Diane Willow

In casual conversations, when I say that I am an artist, the follow up to the initial question posed as “what do you do” is typically “what kind of art do you make”. After years of trying to succinctly explain my work as a multi-modal artist, I developed my version of an elevator speech. My response is that I create new work by any medium necessary. This has become a mantra of sorts, a description of my process and an affirmation of an art practice that moves fluidly among media, material, site, and discipline - commonly appropriating and recontextualizing the modalities germane to architecture, science and technology. By Any Medium Necessary is also the title of a book in process with which I center artistic visions and the innovations and inventions made by women identified artists to realize them.

Seemingly divergent perspectives converge in my practice of art as a socially engaged mode of tuning our attention to common occurrences in everyday places. Focused on art as experience, my work takes form as an invitation to engage with people as choreographers of their experience of art. Informed by contemporary views of nature, technology, and community, I explore the subtle ways that we express empathy with one another, with other life forms, with sensing objects, and with responsive environments. My approach repositions a view of contemplation that is generally perceived of as solitary and removed from the flow of life into one that sparks a sense connection and community.

I have had the good fortune to be an Osher Fellow at the Exploratorium, Artist in Residence at MIT, Guest Professor of New Media Art at the Beijing Film Academy, Visiting Professor at the MIT Media Lab, and Creative CityMaking artist with the City of Minneapolis. I choose to work with diverse groups of people, emerging technologies, my hands, and my imagination. A creative and inclusive thinker, I focus on the personal as well as the collective, the ecology of the part and the whole. I am confident in my ability to translate ideas into experiences. I prefer exploring how we can respond together rather than asking if we can respond.

By necessity and passion, I have initiated and participated in many forms of interdisciplinary collaboration including: Improvising Ecosystems with visual and performance artists, musicians, composers, dancers, and scientists, Biologically Motivated with architects, artists and biologists, Wonder Women: Art & Technology 1968-2008 a symposium with a related exhibition Culturing Nature :: Culturing Technology at the University of Minnesota and the Walker Arts Center, Arts Afloat, a series of collaborations with children and youth creating floating sculptures in neighborhood swimming pools and in a collaboration with the Dragon Boat Festival on the Charles River, as well as a curated public exhibition in Boston Harbor, Creative CityMaking with neighborhood groups and city planners in Minneapolis, and Digital Dialogues: Technology and the Hand, a studio-based symposium that I curated, while at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge Massachusetts, in collaboration with Haystack Mountain School on Deer Isle Maine.

Currently I am leading ArTeS, an art + technology + science initiative that centers the arts at the university of Minnesota while systematically creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive network and exchange among disciplines essential to the foundation of the ArTeS initiative.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • MAS (Media Arts and Sciences) / M.S.Vis. (Visual Studies) thesis: Gardening the Elements in a Landscape of Technology: Center For Advanced Visual Studies, Massachsetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1992.

Curriculum Vitae


  • interdisciplinary collaborations
  • interactive art
  • sound art
  • public art
  • participatory culture
  • community collaboration
  • responsive environments
  • poetic interplay of nature, technology and community
  • interactive, socially engaged, contemplative environments
  • creative inquiry and artistic expression with emerging media
  • playful explorations :: new modes, new materials, new media
Courses Taught
  • ARTS 5670 - Interdisciplinary Collaborations
  • ARTS 3240/5610 - New Media : Making Art Interactive
  • ARTS 3230/5650 - Sound Art
  • ARTS 1905 BioArt: Culturing Life in collaboration with Professor Neil Olszewski, Plant and Microbial Biology
  • ARTS 1905 Trangenic Art in collaboration with Neil Olszewski, Plant Biology
  • ARTS 1905 Place Matters: Seeing the Mississippi
  • ARCH 5110-005 Architecture as Catalyst, Ephemeral Facades: The Matter of Resilience
  • ARCH 3250-006 Seeing, Sensing and Representing the Mississippi, BDA Workshop
  • EE 4951W-001 - Senior Design Project, Co-Faculty
  • HSEM 3050H - Wonder Women: Art & Technology 1968 -2008
Research & Professional Activities

