Spatial Interventions Teaching & Student Work

Active Voice: Students create campaigns about social justice, diversity, anti-racism, and equity.

Access to Healthcare Campaign by Chelsea Davis. Seeks to shift behaviors and attitudes towards equity in healthcare sectors.

Graphic design and visual communication can be a powerful tool to affect change, shape culture, and persuade opinions and actions of audiences across social, cultural, economic, and/or political circumstances.

This project introduces students to graphic design as a tool for action and social impact. Students develop messaging campaigns that build awareness, educate and inform on overarching themes and topics with a shared intent to reach a broad audience and shift behaviors and attitudes among people.

Students work across digital and physical platforms and must consider how their campaign functions cohesively across media from social media / digital environment to print (OOH – Out of Home) media / physical environment.

Not only do students learn how to design a cross platform messaging campaign across social media and print, but they also learn how to measure its impact on community by working with stakeholders and other participants and collecting and analyzing data.

Students work through research and framing phases to develop unique campaigns within the overarching assignment parameters. Before design phases begin, students outline impact objectives they wish to achieve via their campaigns. Students then begin design development and upon completion, implement their campaigns with participating audience members and stakeholders. Students are asked to collect data during implementation based on their impact objectives, and then report on these findings in conclusions.

This work was completed as part of senior studio ART 4200, graphic design at ECU, which sought to teach students how to measure impact in social design projects. Additionally, work from this project was featured as an exhibition at the ECU Student Center Gallery this spring. It is currently on view through February 2021. The exhibition features the work of 24 graphic design senior students (listed below) with over 75 pieces in the show.

Work by:
Madison Wicks
Hannah Rowerdink
Chelsea Davis
Edwin Averette
Imani McCray
Carter Jewell
Jordan Crass
Myiah Nueman
Sarah Brock
Sabrina Fink
Desteney Hopkins Edwards
Tiana Robinson
Adriana Cadorniga
Andrew Crane
Savannah Durham
Ty Huff
Graesyn Lockhart
Casey Parker
Natalie Pray
Athena Ratzman
Joshua Smith
Hannah Stevens
Shelby Scott
Kat Tayar
Hunter Winslow

Research Spatial Interventions

Upcoming Uptown Greenville Design Intervention project at 423 Evans: Design in Review

Over the last year, I’ve worked with partner, Pitt County Arts Council (PCAC) to plan and design an arts-based community project for the community of Uptown Greenville. The project is my first large-scale design intervention / installation project since starting at ECU and moving to Eastern North Carolina and was made possible by the Engagement and Outreach Scholars Academy (EOSA) at ECU.

The purpose of the project is to attempt to improve and expand on the economic, cultural, and community development of Uptown Greenville by contributing to the community’s sense of place through activity-programming, cultural-historical context, and social-spatial interactions, with a specific focus on contributing to the community narrative.

The project employs a citizen-inclusive model, which emphasizes participation of community stakeholders throughout the process. This particular model emphasizes the community’s ability/responsibility to actively participate in the making (implementation phase) of the design intervention.

Stakeholders included a diverse group of Uptown Greenville community members, “a reflection of the community,” including local residents, ECU students, business owners, employers/employees, district city partners, and nearby friends and visitors of Uptown.

In November, we conducted a focus group with the participants where design concepts were shared to gauge interest and initiate feedback for the new design intervention project for Uptown.

My research team and I reviewed the data from the focus group and wrote a full report with insights and recommendations, which was presented to PCAC in February. 

Some major themes that emerged from the focus group analysis included:

Long lasting impact:
The design intervention should evolve with the community. 

Keep it Interactive:
The design intervention should encourage participation among visitors. 

Fun for all ages and focus on our city.

The main recommendations for moving forward with the design direction included: 

  • create the interactive mural. #hashtag-able. Fun. Playful. Youthful. 
  • keep the physical, tactile components. interactive components / photo opportunities. Swings.  
  • ensure community content creation. Avoid a one-time experience.
  • focus on the city narrative. 
  • participatory experience. paint by number approach, on-site – movable mural panels (all components will be movable).

