BadAss HERStory at MODA


by Janelle Miniter, Exhibition Manager at MODA

At MODA,we believe that design inspires change, transforms lives, and makes the world a better place. Not only do our exhibitions celebrate this, but we invite our visitors to actively design change by participating in interactive activities in our exhibits.

During our summer 2018 exhibition, Making Change: The Art and Craft of Activism, MODA showcased how designers, artists, activists, creative thinkers, and many others across the nation are using soft materials to tackle difficult issues. One of the participants featured in the exhibition was Shannon Downey better known as Badass Cross Stitch, whose work became nationally recognized after Vogue highlighted her “Boys will be Boys held accountable for their f__ing actions” embroidery in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein trial.


Shannon’s most ambitious project, Badass HERstory, was featured in Making Change not only as a piece but as an interactive. Shannon and MODA invited exhibitions visitors to sit down and embroider a 12” x 12” square telling their stories and showcasing causes about which they are passionate. Over 140 embroideries were created during the exhibition— all beautifully crafted and addressing a multitude of experiences. Some of the experiences documented included: gender identity, women’s experience in the workplace, and forced mutilation.

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Although MODA’s exhibition is no longer on view, these embroideries will live on alongside Basdass HERstory embroideries being created across the globe and sent to Shannon. As more and more stories are amassed, Shannon will build a team to create large-scale 3-D structures, stitch contributors’ stories together, and use them to skin these structures, creating a massive installation! As Shannon describes, the structures will be analog artifacts. In addition, there will be an online gallery and every piece will be displayed. That will be the digital artifact.

Badass HERstory is ongoing and if you would like to share your story and contribute to this massive global craftivist project you can submit them to Shannon directly. Instructions to do so are provided on her website.

The Welcome Blanket Project at MODA

At MODA — the only design museum in the southeastern United States — we believe that design inspires change, transforms lives, and makes the world a better place.

Our Summer 2018 exhibition, Making Change: The Art and Craft of Activism, explored Craftivism, a movement at the intersection of traditional crafts and social justice activism. The exhibition was curated by Betsy Greer and designed by Susan Sanders.

At MODA, we seek to create immersive exhibitions that prioritize active inquiry over passive observation. During Making Change, we turned our side gallery into a low-tech maker lab and invited visitors to get involved in three different craftivist projects, including The Welcome Blanket Project, designed by Jayna Zweiman, one of the designers of the pink pussy hat worn at the Women’s March in January 2017.

The Welcome Blanket Project invites individuals across the US to hand make a blanket that will serve as a “warm welcome” for an immigrant or refugee newly arrived in America. As a host of Welcome Blanket, MODA partnered with Zweiman to invite individuals across the country (and beyond) to make blankets and send them to the museum.

The response was inspiring! We received hundreds of Welcome Blankets in the mail — sometimes as many as 50 a day. Blanket makers also included a note that welcomed a new neighbor to our country and told their own immigration story. As the blankets poured in, we unpacked them and admired them, then photographed and cataloged each one, and hung them our side gallery for visitors to enjoy.

We rotated the blankets in the gallery often, and when blankets came off the walls, they were packed up and taken to New American Pathways, Friends of Refugees, Catholic Charities Atlanta, Center for the Victims of Torture, and Refugee Services - Lutheran Services of Georgia, organizations that helped us distribute the blankets to individuals and families just arriving in our country.

Every blanket came with a story that was touching, but one that most caught our attention was that of Kay, a refugee from Burma who now makes her life in Georgia. Since arriving in the US, Kay has become part owner of Tandem Quilting and when she heard about The Welcome Blanket Project, she wanted to participate. She created a beautiful blanket and wrote a note of advice for a someone new to the U.S., including a reminder to “be sure to get to know your neighbors.” The back of Kay’s blanket is made of fabric covered in stars, which she intended as a reminder “that you can always find your way through darkness.”

We displayed Kay’s blanket in the Making Change exhibition, then, with the help of Friends of Refugees, it was given to Muna, a Syrian woman who has just arrived in the U.S. with her family. Muna is expecting her second child at the end of this year and is enrolled in Friends of Refugees’ Embrace Refugee Birth Program. Upon receiving the blanket, she wrapped her son in it.

