Chicago artist Frances Whitehead will discuss art and sustainability at Iowa State Nov. 17

AMES, Iowa -- Frances Whitehead, a professor, sculptor and proponent of publicly engaged art projects that contribute to a sustainable future, will speak at Iowa State University on Wednesday, Nov. 17. Her talk, "Climate Change : Culture Change," will be at 7 p.m. in Kocimski Auditorium, College of Design. It is free and open to the public.

Whitehead is a professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she founded the Knowledge Lab and SAIC4 -- The Chicago Center for Climate and Culture, a research center for the study of the cultural dimension of sustainable urbanism.

Her presentation will examine projects that model the knowledge of artists and consider how that knowledge can be leveraged for civic innovation and artistic agency to address climate changes and other global challenges. She'll look at the implications, including questions related to the potential for a greater role for artists in the public sector, the relationship between art and design as practiced recently, and the potential alterations to art and culture from climate changes.

"Every single discipline needs to look at how it is contributing and redirect its expertise to something more sustainable," Whitehead said. "How do we prepare for what's next? The challenge is to look close to home for what you can do to change the world."

Whitehead has worked with many transdisciplinary teams, combining artistic practice with other forms of social practice. In 2001, she founded ARTetal Studio to undertake collaborative public projects and speculative design focused on innovation, cultural change and environmental awareness. ARTetal is developing a series of linked civic initiatives, including the Embedded Artist Project with the City of Chicago Innovation Program, and the Great Lakes Basin Phenologic Garden Project, a climate change/culture change initiative for the Chicago Park District.

With husband, James Elniski -- also an artist and Art Institute faculty member -- Whitehead designed and lives in The GreenHouse Chicago, a home, studio and demonstration project for sustainable design. It combines cutting-edge energy technology with locally sourced materials as an example of sustainable urban living. The project was the subject of a New York Times article, March 13, 2008.

She has exhibited widely, including at the Museum of Arts and Design and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York City; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Lowe Museum of Art, Miami; Vinistu Art Museum, Estonia; and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Whitehead is the recipient of many grants and awards, including the National Endowment for the Arts Access to Artistic Excellence grant, the Tiffany Foundation Award and the Acuff Chair of Excellence in Visual Art.

Whitehead's presentation is cosponsored by the College of Design, the College of Design Art Club (CODAC), and the Committee on Lectures, which is funded by the Government of the Student Body. More information on ISU lectures is available at, or by calling (515) 294-9935.