The final design direction is in review and participants are standing by for more details on when implementation can begin.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing precautions, the project implementation has been delayed. We are hoping the project will be able to continue this fall with a tentative implementation plan scheduled to coincide with the “First Friday” event in September.

September 4, 5-8pm (First Friday event)
September 5, 9-4pm
September 6, 9-4pm

More details about this project will be posted as further developments are made.

This research considers and addresses how a design intervention (arts-based community project) can improve and/or expand on the economic, cultural, and community development of Uptown Greenville by contributing to the community’s sense of place through the addition of activity-programming, cultural-historical context, social-spatial interactions, etc. with a specific focus on contributing to the community narrative.

Spatial Interventions

Crosswalks in the Park: Civic-Minded Improvements

After city regulations halted the Art Crosswalks project in conjunction with Downtown Memphis Commission, local artists at MCA with volunteer community members executed their designs in partnership with Overton Park.

This project crosses the boundaries between artistic interventions, broadly defined as public art that encourages moments of pause, contemplation, even participation and play and civic-minded improvements or tactical urbanism, broadly defined as functional urban developments with intent to improve communities.

The art crosswalks, not only add moments of pause but also improve the community’s safety by supporting pedestrians and foot traffic and discouraging drivers from speeding around intersections and blind corners in the park.

Two locations were facilitated, one at the corner of Veterans Plaza Drive and one at the intersection of the Zoo entrance and Brooks Museum. Local artists included Ashley Segarra and Dezmond Gipson. Photography by Natalie Schuh.


Spatial Interventions

The Revival of the Chelsea Flood Wall: Community activates Future Site of the Greenline

As a sort of citizen-driven placemaking endeavor, this example of artistic intervention serves as a catalyst for greater change in the under-served area of N.Evergreen and Chelsea.

The design, inspired by the post-industrial aspects of the site and fused with concepts of geometry and optical art, provides a sense of movement, change, and altered perspective that references messages of a reimagined, renewed or revived site.

The project was made possible by an Autozone Artszone grant and the support of local community members and Greater Memphis Greenline. The project was facilitated by MCA design professor, Cat Normoyle and a select local team.

The work, completed in late March of 2015, initiated the later public art graffiti project, Paint Memphis, aligned with the Hip Hop festival in July to paint the remaining 70+ panels. The revived Chelsea flood wall is now a permission wall.

The green area in front of the wall is the future site of Greater Memphis Greenline, a walking and biking path that connects downtown Memphis to Shelby Farms Park.

Spatial Interventions

Community Members fight blight in South Memphis

Over a three-day work session, Memphis College of Art under the direction of Cat Normoyle, leads a community public art project in South Memphis. Students who participated in this project include Noah Miller, Taylor Touchstone, King Hobson, and Eugenia Mosley.

The project was forged from discussions between Cat Normoyle and Dorian Spears (Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team + 25 Square Initiative). Spears put Normoyle in touch with the organization Knowledge Quest who was looking to reclaim and beautify an abandoned apartment complex in their neighborhood through art and education. Funding for the project was provided by a grant from Autozone.

The Need

Knowledge Quest boarded up windows and doors of the abandoned site at 1042 S. Lauderdale Street earlier in the year. They hoped to add artwork to the boards of the apartment complex that was two-fold; Walls 1-4 would focus on healthy eating and their community garden and Walls 5-8 would focus on education and literacy.

1042 S. Lauderdale Vacant Apartment Complex (photo credit: Shawna Engel)
1042 S. Lauderdale Vacant Apartment Complex (photo credit: Shawna Engel)

The Vision

While creating the artwork for the mural, I wanted to stay true to the space we were working with so I thought of the boards as “windows” into a bigger picture. I also wanted the windows to be a sort of reflection of the community in which it resides.

With that in mind, I started to develop The Gardens which flow in and out of the lower-level windows of Walls 1-4. I wanted The Garden to look as green and fresh and fun as possible to reflect upon the vibrant and diverse community. The upper-level windows show children waving from their bedrooms and clouds floating in the bright sky.

As we rotate around the building to view The Library mural, the upper-level sky transitions into a romantic evening sky where children read under lamp light. The lower-level windows peer into the library where infinite book shelves of imaginative and magical worlds of reading are emphasized.

The Gardens (photo credit: Natalie Fleenor)

The Library (photo credit: Natalie Fleenor)

Related Press

New Themed Murals Spruce Up Empty Building

The Installation

Photo Gallery

Spatial Interventions

Downtown Memphis Commission exhibits South Main Design Challenge work this Friday, April 26

The South Main Design Challenge is an initiative by the Downtown Memphis Commission to generate creative ideas and conceptual plans for seven vacant or underutilized spaces and buildings in the South Main neighborhood.  For more information about the challenge, visit the website here.

Our team, 8-trax studios worked on a proposal for the South Main Buffalo Mural lot.

About us

Ben Avant: SMA Chump; South Main Business Owner; Lighting guy; Father of One
Cat Normoyle: Educator with MCA; designer; urban enthusiast; dog walker
Matt Seltzer: Architect with archimania; doesn’t eat condiments; has a penchant for the coffee

About our proposal

The South Main Buffalo Mural and the hidden open space behind it create a unique place in a unique neighborhood. It holds a remarkable moment; an experience, for locals and visitors alike, in its current configuration as a derelict lot, a canvas for public art, and a gigantic city-sized planter for a spontaneous garden.

The South Main Design Challenge asks for concepts and visions that transform vacant lots into community assets that live out their potential by strengthening the South Main neighborhood. The Buffalo Mural Lot is one of the few Challenge sites that, arguably, is a community asset in its present state. The danger in “developing” the Buffalo Mural Lot is paradoxical: by bringing a new vision to the site, you can kill the magic of the place that’s already there.

Rather than erasing the innate qualities of the Buffalo Mural Lot, we choose to harness and focus them in order to better share the magic with the neighborhood. Our short term concept and long term vision for the Buffalo Mural Lot use the same tactics to accomplish the same vision: a pocket park that is cultivated by vegetation and the visual and performing arts. We believe a park in this location makes sense from an urban and economic development standpoint: a park ties back to the the larger network of open, green spaces throughout downtown and South Main, and is a perfect complement to the open lawn at nearby Founders Park. A park can be developed more rapidly and inexpensively than a building, and will generate urban equity that can increase the value of adjacent sites slated for development.


[ photo credit: Cat Normoyle, Feb 2013, South Main Buffalo Mural Lot (before) ]
The Tactics

Keep the Facades
They tie the site and its history back to the street and the train tracks, and create the surprise of a hidden garden.

Keep the secret, keep the garden
The wild, woolly spontaneous garden tells us Nature reclaimed this spot before the rest of us did. Although we think the addition of seasonal color and specimen trees can help shape the park, we believe the planting forms need to remain informal, organic and natural.

Bring the Sidewalk Inside (to the Outside)
Make a seamless, accessible connection from the sidewalk and street into the park. The shift from sidewalk to park can be signaled by a material (from concrete to deck).

Activate the site 24/7
The park has a presence now during the day. Enhance that experience by adding an observation deck. Make the park more urban by activating it at night.

Keep the art, and bring more, and don’t apply it – integrate it
The newer elements of art and design can intertwine with the landscape and building fragments. Sustainable funding Use the space as a evening music venue, proceeds go back into the park.

[ rendering credit: Matt Seltzer, East View Interior, Day ]
[ rendering credit: Matt Seltzer, West View Interior, Day ]
[ rendering credit: Cat Normoyle, Sidewalk View Exterior, Night ]
Presentation Boards

The work will be on display on the ground floor commercial storefront at 431 S. Main Street during the South Main Trolley Tour on Friday, April 26 2013. The exhibition will run from 6pm-9pm.

