Kidz in the Hall: MCAD grads show off their design chops


“Kidz in the Hall” shows off studio furniture by recent MCAD alumni

A new exhibition at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design brings together the work of 15 emerging artists from around the country to highlight new trends in studio furniture.

But I’m not going to write about that exhibition. Instead, I’m going to write about the one tucked back around the corner from the main gallery.

This smaller exhibition, called “Kidz in the Hall: Studio furniture by recent MCAD alumni” was created to complement the main gallery show, but in several cases, I think it actually upstages it.

Dean Wilson, head of the furniture design program at MCAD, curated both shows. He says the purpose of both exhibitions is to stimulate new thinking and new perceptions about the meaning and methods of contemporary studio furniture.

I wanted to highlight some up-and-coming studio furniture makers from around the country so that everyone could see what young furniture makers are doing. Its primary audience is the community of students, collectors, museum professionals, and designers eager to support and promote recent furniture and advanced design in this country. Most shows present the classic makers like Wendell Castle, Sam Maloof, and Gary Knox Bennett. I wanted to present younger makers who are somewhat undiscovered and who may be the stars of the future in studio furniture making. I also wanted to educate my current students at MCAD about the creative people who have just preceded them.


Nate Moren “Crinkle” 2008

The main gallery offers some really lovely pieces to look at, but many of them are only loosely based on the notion of “furniture.” Several are far more sculptural than practical; the piece might make you think about a chair, but you probably wouldn’t want to sit on it.

MCAD’s new president, Jay Coogan, has a background in both furniture design and sculpture. Walking through the exhibition, he says the “Kidz in the Hall” selection stands out as a testament to Dean Wilson’s teaching.

Considering all of the work in the featured gallery part of the show come from designers who have completed graduate programs I find the MCAD work by recent undergraduates to be as inventive if not more so than some of their older, more experienced counterparts. The level of craft also seems on a par and the inventive use of materials by the MCAD students is also very intriguing. This, to my mind speaks to the quality of the program that Dean has created. It not only is about a rigorous devotion to skill development but also to exploration; of materials, form, concepts and the definition of furniture and functionality.


Patrick Carmody & Kfir Shetrit “Untitled” 2010

It’s easy to see that Wilson is both proud and admiring of his graduates. He points to a chair by MCAD alumni Patrick Carmody and Kfir Shetrit.

[It] is a good example of traditional joinery and newer vacuum bag technology married into a piece that is a nice blend of fluid and geometric shapes. The curved seat hovers effortlessly above the trapezoidal base.

Much of the work in the main gallery is more in the world of ‘form’ than it is of ‘function.’ By contrast the work in the “Kidz in the Hall” exhibition shows both innovation and creativity, as well as pragmatism and a concern for the environment. Wilson finds the folding stool by Erin and Nate Moren to be a really thoughtful response to society’s increasing mobility and a desire to have a minimal impact on the planet.


Erin and Nate Moren’s folding stool: right side up, upside down, and lying flat on the wall.

MCAD President Jay Coogan says everyday corporations like IKEA, Target and Room and Board are playing up the design of their products more than ever, and in fact is increasingly becoming the determining factor in the success of many commercial products.

All of this attention and awareness attracts young people to the design professions which are also proliferating to include not just object/furniture design but also experience and systems design. Design thinking is causing restructuring of business school curriculum as much as it is changing what gets taught in art and design schools.


John Bruhl “Vessel II” 2006

“Studio Furniture: The Next Generation” and it’s accompanying exhibition “Kidz in the Hall: Studio Furniture by recent MCAD Alumni” are both on display in the Minneapolis College of Art and Design gallery through February 21, with an opening reception on Friday, January 22.