SOTA hosts Interconnected Lecture Series event with Maurice Woods
February 26, 2021
Thursday evening, Microsoft Principal Design Lead, Executive Director and Founder of The Inneract Project Maurice Woods spoke in the first event this semester of the Interconnected Lecture Series hosted by NKU’s School of the Arts (SOTA) Visual Arts department with support from Cincinnati Chapter of American Institute of Graphic Arts via Zoom.
The Interconnected Lecture Series is a monthly panel series where speakers get to talk to Black designers from universities across Kentucky, including, the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, Murray State University, Eastern Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University, and NKU.
The event focused on Woods’ career with The Inneract Project, tackling issues of systemic racism in the field of design. With over 16+ years of service to communities of color, Woods is devoted to making sure Black, Indigenous and Latinx people have the resources they need to succeed in design.
Woods was born and raised in Richmond, CA. where he later received a basketball scholarship to play at the University of Washington. After graduation, Woods then went on to play basketball worldwide in Spain, Greece, France and Japan.
After playing basketball for seven years, Woods went back to the University of Washington where he pursued his Master’s of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in graphic design. Shortly after getting his MFA, he started his first job as a graphic designer in advertising. Woods said the beginning stage of his career helped him understand how he wanted to make his mark in the field of design, ultimately wanting more diversity in the field and more opportunities for people of color.
“I was constantly trying to understand how I can have the deepest impact, but how can I also understand that there are issues that I faced, as well as my friends and others families I saw in my neighborhood, that would go through a lot of different things in order to be able to get access to opportunities,” Woods said.
This led Woods to starting the Inneract Project, a non-profit organization that gives free assistance and classes to young artists of color wanting to pursue design. The organization has three different levels of classes, each preparing students for what they would face in a design career. Woods believes that no matter what age you come into the Inneract Project, there is a place for you.
“You can come in at any point you want, and there should be a program we have to help serve you and uplevel your skills,” Woods said.
Julie Mader-Meersman, visual communication design professor and direct host of the event, described how this lecture series was not only important to universities, but also to high school students across the area who also attended the event. Meersman was one of many other educators who attended an event last summer through the University of College Designers Association, which led to the creation of the Interconnected Series.
According to Meersman, visual communication design isn’t a super diverse field, and hearing Woods speak is a great way to not only hear a different perspective, but also learn about systemic issues Black designers are facing in the field right now. She hopes that Woods can be a role model for students of color interested in design, focusing especially on those who are in high school.
“I’m just really excited to have another fellow colleague who has achieved so many great things, and that NKU can be a part of helping to connect people to design who maybe wouldn’t otherwise experience it, in particular, thinking about those high schoolers,” Meersman said.
Hans Schellhas, visual communication design professor, was also involved with the beginning stages of the Interconnected Lecture Series. Scellhas too believes that the field is underrepresented, and he feels that the need for more diverse voices in design is long overdue.
“This is just one way that we can help create change, which I think strongly needs to happen in our field, which is very homogenous. Our field needs to evolve and be more inclusive and have more representation,” Schellhas said.
Additional information about attending the next lecture event can be found on Instagram @nkusota, or on Twitter @NKUSOTA.