My scholarly mission is to confront historical racist theories, and contemporary systemic, racial oppression with research findings, research-generated theory, and interactive aesthetics that galvanize “wicked solutions” (Bennett, 2013) to wicked problems in society exacerbated or motivated by racial oppression. To that end, my research agenda branches off into different lines of inquiry that study the design of aesthetics that facilitate cross-cultural interaction to impact the way humans think and behave towards yielding social justice. Heritage algorithms, a concept that I introduced in my 2016 paper “Ethnocomputational creativity in STEAM Education: A Cultural Framework for Generative Justice” refers to the facilitation of computational thinking embedded in the cultural artifacts and practices of Indigenous and vernacular artisans. Forthcoming this fall is my masterclass on heritage algorithms through the National Center for Institutional Diversity.
The MDes in Integrative Design program that I direct at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design will focus this year on ‘making justice’ under the program’s umbrella theme of equity and access. Making justice can be read in two ways. First, how can the process of making (fabricating, designing, producing, visualizing) integrate concepts of justice (inclusion, equity, diversity, access, and decolonization)? Second, how can the social process of justice (in institutions, civic spaces, legal systems) benefit from integrative design? Thus, making justice is itself an integrative topic, asking how the value generated through integrative design can be democratized, flowing back to the makers—the community of stakeholders, including the student designer. Incoming MDes students will partner this fall with U-M’s Poverty Solutions, cognate faculty Dr. Ron Eglash (SI), and community partner Olayami Dabls and the MBAD/ABA African Bead Museum in Detroit to design an AfricanFuturist Greenhouse.
In service to my profession and my role as Vice-President of Diversity and Inclusion, I led the College Art Association’s first Executive Director search committee that hired its first African-American woman for this role.
Audrey Bennett is a University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor and Professor of Art and Design at Stamps School of Art and Design. She is also a former Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Scholar of the University of Pretoria, South Africa. She studies the design of transformative/emancipatory images that can permeate cultural boundaries and impact the way we think and behave. Her publications include: How Design Education Can Use Generative Play to Innovate for Social Change; Engendering Interaction with Images; Good Design is Good Social Change; and These Nested Aphorisms (an AIGA Get Out the Vote poster).