will introduce them to the art of mold-making, a construction technique that's used in clay but also in bronze, plastics, product design and more. As Roland points out to the class, almost...

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From Flat to 3D

Spotted in the hall, this:

Performance art? A pre-Halloween party with an all-white, modular theme?

No, these were students TMP (Tools, Materials and Processes) presenting their first efforts in making a wearable sculpture out of both paper and fibers. 

Specifically, the assignment was this:

Using only the provided materials (paper and glue, fabric and thread), create a wearable sculpture that is situated around your head (or head and shoulders). Your sculpture will have a function that you will determine (whimsical/utilitarian, poetic/practical, etc.)

So Kristen Leydig, above, developed this boxed headress contraption to help capture the outflow of ideas that occur in the process of brainstorming.

Instructors Matt Shlian and Beth Hay came up with the assignment for TMP, a core course that requires students to explore a variety of media in a short amount...

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Lighting up your wardrobe


One of my favorite videos on PLAY gallery has always been Heidi Kumao's sound-activated dress from her series called Wearables:


This year Heidi decided to give A&D students a crack at this same art form, offering an entry level course into the relatively complicated art of creating technologically enhanced clothing but this time using a rather simple DIY tool called the Lilypad Arduino, a microcontroller specifically designed for textiles.

Turns out none of this was simple. In early February, Heidi had a sledding accident and broke her back! Luckily Michael Rodemer, another arduino-keen artist/faculty member kindly took over the class. 

Michael sent me some of the results of the students efforts and, though it sounds like it was a challenging class, clearly the worlds of computer programming and fashion are destined to meet.

My favorite was Elaine...

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One Specimen, Five Ways of Seeing

Making Science Visible

This photograph hanging in the hallway gallery caught my eye the other day. I had to look closer to gauge its reality: it appeared to be some strange sculptural creation--  a disturbing hybrid of a childhood teddy bear and a....moist labradoodle fetus?

As it turns out, this is not a sculpture involving some student’s unresolved early childhood issues. It’s a photo of an actual specimen that can be found in the Mammals Collection at the Museum of Zoology, a sub section of the Exhibit Museum of Natural History on central campus.

The subject in the photo is a sloth, which was student Carolyn Nowak’s chosen specimen for the class Making Science Visible, taught by cross-over artist/scientist Brad Smith.  (Brad Smith has a dual appointment in the department of Radiology and School of Art & Design and has made a career out of bridging the worlds of science and art through...

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Learning the art of the exhibit

How to hang ice, foxtail seeds and cell membranes

Though their final show in April may seem a ways off, one group of I.P. Seniors have been nudged/cajoled/given-the-great-opportunity (circle one) to begin thinking about exhibiting now, in a mid-progress show currently up at Warren Robbins gallery.

A&D seniors have a whole year to conceive and develop a substantial body of work that gets unveiled at the end of the year in venues all around the city. For many students, thinking about how to exhibit their work is low on their list of priorities. They are too busy concentrating on (or fretting about) the making process.

So it was Reed Esslinger-Payet and Sarah Berkeley, two graduate students working as GSIs for I.P, who noticed an opening in the calendar of the graduate student gallery and claimed it for the seniors.  "We really thought it was important for the students to start thinking about the realities of putting...

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Animate This!

one design problem, many (Emmy award winning) solutions

Every year I work with students in Heidi Kumao’s class, Animation for Broadcast, to create motion graphics for our PLAY series for broadcast on Michigan Television (PBS) and the Michigan Channel. (Michigan Television has since closed its doors but we still air work on the Michigan Channel and of course here on our web outlets.) The series features work by and about the creative community here at the school.

It’s been a great relationship: students get a real world broadcast outlet for their work and the PLAY series has a creative, award-winning graphics campaign that doesn't look like anything else on tv.

One of the first animations (from 2006 and still one of my favorites) was this one by Belal Hibri. (It was also the first time Belal had ever worked in After Effects!) 


The following year, senior Jeff Christy became our animator-in-residence and produced...

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Touch This Glue

I ran into Jessica Goldberg, a first year MFA candidate at A&D, in the halls last week. She was gathering her students' final projects for Art Design Perspectives: The Creators.

The students spent the semester studying a wide historical and cultural spectrum of creative people and creative works. Their final project was to contextualize their learning into an art project that re-visions the timeline. Students presented what they had learned through various sculptural works that had some sort of time axis including a kind of  "breast plate" such that Jessica is holding above,  a series of color coded & delicious-smelling cupcakes that were being stashed in the grad lounge (I wonder why!>):

and this poster below made entirely of square post-it notes. Each post-it contained a beautifully drawn image somehow invoking that creator's work.

Students also had...

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Announcement: A book is born

Why tthere’s more to photography than Ansel Adams

After a prolonged labor, our colleague and friend  Rebekah Modrak has birthed a great and heavy book! (It’s 2.6 pounds and 560 pages, to be precise.)