At MODA, we chose to host the Welcome Blanket because of its power to connect people already living in the United States with our country’s new immigrants through stories and handmade blankets, providing both symbolic and literal comfort and warmth. At the same time, the project offers a positive, hands-on way to confront negative rhetoric about immigration and to privilege the idea of inclusion over exclusion.

To learn more about The Welcome Blanket Project — which originated at the Smart Museum at the University of Chicago and will move to other locations — visit

A Welcome blanket contributor.

A Welcome blanket contributor.

campMODA 2017: Stop Motion Animation

MODA's Stop Motion Animation camp gave kids in grades two to four a chance to try out their filmmaking skills this summer! Led by the amazing Ms. Claudia, campers used modeling clay to design characters and bring them to life in a collaborative film that premiered to a crowd of popcorn-eating parents, siblings, and friends.  

Character Creation
To kick off their week in the campMODA studio, campers created characters out of modeling clay, and decided how each character would look, act, and sound.  

Storyboarding and Set Design
Storyboarding and set design were collaborative efforts. Campers mapped out scene sequences for their characters and designed detailed sets. From a volcanic eruption scene to a circus, campers worked hard to bring their stories to life.

Production and Iteration
With their sets in final form, it was time to shoot the film. Campers learned the ins and outs of stop motion animation — from how many still-shots are required to create shorts, to best practices for recording and adding voiceover and music to a final cut.

The Premiere
Two weeks after the camp was held, camper friends and families were invited to a formal movie premiere at MODA where films were screened in front of a live audience for the very first time. At the end of the showing, campers left with a copy of their films, the characters they designed, and a piece of the set to share with their friends. 

What did these silver screen campers learn?

  • They got an introduction to stop motion animation, film making, and ideation
  • They learned about storyboarding and emotion characterization
  • They gained an understanding of character design
  • They worked collaboratively to design and build sets
  • They learned about camera angles and video recording
  • They had the opportunity to learn how to do voiceovers
  • They had an opportunity to use film editing software

Here's one of the films they created:

A very special thanks to the following individuals for their help in making this vision a reality. 
Claudia McClelland, Camp Director
Victoria Rosser, Counselor
Lauren Rausaw, Counselor
Declan Thanner, Counselor
Sejin Kim, Video

The Lemonade Project, Luba Lukova: Designing Justice Tour

Designing Justice

Conversation around the social justice posters currently on view in MODA's Luba Lukova: Designing Justice exhibition collided with themes from Beyonce’s visual albumLemonade last month, creating space for The Lemonade Project attendees to discuss social justice issues that have affected individual lives in unique ways.

Graphic artist, Luba Lukova, began her artistic career designing dynamic posters for a theatre in communist-led Bulgaria, where she was born. Pulling from social justice themes such as censorship and biased media content, The Lemonade Project toured and explored Luba's posters, and built empathy channeled through their own experiences.

We took the conversation to the side gallery, which features three interactive installations meant to spark conversation – perfect for where we were headed. MODA facilitators led open-ended discussion, encouraging attendees to talk about the social justice issues that have impacted their lives. From tracing their stories with multi-colored thread, to grabbing clip boards that pose tough questions off the wall, Lemonade attendees quickly began to physically engage in story telling, analyzing the many ways we can use the design process to create a safe space for important conversations like this.

Conversation turned to life's wants and needs, and how those wants and needs define people as individuals. One younger woman opened up about the anxiety she felt as she watches her friends marry and grow their families. Grandmothers chimed in, offering advice and reflections, and spurred another discussion about embracing what you desire out of life, and not what others tell you.

Bringing it back to Beyonce's Lemonade album, other attendees dissected additional important social justice issues that exist in Bey's collection of work and how we can possibly work to address those issues and design for a better, more accepting future. People then exchanged information, thanked one another, and left the gallery space behind with social justice on their minds.


