This non-partisan initiative is part of our ongoing research, the Creative Campus Voting Project, which uses art and design to expand access to student voting. In 2020 we prototyped the SparkVotes Parties project as simple digital party package over Zoom. We’re ready to develop and expand the project now that we’ve seen that learning in the context of a fun, social, peer-to-peer experience has great potential.
As an interdisciplinary team, students will apply their talents and skills to concretely help their peers navigate the registration and voting process. As a team we will develop and test a lively series of non-partisan creative interventions to roll out for the 2022 mid-term election. Students will learn how to apply insights from behavioral science (including the psychological obstacles and motivators for new voters), and deploy the power of visual design, the vibrancy of creative play, and the power of positive peer-to-peer influence to help college students with a cornerstone of civic participation.
Faculty Project Leads
Stephanie Rowden is a sound artist whose work encompasses projects for radio, podcast, installation and participatory public art. Drawn to the magnetic qualities of sound and story, her experimental audio documentaries and essays explore human motivations and inter-relationships.
Recent projects include a series of audio tours — from a curatorial installation and audio essay about the impulse to collect (for the Berman Museum at Ursinus College) to a guided audio walk inspired by a story by Jorge Luis Borges (through the labyrinthine U-M Hatcher Graduate Library.)
Most recently, Rowden’s interest in student-centered civic engagement has sparked the Creative Campus Voting Project, a research initiative she leads with Stamps colleague Hannah Smotrich. Their ongoing project is focused on creative interventions — online, in public spaces, on campus and in the classroom — that support peer-to-peer interactions to enliven college-age voter participation.
Her audio collaborations with writers include a series of radio poems with Jennifer Metsker, an audio postcard with Keith Taylor, and a soundscore for a video dance performance with Anne Carson. Rowden’s audio pieces have been broadcast on WBEZ-Chicago Public Radio, Michigan Radio, PRI’s Studio 360, and BBC-Radio 4’s Shortcuts and featured through the Third Coast International Audio Festival.
She is co-founder of the Radio Campfire community listening event series in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Detroit; and was co-curator of the Sounds of the State series of audio shorts on Michigan Radio.
At Stamps, Rowden has developed a number of sound art, audio documentary and podcast related classes for artists and designers who want to incorporate audio into their creative work. These include community engagement classes in which students collaborate with elders and high school students to generate and record life stories.
Rowden has received grants and fellowships from the U-M Institute for the Humanities, ArtServe Michigan / the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Alliance / National Endowment for the Arts, ArtMatters, Inc., the University of Michigan Arts of Citizenship program and Artists Space in New York. She has been an artist-in-residence at the MacDowell Colony and the Ragdale Foundation.
Hannah Smotrich is a visual communication designer whose research explores how design can make the possibilities for change visible, accessible, and actionable.
She collaborates with other experts across a broad range of fields — public policy, history, law, cultural anthropology, medicine, business — as well as with creative colleagues on projects designed to improve outcomes for individuals and communities.
Creative Campus Voting Project, an initiative she co-leads with Stephanie Rowden, investigates how creative interventions — online, on campus and in the classroom — can catalyze peer-to-peer interactions that increase college-age voting. Toward Thriving, a project she co-leads with Stephanie Tharp, is designing and testing the efficacy of a positive psychology intervention for chronic pain patients.
Past work centered on communities, identity, and cultural history includes: narrative exhibitions (on the impact of immigration policy, the contributions of Chicana women in Michigan, the lives of textile workers in Lewiston, Maine), a bilingual, participatory public-art installation at the Jewish Cultural Festival held in Krakow, Poland; and a system of Neighborhood Heritage Trails in Washington, DC, developed and implemented over the course of a decade.
At Stamps, Smotrich teaches across the design curriculum, and has a particular interest in developing courses where students collaborate — with each other, with peers in other UM units, and outside partners. Smotrich co-founded the Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Project with U-M colleagues at Ross, Law, and Public Policy. The initiative gives students the opportunity to work in interdisciplinary teams and apply their design skills to challenges faced by community business owners in Detroit. Together with Stamps colleague Joe Trumpey, Smotrich worked with students on a design/build project to assess needs, design, and train a local, village-based team to build improved cookstoves in the Maasai village of Lesoit, Tanzania.
Over the course of her career, Smotrich has worked with a range of communities, academic and cultural institutions and government agencies, including the National Gallery of Art, Cultural Tourism DC, Smithsonian Institution, Michigan Secretary of State’s Office, and the US Postal Service.