Anja Isphording
Heller Gallery


SOFA CHICAGO, the world’s premier art fair dedicated to Sculpture, Objects and Functional Art and Design, announces six of the country’s top design universities will compete in this year’s CONNECT design competition. Now in its 21st year, SOFA CHICAGO is the longest continuously running art fair in the city, featuring more than 70 of the world’s top galleries at Navy Pier, November 7 – 9, with an Opening Night Preview on November 6. 

Posted 23 September 2014

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Following a successful launch in 2013, CONNECT highlights innovative design occurring at top universities including this year’s participants: Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago, IL), Pratt Institute (Brooklyn, NY); University of California, Davis (Davis, CA); University of Cincinnati - College of Design/Architecture/Art and Planning (Cincinnati, OH); University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA), and University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (Dartmouth, MA).
CONNECT offers students working under the supervision of faculty, the opportunity to create a 576-square foot environment that incorporates seating, lighting and installations, located throughout SOFA CHICAGO with the intention of offering an intimate space where attendees can sit, relax and CONNECT. The international audience that attends SOFA CHICAGO is able to get an up-close and personal look at the innovation and creativity that is currently taking place at some of the country’s top design schools.
The winning installation, which will be chosen by the CONNECT jury during the SOFA CHICAGO Opening Preview, will be awarded $3500 by Chubb Personal Insurance. Additionally, all six schools have the amazing opportunity to submit a proposal for a unique design to be created in glass by the Corning Museum of Glass (CMOG). Three designs will be chosen, with the top design selected by CMOG to be created onsite at a Hot Glass Roadshow demonstration during SOFA CHICAGO. The winning student designers will join CMOG’s expert glass makers on stage to experience the process first-hand. The three top designs will be showcased on the Fair floor. Design proposals submitted this year will represent the strength and resilience of Chicago, playing on the core themes of industry, sustainability and water. “Introducing designers to the material of glass has been a focus for our museum for several years, so we’re excited to offer these design students the opportunity to experience the versatility, immediacy, and excitement of the material,” said Eric Meek, Hot Glass Show Supervisor, Corning Museum of Glass. “Our talented team of glassmakers looks forward to work with the winning students to realize their ideas, an experience which demystifies glass and adds to their material vocabulary.”
Following is a summary of participating schools CONNECT presentations:
The Illinois Institute of Technology’s CONNECT exhibit will focus on creating a prototype for a future Chicago Neighborhood Gathering Spot. "The Illinois Institute of Technology is very excited to participate in SOFA CHICAGO again this year,” explains John DeSalvo, AIA, Associate Professor, IIT.  “Envisioned as part of ‘Nowness,’ the College of Architecture's approach centered on re-thinking the metropolis. The IIT student team will design an installation as a public space, representing a gathering spot for the neighborhood. Students will explore the architect’s role in the making of a neighborhood. How can public space become a catalyst for the neighborhood? What new activities will emerge with cultural changes and technological advancements? Can we design new prototypes for public spaces in the City? How will the city of the future be re-shaped by these potential projects?" The space will provide both a seating element for a variety of at rest positions, flexible in nature as to accommodate a multitude of users. Materials will include paper, plastic or wood. Video of the design process will be projected as a backdrop.
Last year’s winning CONNECT school, Pratt Institute will debut an exhibition inspired by the topographic landscape of the city of Chicago, showcasing orthogonal grid lines of the city and the organic curvature of the soft water’s edge. “The proposed lounge aims to connect SOFA CHICAGO visitors to the surrounding city (conceptually, with the layout inspired by the varied topography of Chicago), and to the Pratt community in Brooklyn (materially, by constructing the lounge utilizing byproducts and surplus material from everyday construction—orange construction mesh, and gray and white felt sourced from a local industrial stamp press),” explains Deborah Schneiderman, Associate Professor of Interior Design, Pratt Institute.