[ dancing gardens, presentation boards ]
[ dancing gardens, board 1 ]
[ dancing gardens, board 2 ]

Spatial Interventions

The Social Implications of “Make Memphis” Interventions in Underserved Neighborhoods

This past semester, my Design of Advertising students worked with Memphis groups, Urban Art Commission and The Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team to create a Stewardship Campaign designed to enable ownership and improve the appearance of abandoned buildings in the South Memphis neighborhood.

The students who developed the campaign were Laura Miller, Dustin Lester, Mitchell Dunnam, Melinda Parra and Alyssa Ficks.

"Make Memphis" is constructed by a series of stencils inspired by the classic architecture of South Memphis.
“Make Memphis” is constructed by a series of stencils inspired by the classic architecture of South Memphis.

Related Articles

Pecha Kucha Memphis Night 6: Dorian Spears & Cat Normoyle
25 Square Public Art Project – Make Memphis

Photo Gallery

Spatial Interventions

Community Vacancy Project emerges in Atlanta neighborhoods

Walking my neighborhood streets of Atlanta, a new project has emerged in the community. These street signs and chalk drawings in the Kirkwood downtown area are part of a project called Community Vacancy.

It employs a number of different mediums to draw attention to spaces like street signs designed to subtly blend in with other street signs in the neighborhood, chalk drawings which address spaces like parking lots, sidewalks, and other paved areas, and blackboards which act as leave behinds placed in boarded up windows of abandoned buildings. All of these implementations are temporary and are not meant to permanently change or damage these spaces.

The intention is to build curiosity among passerby-ers and provoke interest of the areas, possibly even spark innovation for transforming these vacant places in the community. Below are some photos.

The website reads,

“We believe that repurposing or reinventing vacant places between ownership by means of design should increase community engagement and connect people and place while discouraging issues like crime, pollution, etc. that result from under-populated, forgotten and abandoned places.”

Spatial Interventions

“That was my Idea” debuts at Aqua Art Miami December 1

Georgia State has been invited to participate in the art exhibition, Aqua Art Miami. Aqua “features innovative galleries from the west coast, greater USA and abroad, with an emphasis on emerging and early mid-career artists,” according to the website. I will have an installation piece featured in the show this December called THAT WAS MY IDEA. The installation will be in a window frame at the show.

“That was my idea” debuted yesterday, December 1 at Aqua Art Miami and will stay on display through Sunday, December 4. The piece can be found in Art Basel suite 212 with the GSU exhibition room for 3rd year art graduates. For more information regarding scheduling, directions, and other exhibitors, check the website.

Below are some photographs of the completed installation.

Artist Statement:
In attempt to create interesting contradictions, I’ve worked with highly public spaces to display private thoughts and ideas. THAT WAS MY IDEA is one of many slogans written for this project that communicate ideas, and emotions originated from private reflection. Inspired by a project I conducted in 2009, the slogans are written from an introspective place, bringing to light the many countless thoughts that run through our brains on a daily basis. These thoughts could be as simple as remembering to call someone, CALL YOUR MOTHER; or as common as daily reminders, DON’T BE LATE. Most of the original slogans were declarative thoughts, suggesting commands that passerbyers might see and then therefore create a new series of thoughts in the viewer.

THAT WAS MY IDEA, in the same manner, originates from internal thoughts Have you ever passed by something that made you reminisce about an idea that you had prior and you felt frustrated by it? This slogan represents that feeling… that frustration. The contradiction of placing this slogan in a largely public place suggests that many may share these same thoughts. It is a way to publicize ideas in an anonymous manner.

The public sites for this project are very important because 1. They become a medium between private thought and public announcement and 2. Each site varies and therefore the work also becomes site inspired. Sites can include window frames, rooftops, sides of buildings, and the like. Many of the structures that interest me include gridded surfaces where the type can site in and around square patterns. In most cases, the type runs through the frames and uses the natural infrastructure as portions of the lettering.