The Lemonade Project, "The Year of Yes"

The Lemonade Project, “The Year of Yes”

"The Year of Yes” began as a simple phrase association exercise between Tina and I. Building from a previous Lemonade conversation, we wanted this particular session to highlight the times that we have designed ourselves for others. When the user (the one who you are designing for) ceases to be you, and instead, becomes your job, co-workers, family, or friends, you can lose sight of yourself. In promoting yes, we are promoting self actualization."  -Blair Banks

Below, The Lemonade Project participant, Rivka Genesen, describes her experience at "The Year of Yes" session:

For years the first thing I did every morning was fail. I was desperate to become an early morning person who went to the gym before the sun came up so I set an alarm for 5:30 a.m. with the intention of getting to a spin class before the day began. Every day for years I aspired to be a different, fantastical version of myself and every day the first thing I did was reset my alarm clock when it rang out, resigned and defeated. Resolutions became premeditated self-loathing, so I adopted a policy of “no expectations.”

In the fourth session of The Lemonade Project, “The Year of Yes,” we set the foundation for the conversation with introductions (our names, which sometimes meant what the people who really know us call us, and an interesting fact). The intention was set at the start of the evening and truly adhered to- The Lemonade Project is meant to be a space for honest dialogue about race, gender, and class. Before we could talk about our resolutions after all, we needed an accurate appraisal of who we actually are and who we pretend to be. Do we trade in energy the time we spend at trying to remove our otherness and make ourselves “acceptable”?

We checked our bags, literally, for evidence, for relics of the past or for how we want to be seen by other. What do we carry with us, who do we carry with us? I’ve carried physical totems- a gym bag, phone numbers not dialed in years (or ever), and endless CVS receipts lining the bottom of my overlarge purse. What would it mean to cast off the weight of the books hauled from place to place but never read, to delete the numbers we choose not to call, let go of the friendships that grow increasingly toxic?

If I am ok with an evolving me, then I don’t need a new year as an excuse to morph into someone better and I can let go of that old January  “new year, new me” mentality. Instead I can make like Shonda Rhimes and set an intention to have a “year of yes.” Is “yes” an agreement to letting go of what no longer works? Maybe “yes” sounds like a no to other people. Maybe “yes” comes with judgment.

What is your “yes”? 

The Lemonade Project, “The Right to Feel”

My daily inner monologue often starts with questions. 

What should I wear to work? Did I remember to lock the front door? Where are my notes? What’s for dinner? 

These questions are familiar. We ask them, and will continue to ask them throughout our lifetime as a natural part of our human experience. Yet, in their comfort lie deeper and more philosophical questions – the hidden gems that appear in brief glimpses of genius. I happened upon one this weekend, as I reflected upon the latest session of The Lemonade Project.

‘Can we use design to simplify or break down the complex emotions we as humans feel?’

On the surface, the act of feeling should be easy. It’s a pretty straightforward process – you feel, and then react accordingly. Yet, the act of feeling, and the outward expression of how you feel can be a strenuous task. For women, and especially women of color, emoting is subject to being policed. Have an opinion about a social matter? Well, you’re just “angry” or “sensitive” about the topic on hand. Have to make an important decision? Well, your skills may be questioned due your “irrationality” as a woman. Instances like these taint the beauty of expression, and complicate the simplicity of feeling.

In naming the third session of The Lemonade Project “You Got A Right to Be Mad” we put our own personal stake on the ‘emotional battleground’. Rather than disassociate from our emotions, we broke them down. As a community, we put into words what made us angry and placed them on the wall in an array of blue, purple, pink, orange, and yellow sticky notes. Rapidly firing off our thoughts, a variety of concerns materialized on the wall opposite the MODA logo in the lobby of the museum. We made connections between various phobias, systemic inequalities, and personal traumas, offering up personal experiences to complement the scripted concerns.

As we encompassed that moment, we exercised an unalienable right. Harkening back to 18th century US History, the first amendment of the United States Constitution grants freedom of speech and expression. As human beings, we have an innate right to experience the totality of our emotions without the policing of others. What would occur if we did? Would the reward of doing so outweigh the risk?

‘Can we use design to simplify or break down the complex emotions we as humans feel?’

It can certainly create a space to start the process, and offer up new solutions.

-Blair Banks, MODA Education Coordinator & Design Club Manager

The Lemonade Project, "Birthing as Resistance"

“Birthing as Resistance”

“Type ‘girls’ into the search engine and describe what you see.”