The University of California/Davis will unveil “Think Davis” at CONNECT. Think Davis is comprised of a cluster of light emitting chairs, connected by a translucent canopy. The chairs will be organized over a printed map, showing the array of recent projects at Davis, highlighting the collaboration of art and design. “We’re thrilled to participate in CONNECT at SOFA CHICAGO. It’s a great opportunity for design students at UC Davis both to showcase the innovative work they are doing, as well as to share the stage with esteemed colleagues,” said Brett Snyder, Assistant Professor, University of California Davis. “Our installation, Think Davis, is premised on the types of opportunities that a high caliber research institution offers to the contemporary design department. While celebrating the cross-disciplinary collaborations unique to our university, CONNECT offers a chance to engage the broader design community and beyond.” The exhibition will be complemented by an online manual that allows SOFA CHICAGO guests to download their own think spaces.
“The University of Cincinnati’s CONNECT space will explore how technology, design and architecture can be synergized to address humanitarian need in our era,” explains Stephen Slaughter, Associate Professor, University of Cincinnati. “The students of the University of Cincinnati design school will also be highlighting the larger humanitarian and public interest design projects DAAPcares features. DAAPcares is a student group within the University that investigates, promotes and provides design services to those traditionally underserved. Since being chosen as a participating university, we have been working diligently to design and craft an exhibition that will showcase all that the College is doing in the areas of design research, both digitally and manually, for improving the quality of life for individuals and underserved communities.  Our inspiration is ‘need’ and our aim is to use design and design practice to improve the condition of human existence.”
The University of Iowa 3D Design Program will be creating an environment for CONNECT that reflects the university’s educational practices and research, with a focus on student growth and transformation. Students translated this idea into an installation which encompasses students and seeds alike relying on one another for developmental growth. This welcoming space will encourage visitors to relax and absorb the environment, with suspended orb lights, with several seating areas that are derived from smaller round structures to create a comfortable and inviting surface for visitors to connect within the space. “The University of Iowa 3D Design program is delighted to participate for the second time in CONNECT at SOFA CHICAGO,” said Monica Correia, Associated Professor of 3D Design, University of Iowa. “The initiative to promote through a student design competition with interaction between academia and prestigious art and design galleries is unique and admirable. We are honored to be part of it.”
The students of University of Massachusetts Dartmouth have envisioned a CONNECT presentation that is tied directly to the historic roots of New Bedford, Massachusetts.  The Star Store, UMass Dartmouth’s Artisanry building, which houses the four programs of Ceramics, Metals, Fibers, and Wood, is located in the heart of New Bedford.  The small city, with its rich history, lamppost-lined cobblestone streets, captains’ mansions, and long-standing historic sites, is as scenic as it is inspirational.  Using New Bedford’s “City of Light” motto as its model, and the massive quantities of oil its whaling industry produces that once lit street lamps and homes in the South Coast and around the world, the design department of University of Massachusetts has re-imagined the streetlights that line much of New Bedford as its building blocks. The modular blocks will serve as benches, lampposts, walls, and shelving. “The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Artisanry proposal is the essence of “connection;” the designers have integrated the metaphorical implications of the term “City of Light” with the cycles of New Bedford’s economic, artistic, and physical histories,” said Osman Emre Bagdatoglu, Coordinator of Graduate Studies for the College of Visual and Performing Arts at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. “The lampposts that line our city’s streets are the starting point for a conceptual journey that encompasses industries old and new, re-purposed materials, and re-imagined functions and locations. The completed CONNECT project will be both an oasis of light and an oasis of artistry.”
Now celebrating its tenth year with the fair, Chubb Personal Insurance is a sponsor of CONNECT. “As the leading insurer of privately held fine art collections worldwide, Chubb is proud to again sponsor the CONNECT exhibition and competition," said Kathleen Tierney, Chief Operating Officer of Chubb Personal Insurance. "Through SOFA, Chubb is able to give students the opportunity to showcase their artwork and reward the schools that help them to develop their talents."
SOFA CHICAGO is open Friday and Saturday 11 am – 7 pm; and Sunday 12 pm – 6pm. Tickets are available in advance or at the door, and they allow access to all aspects of SOFA CHICAGO. Tickets are $20 for general admission; $30 for three-day pass. Students and seniors (with ID), and groups (10 or more) are $15. For advance ticket sales visit
For more information about CONNECT or SOFA CHICAGO, please visit or call 800.563.SOFA (7632).

Amber Cowan
Heller Gallery

Lino Tagliapietra: 7-piece Fenice installation, 2014; glass, 21.75 x 44 x 13.5”
Photo by Russell Johnson, represented by Schantz Galleries

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