The typography chosen for this project is universal and non-descriptive. The intention here is to steer away from type that may influence meaning. In other words, type selections should not have expressive meaning and should only draw more thinking to passerbyers in an unobtrusive manner.

Spatial Interventions

Typographic Window Art Installations at GSU share simple everyday reminders to passerbys

In 2009, I worked on a project that utilized windows as canvases throughout the city. Each window would activate a written phrase. The project was called Take back the day and was inspired by artists like Jenny Holzer.

Interactive & Motion Spatial Interventions

Video Installation Work for Exhibition Passione Italiana to Premier March 24th at MODA (Museum of Design Atlanta)

The Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) is moving to a new location in Midtown this March and opening its doors to the new exhibition, Passione Italiana: Design of the Italian Motorcycle. MODA has teamed up with graphic designers at Georgia State to develop installation graphics and video pieces to display with the exhibit. The project will include four large installation video pieces on the walls, three videos will be showcased side-by-side in one space and one video will play in an adjacent room. The videos will enhance the exhibit’s presence by including visual content about Italian culture, the experience of riding motorcycles, design and engineering, etc.

The Vision

The video exposes the audience to the experience of riding a motorcycle without ever physically revealing its presences.  The viewer travels through rural back roads to city highways as the experience highlights views of the sky, road, and ground from a representational yet somewhat hyperbolized viewpoint of the rider.  The viewer-as-rider experience presents a mesmerizing vista of energetic imagery sufficient to elicit an emotional response in support of the overall motorcycle exhibit. The video is collaged together by overlaying graphic elements alluding to racing stripe details, which also frame the videos and add compositional value.

Another aspect of the design involves glimpses of the rider and some of the anticipatory actions involved in the preparation to take on the road. The pieces include vignettes of putting on his helmet, his gloves, his boots, and his jacket. The result is a collaboration of the rider and the road.  These vignettes serve to further transport the viewer into the experience as their flickering presences evokes a notion of memory or the subconscious.

The final project is a collaboration with Cotter Christian and Meta Gary.

The video installation piece will be unveiled March 24, 6-8pm.The new location for MODA will be part of the midtown arts corridor across from the High Museum at 1315 Peachtree Street. The space will be located on the ground floor of the Perkins+Will offices, just below the Peachtree Branch of the Atlanta Public Library.

On March 24, 2011 we celebrated all of our hard work creating video installations for the exhibition. Below are some images from the event.

Spatial Interventions

Creative Loafing and The High Museum collaborate with artists to create custom designed newspaper boxes

The new exhibit at the High Museum features  oil paintings, photography, drawings, jewelry and video work of Salvidor Dali. If you haven’t gone to see the exhibit, you have got to do it soon. It’s fantastic!

Some of what struck me at the exhibit was the enormous amount of religious iconography he featured in much of his oil paintings after the time of his famous surrealist paintings. However, he continues to use art detailing like dramatic foreshortening, heavy shadow and exaggerated perspective and scale. Some of my favorite attributes of Dali’s work is his wonderful attention to detail and his unique juxtaposition of objects like floating animals, bugs, landscapes, etc.

Creative Loafing (in cahoots with High Museum) commissioned me and 5 other artists to paint newspaper boxes that were Dali inspired. About a month ago, CL worked with other artist to do something similar. You can see some examples of work here! It’s all very cool – These boxes did not have any restrictions on design however. We worked individually on the project for about 2 weeks and turned them in this past week. The boxes will be featured in their September Issue and will be placed at hot spots in Atlanta around town.

Creative Loafing has planned an exhibition for the artists this Thursday, September 2 at The Sound Table on Edgewood Ave. The six custom newspaper boxes will be on display. Doors open at 5pm with Violet Hour specialty drink prices till 7pm. $3 Miller High Life bottles all night, every night. DJ Mafioso will be spinning Latin beats until they make him stop!

Come support the arts!