Creative, innovative collaborations key to Oxford Kinetics Festival's success

By Susan Meikle, University News and Communications,

The success of the annual Oxford Kinetics Festival is made possible by the many collaborations of Miami students and faculty with members of the Talawanda School District and Oxford, Butler County and Greater Cincinnati communities. 

The festival has grown exponentially since it began in 2010. Last year, the number of participants doubled to 2,200 from around 1,000 in 2013, said artist Kate Currie (Miami '93), festival co-director with Rod Northcutt, assistant professor of art.


A 2014 collaboration: Stephanie Niro, theatre and history double
major, and Sarah Gilmore, art education major (pictured
above), worked on a semester-long project with the Big
Brothers/Big Sisters of Butler County at Kramer Elementary
School to develop an original shadow puppet play (photo by
Scott Kissell).

MAKETANK Inc. is a nonprofit led by Northcutt that administers the Oxford Kinetics Festival and year-round programming involving art and STEM education.

"Our focus is on skill-sharing, building community through creative programming and giving individuals confidence in their creativity," Northcutt said. "Many projects feature STEAM (STEM + Art) learning and cross-discipline learning and are designed to compliment initiatives for Miami's Year of Creativity and Innovation," Northcutt said.

Peg Faimon, chair and professor of art, and co-chair with Glenn Platt for Miamideas: Inspiring creativity + innovation, said "During the 2015-16 academic year the Miami community will highlight and enhance creativity and innovation. … Through 'Miamideas,' we will engage faculty, staff, students, community members, alumni and various partners to build on what we are already doing and to create opportunities for the future. The Oxford Kinetics Festival will be one of the highlighted events for the year."

This year the Oxford Kinetics Festival, "Flight of the Flyer," will be held noon-5 p.m. Sunday, April 19, at Millett Hall. The festival — free and open to all — includes activities for all ages.

A sampling of those activities with Miami collaborations includes:

Crossing Disciplines:  Miami students collaborate with Talawanda students


Shadow puppet rehearsal (photo by
Scott Kissell).

STEAM Club: Alex Mains, senior math education major, and Elizabeth Hilgenberg, senior art education major, help lead the MAKETANK/Talawanda Middle School STEAM club that meets weekly at TMS. Students will showcase their robotics projects at the festival. They are advised by Todd Edwards, associate professor of teacher education, and Northcutt.

Space Quest: Kelsey Kirkpatrick, senior chemistry and political science double major, and Chloe Smith, junior middle education major, coordinate the MAKETANK/Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Butler County Space Quest program that meets weekly at Kramer Elementary School. The group has been creating planetary systems that will be displayed and performed at the festival. They are advised by Jennifer Blue, associate professor of physics, and Stephanie Danker, assistant professor of art.

Miami faculty and student collaborations for the festival

Theatre: Theatre faculty Ann Elizabeth Armstrong and Melanie Mortimore are working with students who overlap their Theater for Social Change and Puppetry classes to create a project for the Kinetics Festival.

Music: Per Bloland, assistant professor of composition, is working with students to create music and coordinate sound for the festival.


  • Larry Collins, Tracy Featherstone, Nick Scrimenti and Northcutt have each organized their 3-D foundations classes around projects for the Kinetics Festival — including working with kinetic music and building "launching" contraptions to compete for distance and accuracy at the festival.
  • Jon Yamashiro is working with photography students to coordinate documentation.
  • Stephanie Danker's Intro to Art Education class formed two teams to create children's events for the festival as a class project.
  • The National Art Education Association of Miami is hosting Bernoulli craft workshops before and during the festival.
  • The Miami chapter of the American Association of Graphic Artists is hosting a flight-related button-making workshop at the festival.
Miami-Oxford community collaborations: Kinetics workshops, film festival


A participant in the MAKETANK/Contemporary Arts Center
Rocket Man/Rocket Woman workshop shows off his creation
(photo by Kate Currie).

Rob Donato, senior art major, has coordinated and led the Saturday how-to workshops leading up to the festival. MAKETANK Inc. hosted the workshops, providing design consultation, welding instruction and materials (including bicycles) for groups and individuals to build their own original creations to use as race vehicles in the festival.

Greg Loring, graduate student in sculpture, created and organized the public, multi-venue film festival, the "Next Kinetic Picture Show-A Cinematic Kick-Off for the Oxford Kinetics Festival" that will be screened Saturday night uptown.  

Regional collaborations

Currie and Northcutt led a wearable sculpture art workshop ("Rocket Man/Rocket Woman") this month for children at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati. Participants will display their creations at the festival.

The Kenton County Coders and Makers Club will present a project for children at the festival, through a connection with MAKETANK, and various clubs and school groups from Butler County have taken advantage of the free Saturday how-to workshops to build kinetic, people-powered vehicles for competing in the festival's races.

Kinetics and creativity at the art museum

Jason Shaiman, curator of exhibitions at the Miami University Art Museum, is curating two shows for the Year of Creativity and Innovation that are based on kinetic art: one from the museum's collection and local Miami-affiliated sculptors and one from Miami students as part of a response exhibition

"Over its short history the OKF has grown into a widely impactful event that engages and inspires a diverse community from the region, teaching everyone who participates that creativity is central to the enrichment of all our lives," Faimon said.