The Wolfsonian-FIU launches Power of Design festival

The “Power of Design 2014: Complaints” project will unite participants in a milestone event March 20-23, using art and design to highlight community challenges and initiate collective problem-solving. The event is presented by The Wolfsonian–FIU and WLRN in partnership with the Miami Herald, with $200,000 in support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

This is the inaugural year of the event that focuses on design’s role in transforming society. The festival seeks to engage the community by exploring the relevance of ideas embedded in the museum’s collection. “Power of Design 2014: Complaints” will bring together change-makers, thought leaders and visionaries from multiple fields for lively discussions, presentations, performances, exhibitions and more. The event is not intended to focus simply on complaints, but on what comes next: action, innovation and collective problem-solving.

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“‘Power of Design’ is not a gripe fest. Instead, it’s a solutions think tank,” said Cathy Leff, The Wolfsonian’s director. “The theme of complaints allows us to connect a way of interpreting our collection to the issues and events of our time, and to engage in a conversation with and about our community. The Wolfsonian’s collection—from the Arts and Crafts movement, which was a complaint against industrialization, to the propaganda posters of the 20th century—provides a wonderful context for understanding the role that art and design play both in giving voice to and responding to complaints.”

“By organizing the community around art and design, this event provides a forum to spark connections and innovation,” said Matt Haggman, Knight Foundation program director for Miami. “It adds to Miami’s growing momentum as a place where ideas are built and solutions are crafted by a community with a common stake in its progress.”

“Power of Design 2014: Complaints” kicks-off on Thursday, March 20, with a reception that will feature a new exhibition and an installation at The Wolfsonian. The exhibition, “Complaints! An Inalienable Right,” is curated by design historian and author Steven Heller and will include original posters by well-known designers. The installation, “BUMMER,” is drawn from The Wolfsonian’s collection and curated by designer Todd Oldham. Additionally, the Complaints Choir will perform at the reception; the choir, made up of students from the FIU School of Music, sets selected complaints to music and is part of an international movement of similar choirs.

Highlights of the program will be: novelist and public radio host Kurt Andersen as master of ceremonies; political humorist Andy Borowitz on how humor helps complaints get heard and how political humor can spur political change; group discussions with renowned experts on topics that will include cities, air travel and watchdog journalism; a hands-on program for children led by Oldham; a dialogue between Pulitzer Prize–winning author Michael Chabon, virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier, and Wired magazine powerhouse Clive Thompson exploring challenges and opportunities of the digital age, co-curated by Intelligence Squared (London).

Several satellite events and initiatives will complement “Power of Design,” including “Solve This Miami,” in which local organizations focused on solving community problems can compete for a $25,000 grant provided by The Wolfsonian; the competition is organized by the Miami Herald. Additional events include a student charrette conducted by FIU students addressing an urban issue on Miami Beach, a film festival organized by Miami Beach Cinematheque, and a series of original plays—“Quejas”—presented by Microtheater Miami at the Spanish Cultural Center. Organizing partners WLRN and the Miami Herald will produce content related to the theme of complaints and solutions.

“Power of Design 2014: Complaints” will take place at The Wolfsonian’s historic headquarters on Miami Beach, along with other locations in Miami. Selected events will be free to the public. Tickets for the full series of events are $1,000 and are available through The Wolfsonian. For questions or to purchase a ticket, contact 305-535-2625 or

See the “Power of Design” website for a full schedule of events and more.

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