Art, Design, and Activism in Contemporary Landscape

Thursday, March 26, 9:30 p.m.11:00 p.m.
LeRoy Neiman Center,
37 S. Wabash Ave., 1st floor
Chicago, IL
United States

Melissa Cate Christ, Frances Whitehead, and Jane Hutton moderated by Ellen Grimes

Do contemporary landscapes yield new forms of advocacy and activism? Or, do activists and advocates define new understandings of the landscape?  What does this mean for artists and designers? Join Frances Whitehead, a civic practice artist working in disturbed urban sites, Melissa Cate Christ, a landscape architect and urban designer, and Jane Hutton, a landscape architect and an editor of Scapegoat: Architecture, Landscape, Political Economy, for a discussion of art, design, and activism in the contemporary landscape.

Jane Hutton is a landscape architect and Assistant Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. She is Faculty Director to the Loeb Library Materials Collection and Co-Director of the Energy, Environments, and Design research lab. Her work focuses on the extended relationships of material practice in landscape architecture, looking at links between the landscapes of production and consumption of common construction materials. Hutton is a founding editor of the journal Scapegoat: Architecture, Landscape, Political Economy, and is co-editor of Issues: 01 Service02 Materialism, and 06Mexico D.F./NAFTA.

Melissa Cate Christ is a Research Assistant Professor at the School of Design at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, a registered landscape architect, and the founding director of transverse studio, a design research practice which explores mechanisms of critical intervention at the juncture of landscape, culture, urbanism, infrastructure, and social and environmental justice. Prior to teaching at PolyU, Melissa was an Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Hong Kong, and a designer and project manager at Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd. Melissa has a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Liberal Arts from St. John’s College. A selection of her recent work can be found at

Frances Whitehead is a civic practice artist bringing the methods, mindsets, and strategies of contemporary art practice to the process of shaping the future city. Questions of participation, sustainability, and culture change animate her work as she considers the surrounding community, the landscape, and the interdependency of multiple ecologies in the post-industrial city. Connecting emerging art practices, the discourses around culturally informed sustainability, and new concepts of heritage and remediation, Whitehead's cutting-edge work traverses disciplines to engage with engineers, scientists, and landscape architects, to hybridize art, design, science, and civic engagement, for the public good. Whitehead is Professor of Sculpture + Architecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.‌

Ellen Grimes is an associate professor of architecture at the School of the Art Institute. She has worked with Bruce Mau Design, Garofalo Architects, and Greg Lynn Form on projects in Chicago, New York, Thailand, China, and Canada. Previously she has taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology. She is also an editor and writer, with work appearing in a variety of books and journals.

This lecture was made possible by the William Bronson and Grayce Slovet Mitchell Lectureship.

All lectures and events are free and open to the public.