Reframing Photography: Theory and Practice is Rebekah’s response to a challenge – to create the most relevant, comprehensive, all encompassing guide to photography ever – a dream book, in other words.

Except this book is not really about photography in the usual sense of the word. “When someone says ‘photography’ I think of guys in vests talking about lenses,” she says. “This book is really about photo-based arts in the widest possible sense, so we include things like zoetropes, flip books and performance art as well as other artists who wouldn’t necessarily label themselves as “photographers.””

k r buxey: My Dinner Party


Rebekah has been working on this text for... well, a long time. “I’ve been telling people...

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The Votes are in for the ultimate Pooper Scooper

A doo-zy of a design problem

The votes have been tallied for the pooper scooper contest. This was an important vote – students grades were involved. These were pooper scoopers designed collaboratively by students from the Ross School of Business, the College of Engineering, Architecture and the School of Art & Design for a class called Integrated Product Development (IPD).

Working in interdisciplinary teams, the students had 13 weeks to develop fully functional, customer-ready "dog waste management systems" at a price point of exactly $19.95 and then subject them to assessment by voters in simulated markets.

Each year, the public vote is the 'simulated markets' part. Voters weigh in online at the IPD website and in person at "the trade show" on at the Duderstadt Center Gallery. (Sorry, no dogs allowed.)

The IPD course has been consistently named one of the top design courses in the world by...

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Be there, Losers!

Emilia Javanica performs the male nude

So this old guy, Buoj iz Jeb, shows up at the All Student Exhibition last Friday night. Silly me, I thought his name was Indonesian or something. Turns out it's perfect gibberish of the sort that Buoj iz Jeb spoke when he first arrived on the scene during Emilia Javanica's undergraduate career. (She is now a graduate student at A&D.)

He has come out of hiding, apparently, this time speaking perfect English, and with a sudden and irrepressible urge to pose as a nude model, despite his lumpy and flaccid body.

During the opening, Buoj iz Jeb posed for the public in the front window of the gallery who were invited to try out their figurative drawing skills on Buoj's various Adonis-like poses.

On everyone's mind was or was not, of course, his peculiar penis made up of stuffed translucent women's stockings, golf balls for testicles (to give them some weight), and...

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Joe Camel Doesn’t Smell like Butts

Join us for the All Student Exhibition tonight!

Snapped a couple picts at Slusser Gallery while Mark was setting up for the All Student Exhibition, an annual event here at A&D, where each and every student in the school is invited to submit one piece of work of their choosing. And everyone does since there are !!CASH!! prizes. So suffice it to say, Mark has his work cut out for him.

Poking around, this piece caught my eye from across the room.

Was it a dead deer? A camel? A stuffed camel? Yes, a camel made up entirely of discarded cigarette butts, and not just any cigarette butts but Camel cigarette butts!

Curiously, this sculpture does not stink. Way to recycle and reuse, Claire Jones, 2nd Year.

(See how she did the fur using the smokey filters?)

And this below, from Monica Geraffo, a 1st year student: a basket handwoven using exactly 100 computer cables. (I'm not sure why exactly 100 but I like that.)

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Tiny Expo: Buy Indie in Ann Arbor

Shadow Art Fair takes a break from selling, A&D alums start their own holiday tradition

I've always been grateful for the winter Shadow Art Fair for providing the perfect way to mix a little hipster action into your holiday season. Where else might you get accosted by a gorilla while inching your self and your beer stein towards a table of hand sewn mittens made out of recycled sweaters, conveniently located next to the table of “reindeer poop-on-a-stick”? (The latter makes a great gift, by the way!)

"Buy Indie in Ypsi" was always the slogan. Shadow made it possible to feel remotely good about the tradition of Christmas giving while at the same time having a jolly good time and contributing to the local economy.

So, when the organizers of the Shadow Art Fair decided to focus their creative energy on throwing a Krampus-inspired costume ball this winter instead of the holiday fair, admittedly, there was some grieving and not just by me.

That's when Dylan...

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Sightings: If you build it they will come

Fantasy Architecture from the Digital Studio

I finally found the source of the new miniature cityscape that sprouted up in the hallway over the weekend. It's not an Architecture class after all but a class called Digital Studio, a required course for all incoming A&D students. The class is an intro course in how to use digital tools within a creative art practice, so students get exposed to 2-D and 3-D computer programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Final Cut Express.

I caught Elona Van Gent taking pictures of the installation, otherwise know as "documentation." Aha! Elona indeed knew the origins of the alien landscape. She is one of eight faculty teaching the eight sections of Digital Studio. "We came up with this assignment because we didn't want students leaving the class without some experience in translating digital thinking into the material realm," she told me. (This portion of the class began, by the...

