International Visual Literacy Association Conference to Open Eight Innovators’ Keynotes to the Public

Innovators from fields as varied as medicine, film and education will convene at the Toledo Museum of Art for a series of keynote lectures about the rise of visual language.

Free and open to the public, the presentations are part of The Art of Seeing: From Ordinary to Extraordinary, the 47th annual conference of the International Visual Literacy Association (IVLA), which is being hosted by the Museum Nov. 5-8.

“We’ve made a concerted effort to offer these lectures free of charge to the public, as another way of furthering our purpose of art education for all,” said Museum Director Brian Kennedy. “This is a group of people who, though they come from very disparate fields, share a forward-thinking approach to their work. They have used visual language to advance disciplines from medicine to education. What they have to say is crucial as we navigate a world where people have begun to communicate with pictures as frequently as with words.”

Beyond the keynote lectures, The Art of Seeing: From Ordinary to Extraordinary brings together researchers, educators, museum professionals, artists, business thought leaders and the general public during sessions about the rise of visual language in an increasingly image-saturated, digital world. Admission to these paid conference sessions is available by registering at

IVLA is the oldest not-for-profit consortium of researchers, educators, artists, media professionals and designers dedicated to the study of visual literacy. The 47th IVLA conference is sponsored in part by Christie’s and the University of Toledo College of Communication and The Arts and in partnership with the University of Toledo. Additional support comes from Mr. and Mrs. David K. Welles Jr., Sara Jane and Bill DeHoff, and ProMedica.

Keynote lecturers and the dates, times and locations of their speeches are listed below.

Anthropologist David Howes

Nov. 6: 9 a.m., Peristyle

David Howes is a professor of anthropology and the director of the Concordia Centre for Sensory Studies at Concordia University, Montreal. He holds three degrees in anthropology and two degrees in law. His research focuses on how senses are formed by culture and what the world is like to societies that emphasize touch or hearing rather than sight. Howes has conducted field research on the cultural life of the senses in Papua New Guinea, Northwestern Argentina and the Southwestern United States. He recently concluded an anthropological study of the “sensory life of things” in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, and embarked on a new media art project titled “Mediations of Sensation” in collaboration with colleague Christopher Salter. His latest book, co-authored with Constance Classen, is “Ways of Sensing: Understanding the Senses in Society.”

Artist Magdalene Odundo

Nov. 6: 3 p.m., Peristyle

International ceramic artist Magdalene Odundo is known for her distinct hand-built anthropomorphic vessel forms. Odundo is an expert in the history of pottery and its meaning to societies through the ages, her own work being inspired by the creations of Nigerian and Kenyan potters of the past. In 2008 she was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in recognition of her contribution to education and the arts. That same year, she was also the recipient of the African Art Recognition Award from the Detroit Institute of Arts. In 2012 she was awarded the African Heritage outstanding achievement in the arts and in 2013 an honorary doctorate from the University of Florida, Gainesville, for her global contribution to education and research in the ceramics arts. Her work is included in national and international public and private collections.

Plastic Surgeon Joseph Rosen

Nov. 7: 9 a.m., Peristyle

Dartmouth Medical School plastic surgeon and professor Joseph Rosen, through his specialty in polytrauma (multiple devastating injuries), examines the role of the face as an essential part of the human identity. His reconstructive work on patients who have suffered devastating injuries from bullets, bombs, infection and disease has led him to his role as a U.S. Department of Defense department consultant on a team evaluating uses for regenerative medicine and transplantation for wounded soldiers. His diverse interests include biomedical engineering, international medical relief work and virtual reality stimulators in education.

Museum Educator Philip Yenawine

Nov. 7: 2:15 p.m., Peristyle

Philip Yenawine has been engaged in museum education for 30 years, 10 of them spent as director of education at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. He writes with a focus on connecting people to art, especially children. He is co-founding director (with cognitive psychologist Abigail Housen) of Visual Understanding in Education, a non-profit educational research organization that develops and studies programs using art to teach thinking and communication skills. In 1993, Yenawine was awarded the National Art Education Association’s Award of Distinguished Service. His most recent book, published in October 2013, is titled “Visual Thinking Strategies: Using Art to Deepen Learning Across School Disciplines.”

Comic Book Artist and Educator Nick Sousanis

Nov. 7: 3:40 p.m., GlasSalon

Nick Sousanis received his doctorate in education at Teachers College, Columbia University in 2014, where he wrote and drew his dissertation entirely in comic book form. Titled “Unflattening,” the work’s form embodies its argument for the importance of visual thinking in teaching and learning. A book version will be published by Harvard University Press in March of 2015. Before coming to New York City, he was immersed in Detroit’s thriving arts community, where he co-founded the arts and cultural site and became the biographer of legendary Detroit artist Charles McGee. He furthers his advocacy for the comic book medium as a powerful tool for thought in comics courses he developed and taught at Teachers College and at Parsons in New York City.

Documentary Filmmaker Stephen Apkon

Nov. 8: 9 a.m., Peristyle

In 1999, following a career in merchant banking, Stephen Apkon founded the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, N.Y., with a vision of establishing a hub for independent, foreign and documentary films and education. The JBFC has grown to become a major cultural destination and a national leader in the field of visual literacy. Since 2001, the JBFC’s education programs, which incorporate film programming and production experiences into the curriculum, have reached 120,000 children, more than 50% of them from underserved communities. More recently, the social entrepreneur is the founder and CEO of Chakana Media, Inc., a newly formed documentary production company that is developing films focused on critical societal issues. Apkon is the author of “The Age of the Image: Redefining Literacy in a World of Screens.”

Educator Lynell Burmark

Nov. 8: 11:50 a.m., Little Theater

Winner of Stanford University’s prestigious Walter Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching, Lynell Burmark is a passionate advocate of using visuals to better educate students of all ages. Burmark’s extensive teaching experience spans kindergarten through graduate school, while her visually enhanced presentations inspire educators across the globe. Her latest book, “They Snooze, You Lose,” expands on Burmark’s previous work, “Visual Literacy: Learn to See, See to Learn” with new research and more practical applications.

Artist Aminah Robinson

Nov. 8: 3 p.m., Peristyle

Combining traditional art materials with found objects such as buttons, cloth, leather, twigs, shells and music box workings, Columbus, Ohio, artist Aminah Robinson creates two- and three-dimensional works of art, including books and rag paintings. Many of them are about her family, community and the stories she has been told by her elders. She also researches and depicts the lives of abolitionists, civil rights leaders, musicians and writers. Robinson’s art is grounded in her belief in the African concept of Sankofa, which means learning from the past in order to move forward. She has taken extended journeys to various countries in Africa, as well as New York City, Sapelo Island, Georgia, Israel and Chile. Her work is in many private collections and museums, including the Columbus Museum of Art, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Tacoma Art Museum and the Toledo Museum of Art. She is also a MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient.

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