Set in the darkened auditorium of our Midtown neighbors, the Alliance Française d’Atlanta, a group of men and women attending The Lemonade Project Session Two faced a projection screen. With cell phone in hand, they searched for images of men, boys, girls, and women, as similar screenshots from a Google search appeared before them.

“I see mostly women.”

“There’s only one girl, and she looks out of place.”

Observations rang out into the air, often met with nods of agreement and collective musing, as we journeyed through a meaningful collaborative exercise showcasing the media’s role in our own socialization and the conceptualization of ourselves.

Yet, before socialization lays claim to us, we are born. Merriam-Webster defines birth as the emergence of a new individual from the body of its parent. But, what does birthing truly mean? Can it only be used in reference to the relationship between a living thing, and its parent? Can it inhabit more?

At MODA, we present design in all of it forms, including redesign. What if we could radically transform birthing as a process that we can do for ourselves? What if, in the process of birthing, we could design our own self-concept that encourages the blossoming of our true selves? What if birthing became an act of resistance against prejudice?

As we exchanged stories that November night, we slowly chipped away at the lessons society taught us in our youths. We took steps together towards our own rebirths, and began the long journey towards designing social justice for both ourselves and our communities.

-Blair Banks, MODA Education Coordinator and Design Club Manager

The Lemonade Project, Kick-Off

Get In Formation.

MODA is no stranger to radical ideas and out-of-the-box conversations about design’s capacity to solve problems, transform lives, and make the world a better place. So, naturally, no one was surprised to find a printed copy of Beyonce’s Lemonade Syllabus laying on a round marble table in the office of Laura Flusche, MODA's Executive Director, one morning.

Fast forward through expansive conversations about Beyonce’s visual album and all of the design decisions that went into producing something so spectacular, juxtaposed with conversation about our need to design for social justice — that's how the Lemonade Project was born at MODA. Before we knew it we had a timeline, one rallying around fearless leaders Blair Banks and Ariana Hamilton, and a launch plan for 12 months of Lemonade activation. This program marks a year-long effort to design an open and accepting space for conversation and action intended to advance social justice in Atlanta.

With the announcement of the Lemonade Project, the MODA team opened registration for three sessions to be held in October, November, and December 2016. In just a few days, all the sessions sold out. Moving quickly from a 200 seat lecture hall to a 400 seat theatre, MODA opened up the wait list for Session One in order to accommodate as many people as possible, and kicked off the project with a screening of the visual album followed by breakout conversations dedicated to the themes that inform the chapters of Lemonade. Being in that room, watching Lemonade on the big screen, and being a part of the conversation that followed was nothing short of amazing. And just like that, the beyhive was In Formation.

MODA Design Club

The Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) believes that design solves problems, transforms lives, and makes the world a better place – and it also believes that kids are great problem-solvers because they see the world with fresh eyes and vivid imagination. MODA’s classes, camps, and family activities are designed to help kids fall in love with the problem-solving power of design and to empower youth to use design thinking to face the real world challenges they encounter in everyday life.

In order to teach these skills to as many metro-Atlanta children as possible, MODA offers a free membership to any child, 0 – 17 of age, who walks through their front door. Memberships are valid until a child turns 18, and provide a wide variety of benefits that keep kids learning about design:

  1. A free personalized membership card

  2. Unlimited free exhibition admission (and free admission for an adult of their choice)

  3. Inspiring newsletters featuring design challenges kids can do at home

  4. Invitations to invite-only Design Club activities all year round

In support of this revolutionary program, MODA joined forces with HOW Design Live in Atlanta. At MODA’s How Design Live booth – marked by colorful towers that are part of the playful Design Club brand, created by Atlanta firms Primal Screen and Son & Sons – HOW Design Live attendees made donations in support of Design Club and were invited to participate in the “LEGO Selfie Challenge” where they were asked to build representations of themselves using only the iconic, colorful blocks as their medium.

Participants included some of the design world’s superstars, like Steff Geissbuhler, Ken Carbone, Brian Singer, and Chip Kidd (who returned to the booth several times to make gentle adjustments to his LEGO hair). The Atlanta design community rallied around the effort, using MODA’s rally cry, “We Want More Design, Atlanta,” to encourage peers from across the world to support this important initiative.

HOW Design Live LEGO Selfies: