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Assistant art professor awarded grant for research on post-digital art

BOONE—Assistant Professor of Art Tricia Treacy recently received a 2014 Craft Research Fund project grant for $10,000 to research hand-produced art in an age of digital technology. She is collaborating with Ashley John Pigford, an associate professor of visual communications at the University of Delaware.

View larger imageTricia TreacyView larger imageParticipants in the AlphaBot workshop at the Association Typographique Internationale gathering in Barcelona, Spain, work with a robot, pictured far left, they have constructed and programed to draw. A grant from the Craft Center Fund will help Appalachian’s Tricia Treacy and her collaborator Ashley John Pigford continue this workshop and others like this. Photo courtesy of Tricia TreacyView larger imageAshley John Pigford, associate professor at the University of Delaware, far left, works with a workshop participant at the Technographics Workshop at TypeCon, Washington, D.C. In the background is student research assistant Nicholas Burkhalter, a senior graphic design major. Pigford and Burkhalter are working with Appalachian’s Tricia Treacy to research new ways of making art in a post-digital world. Photo by Aaron Fairbanks.

The grant is one of three project grants awarded by The Center for Craft, Creativity and Design in 2014. In total, throughout all categories, 10 organizations, curators, scholars and graduate students received $95,000.

The Craft Research Fund grant is peer-reviewed and supports the research and exploration of craft, art and design and fosters a cross-disciplinary approach to scholarship in the craft field.

Treacy and Pigford started their research in 2011 with the Vista Sans Wood Type Project, in which they investigated the idea of high tech and high touch in a collaborative international project. They decided to collaborate towards publishing an illustrated guidebook on the art methods they research to assist other craft artists in embracing new ways of making art in a post-digital world.

“This has been the crux of our research for the last few years,” Pigford said. “Now we will be able to expand our research by including pivotal figures around the country and share our knowledge with many more people.”

“With the advancement of digital technology, there are so many options for art, and we have noticed that people tend to gravitate towards using their hands,” Treacy said. “We want to contribute a shared knowledge of the post-digital methodologies of contemporary craft artists and designers.”

This year, Pigford and Treacy plan to visit studios and conduct interviews with different artists and experts for their book.

The grant is also allowing Treacy and Pigford to hold more workshops at institutions and during professional art and design conferences where they gather research and content for their intended book. They update their website with findings while they work towards completion of the project.

This past summer, senior graphic design student Nicholas Burkhalter helped Treacy with the project in her studio as a student research assistant and traveled with her to TypeCon in Washington, D.C., to participate in the workshops with Pigford. TypeCon is the annual conference presented by the international non-profit Society of Typographic Aficionados.

“We have been exploring the idea of making and researching through workshops where people are creating and collaborating,” Treacy said. “These workshops provide us the opportunity to directly experiment with technologies and our participants’ processes of engaging with them.”

Activities within the workshops range from building an “AlphaBot” where participants build and program a simple, robotic drawing machine to creating letters on a letterpress using custom blocks made on a CNC router.

“In all these workshops we encourage participants to think about the limitations of the tool and its materials and make letters, forms and prints based on the limitations of each tool,” Treacy said.

Treacy and Pigford held a workshop at the Association Typographique Internationale (ATypI) conference in Barcelona, Spain, in September. Their next planned workshop will be at Virginia Commonwealth University on Oct. 22 and will be the first since the grant was awarded.