Science Gallery – Detroit, USA
11 / 09 / 2020 – 11 / 12 / 2020

Michigan State University’s Science Gallery Detroit is pleased to announce its third annual exhibition, FUTURE PRESENT: Design in a Time of Urgency, which will run through Dec. 11 at Bedrock’s 1001 Woodward Building in downtown Detroit. The entire season is free and open to the public.

This year’s exhibition theme will explore humanity’s nuanced relationship to various forms of design and the impact it has on the future. Further, the exhibition will illustrate three key themes as they relate to design: the impact of technology on society; design and systemic change; and creating participatory design processes for a sustainable future. FUTURE PRESENT will include works from more than one dozen national and international artists, scientists, and researchers; and, four commissioned pieces, including three from three Detroit-based emerging artists. Guest curators for the exhibition include Olga Stella of Design Core Detroit, Cézanne Charles of rootoftwo, and South African artist and curator Ralph Borland.

“As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Detroit Month of Design, we are also reflecting on the future we want and the actions needed to bring that future into reality. The involvement of organizations like the Science Gallery Detroit allow us to explore the vital role design plays in helping cities, businesses, and communities adapt to current challenges,” said Olga Stella, executive director of Design Core Detroit.

In light of the pandemic, Science Gallery Detroit is taking extra precautions to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for visitors. Capacity into the exhibition will be limited to 30 guests per hour, and visitors must reserve a free timed-ticket in advance. Attendees will enjoy a 40-minute tour of FUTURE PRESENT, and the Science Gallery staff will sanitize the exhibition hourly. Special hours have been reserved on a daily basis for seniors and vulnerable populations. In compliance with the governor’s executive order, attendees will be required to wear face masks at all times.

While the exhibition will be a low-touch experience, guests will have access to a smartphone tour that will include videos, audio clips, and images to augment exhibition content. Additionally, Science Gallery Detroit’s team of mediators will work remotely, and in real-time via telepresence robots, to engage visitors in dialogue helping them to further explore exhibition themes.

“A core component of design is finding creative solutions to complex challenges,” said Devon Akmon, director of Science Gallery Detroit. “Our team has taken an innovative approach to designing timely and relevant exhibits in Detroit while presenting exciting and informative programs to a global audience through a range of collaborative partnerships.”

This year’s show kicks off with a bevy of sci-art virtual programs. Some events are presented in partnership with Detroit Month of Design and Ars Electronica Festival 2020, which is known as one of the world’s largest international multi-media festivals that celebrates technology, science, and the arts.

FUTURE PRESENT is made possible by MSU’s Science Gallery Detroit founding partner, Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU), and Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation.

It was as if, with a snap of the fingers, the world changed. Before COVID-19, we were already aware of the increasingly urgent need to protect the environment, change health care systems, education, and economics. We knew something had to be done about social and economic inequality, about access to water, housing and food. All of these loomed large on the horizon.

We thought design could help create participatory and inclusive processes, and guide the construction of a sustainable and equitable global present. Then COVID-19 erupted. It brought all these problems front and center, along with a whole host of new ones, stressing out systems and people, globally and locally. To respect the constraints involved in exhibiting safely in a pandemic, we had to almost immediately rethink and refashion much of what we were doing. We had to create new and innovative ways to use content, and move our programming and mediation online, while still striving to do what Science Gallery does best: exploring a topic using a variety of creative perspectives from across arts, sciences and design.

The themes embedded in the exhibition became even more pertinent, and eerily timely: how does the design of technology impact society? What impact does design have on the built environment, and on the communities that occupy it? How does design feature in food systems and food security, in biology and scientific inquiry?  And what is the entwinement of design with social visions, such as Afro or indigenous futurism? The exhibition is especially interested in the impact of design on society, and in equitable and sustainable social change. COVID-19 has revealed quite clearly the insufficiency and undesirable nature of many of the systems and subsystems in which we live, and the urgency for systemic change. The challenge now is how to use design to guide us through our present uncertainty toward a more equitable, resilient future.

For complete exhibition information and to view the full virtual program schedule, visit: