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Nick Tobier

Professor, School of Art & Design; Senior Counsel to the Provost on Civic Engagement

Nick Tobier is a professor at U-M’s Stamps School of Art & Design and senior counsel to the provost on civic engagement. Prior to his appointment at the School of Art & Design in 2003, Tobier spent four years as assistant professor at the School of Art at Alfred. From 1996 to 1998, he studied landscape architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and subsequently worked in professional practice at Landworks Studio/Boston and the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation/ Bronx Division as a designer. He served as project manager for Storefront for Art and Architecture, writing critical essays, facilitating public projects, and coordinating international competitions as he conducted broad-thinking explorations of architecture and urban space beyond expected function.

A native New Yorker, Tobier is a participant-observer of street life and the social life of public places. These inherently layered scenarios are at the core of his work, and Tobier’s practice and pedagogy reflect his belief in the power of social dynamism and the fundamental role of the artist/designer as catalyst and conduit in this relationship. Through individual and collective work, Tobier’s interest in the potential of public places has manifested itself in built public projects and actions in San Francisco, Detroit, and New York, internationally from Toronto to Tokyo, Brussels to Medellin, in exhibitions at MOMA, The Smithsonian, The Queens Museum Kunsthalle Nikolaj/Copenhagen, at The Edinburgh, Minneapolis and Philadelphia Fringe Festivals and, at the Prague Quadrennial. Project sites include bus stops, flea markets, laundromats, and car washes and include the entrepreneurial design ventures, F.O.O.D. (Field of Our Dreams), Brightmoor Bikes, and the Brightmoor Maker Space. He is also the author of a series of critical and speculative writings on design, and city space, including, with Juliane Stiegele, the forthcoming Utopia Toolbox (2016) and Looping Detroit, 2017.

In his current research and teaching, Tobier focuses on collaborative projects in the public realm. These efforts have included partnerships with furniture designers, bakers, farmers; critical and celebratory involvements between artists, designers and broad communities; and a commitment to lasting partnerships working with creative individuals and communities from Detroit to Ishinomaki.

MFA Bard College; BA Swarthmore College.