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Artwork and Hardcore Detroit

Steve Coy sent me this video below last week. His somewhat mysterious* project called Hygienic Dress League created a mural on the corner of Whitherell and Woodward that served as a backdrop for another form of street art: break dancing (which is apparently still cool, if not... hardcore.) This is Hardcore Detroit:

The video is now part of Artwork Detroit, an ongoing exhibition at Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit put together by A&D faculty Nick Tobier. Here's the gist of this exhibit, as Nick puts it: “We are especially interested in projects that give tangible form to ideas of how art can serve as a catalyst to affect Detroit as service, social space, activism, and interactions that overlap with questions of urban planning, sustainability, political and economic development.”

Nick asked artists to respond to a question: As an artist living/working in Detroit...

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Mann on Board

Geoffrey Mann touches clay and likes it

Geoffrey Mann from Scotland was one of the many Witt Visitors to the school this week. He was brought in by fellow Scot, John Marshall, to talk about his work which, as he describes it, “challenges the existing divides between art, craft and design.”

If you’re not sure exactly what this means, this photo makes it more explicit:

That is, he’s going to take all your ideas about ‘craft’ and wreak havoc with them.

I found Geoff in the ceramics studios. He was having a little 2D time after having just played in the 3D studio across the street.

Geoff was working with John Leyland to create a mold for one of his dinnerware pieces from the Cross-fire Series, It took me awhile to understand why he needed to create a mold for these pieces.  Didn’t they exist already? Well, it turns out those incredible shiny ceramic teapots and plates in the photos aren’t real....

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for the love of prototypes

why, when redesigning school lunch, one starts with plastic fruit

On Monday, Mark Fisher from IDEO/ Chicago visited the interdisciplinary class, Design for Social Change, to talk about using prototypes in the design process. The class is taught by Nick Tobier from A&D and Moses Lee of Engineering.

The design challenge for the class is "the school lunch", a woefully lacking meal for most school children across the country. During the past few weeks, the students have been interviewing parents, children, cafeteria cooks, teachers and other relevant parties to assemble some problem statements to work from. They are now ready to start prototyping.

Mark Fisher has been at IDEO for 14 years but hails from the Detroit area originally. Mark was so enthusiastic about prototypes he was practically evangelical. “We make hundred of prototypes when we’re working on a product. We use foam core, clay, anything we can get our hands on. This...

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I walked into Design Lab 1  today (the coolest classroom on north campus, in my opinion). Even cooler today because it smelled like lemons. The sweet Knox-Kendall team were eating hummus and pita on the floor.

The lemon scent was drifting over from this plate of lemons connected to pennies and zinc coated nails. Did you know that this magical combination could produce a battery-source? It wasn't working so well until Linda discovered that you need to use pennies before 1991~ apparently they have more copper in them.

All this was to create a power source to light an led display that "cafeteria lady" would be holding to advertise yet another cool new DL1 event. Stephanie Starch designed this poster to promote these "electronic lunches" on Wednesdays.

So check these lunches out!

Also, love the way that Larry Cressman hung his egg baskets for the Creators...

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Creators Collect

small steps in organizing the universe

When Ed West asked me if I had any collections for the Creators Collect show opening this week, I couldn’t think of any - I’m not a collector myself, unless you consider the dust around my house a “collection”.

It turns out I shouldn’t have dismissed my dust collection so quickly. After all, Michael Rodemer submitted his prized collection of “lint traps.”

Okay, so Michael Rodemer is a quirky fellow but still, one must ask... what kind of person collects lint traps, and why?

When I actually laid eyes on Michael Rodemer’s lint trap collection, I understood the impulse. These little debris covered screens seemed animal-like and morbidly sculptural, laid out like a body count across the gallery floor. And, yes, thank you Michael Rodemer for noticing: they are beautiful.  (Regardless, Michael told me he had to hide the collection from his wife.)

This is a gallery show...

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For matters of life and death, the body is the medium

Marina Abramovic at Moma

Sigh, if only we had tele-transport to New York and I was not about to have a baby. There's an amazing retrospective of Marina Abramovic's work on at Moma, including live performances throughout the three month run. If you go to New York, check it out for me, it's on until May 31st!

Moma has a great spread on the exhibition with live feeds on the performance to boot. I like this interview below when she talks about her realization that if she wanted to seriously explore the borders of ego, physicality and existence, there was no closer medium than her own body. 

Radical monk, stunt woman and aesthetic artist rolled into one unique human being: wow. Marina was here last year as a Penny W. Stamps speaker-- she held the theatre in breathless silence as showed her work.



Weekly Sightings

Ah, what to do with those burger wrappers after a fast food binge?

This protective fat suit appeared in a case in the hallway the other day, next to more sculptural pieces along with photos of how they are to be worn in public spaces.

Turns out the pieces came out of Jess Frelinghuysen's class called Concept, Form, Context: The Human Being, a required core course for every first year student. 

The assignment is something like this:

Using your own body as a starting point, create a work from commonly available everyday stuff (that is usually discarded after use) as an extension of your own human body. Then interact with your body extension in a way that significantly alters our perception of it as waste.

I think the assignment originally came from John Marshall who also teaches the class. But Jess, in keeping with her own interests in public interventions,...

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