Professional Activities

  • Global Community Bio-Summit 3.0: This global, community-centered, biotechnology initiative, is hosted by the MIT Media Lab, dedicated to open source practices and collaborative knowledge creation. , October 11, 2019 - October 13, 2019
  • Biologically Motivated Symposium [April 29, 2016] and Symposium Publication: Lead author of Introductory Essay and faculty collaborator , July 2015 - June 2016
  • MIT Media Lab • High-Low Tech: Visiting Associate Professor , September, 2012 - May, 2013
  • MIT • Maseeh Hall : Scholar in Residence , September, 2012 - January, 2013
  • Beijing Film Academy, Beijing, China: Guest Professor of New Media , September, 2010 - June, 2012
  • National Symposium: Digital Provocations: Evolving Computational Approaches to Pedagogy & Practice : Keynote Lecture: “Fringe Dwelling: Lingering in Multimodal, Ambidextrous, and Hybrid Ways of Knowing“ , April 12, 2012
  • Stanford University Art + Design Lecture Series: Invited Lecture: Ambient Sites , November 10, 2011
  • Society for Cultural Anthropology, Natureculture, Santa Fe, NM: "effervescent" : a live soundwork inconjunction with my talk “The Tangible Intangible: Ambient Sites, Charged Atmospheres, and Permeable Boundaries , May 7, 2010
  • Columbia College, Chicago, IL: Invited Public Talk: the subtle and the ephemeral :: the seemingly silent and the intermittently visible , February 25, 2010
  • College Art Association, Chicago, IL: Hypo-Technology: Artists ReMix the Anachronistic and the Obsolete with the Present, Co-Chair with Joan Brigham , February 11, 2010
  • TEI'10 International Conference at the MIT Media Lab, Cambridge, MA: Invited Workshop: Ambient Sites: Making Tangible the Subtle, Ephemeral, and Seemingly Silent , January 25, 2010 - January 27, 2010
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art Beyond Sight conference: The Senses in Contemporary Art: Sonic Touch , October 16, 2009
  • College Art Association, LA, CA: Panelist for the session chaired by Curator Marcia Tanner, Soft and Squishy: New Media Artists and Biology , February 28, 2009
  • Wonder Women :: Art & Technology: catalyst for this hybrid symposium (phase one) which included artist talks and panels at UMN and the Walker Art Center, Studio Action Workshops and the concurrent exhbition in the Nash Gallery, culturing nature :: culturing technlogy , March 12, 2008 - March 14, 2008
  • College Art Association as part of Art Interactive's New Media/New Work exhibition, Cambridge, MA: Panel Convener and Chair: Five on Five: Five Perspectives on the Interplay of Research, Innovation, Experimentation, Pedagogy, and Practice , February 23, 2006
  • College Art Association / Committee on Diversity Practice: committee member contributing to a Bibliography for a Culturally Inclusive Art History , 2005 - 2007
  • dorkbotmsp - an emerging community of artists, composers, bricolers, ..: founding catalyst - for the msp affliate of dorkbot.org, where "People doing strange things with electriciy" get together to share their pieces/projects that use technology in interesting ways. , 2006 - 2008


  • Arctic Circle Residency: Artist and Scientist led expeditionary, research, residency on a sailing vessel traversing the high-Arctic Svalbard Archipelago and Arctic Ocean. , June 7, 2021 - June 24, 2021
  • A Space for Breath: Kaihua Temple, Shanxi, China, May 3, 2019 - May 31, 2019
  • Politics of Weeds: participatory exhibition in collaboration with artist Bo Zheng, February 20, 2018 - March 24, 2018
  • Into the Ether: Contemporary Light Artists [James Turrell, Robert Irwin, Leo Villareal, Erwin Redl, Daniel Rozin, and Diane Willow], Dayton Art Institute: Chromasphere II, April 2, 2016 - June 26 2016
  • In the Public Eye : Interactive, Public Art Commission, City of Minneapolis, October 2016 - Present
  • Coding the Body Apex Art, NYC, NY: Walkways, March 20, 2014 - May 10, 2014
  • Diane Willow • Solo Exhibition: New Media Triennial, Beijing Film Academy, Beijing, China, October 2013 - December 2013
  • VJAA + HouMinn + Diane Willow team selected as the winner of Mississippi River Bridge Plaza Competition: Weisman Art Museum Mississsippi River Bridge Plaza Competirion Jury Edwin Chan, Cinda Gilliland, William Pendersen, Hilde Hein , 10/26/2011 - forthcoming
  • VJAA + HouMinn + Diane Willow exhibited as one of the four finalist teams in the Mississippi River Bridge Plaza Competition : Weisman Art Museum Target Studio for Creative Collaboration, October 2, 2011 - February 10, 2012
  • beneath a glowing ceiling veil of living light - an interactive installation with bioluminescent plankton installed within a terrestrial arch of the Stone Arch Bridge, Minneapolis, MN: Commission: Northern Spark Festival, June 4, 2011 - June 5, 2011
  • “effervescent" a participatory sound installation: Vis a Vis Faculty Exhibition Nash Gallery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN,, September 7 - October 7, 2010
  • the bower project, Weisman Art Museum, Ordinarily Here exhibition: Site-specific, interactive installation, June 19, 2010 - October 10, 2010
  • Serenade, Beijing Film Academy - New Media Department, Beijing, China: Site-specific, interactive sound installation, June 2009
  • Touched by the Air, Korean Cultural Center, Beijing, China: An interactive, tactile, sound sculpture, May 29, 2009 - June 12, 2009
  • Sonic Chandelier, Experimental and Media Arts, Nash Gallery, UMN: An interactive, tactile, sound sculpture, February 24, 2009 - March 26, 2009
  • Experimental and Media Arts exhibition, UMN Nash Gallery: exhibition catalyst :: convener, February 24, 2009 - March 26, 2009
  • co~presence, Hy Space, Joy Art Gallery, 798 Art District, Beijing, China: This interactive kinesthetic, site-specific, sound installation interacts with the dynamic architecture of the space and the participants., November 1, 2008 - December 31, 2008
  • Air into Water, New Media Triennial, Beijing Film Academy, Beijing, China: This experimental video Air into Water is a meditation on the permeable boundaries of atmosphere and ocean, the intermingling of two fluids, air and water., November 2, 2008 - November 14, 2008
  • Light Sensitive, Subtle Technologies Festival, Pixel Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: The living light of bioluminescent plankton is the interactive focus of socially engaged contemplation in this participatory artwork. Light Sensitive is a two-person, invitational show., May 29, 2008 - June 19, 2008
  • Re-Inhabiting: Danforth Museum of Art - solo exhibition - an interactive, contemplative, site-specific installation, December 19, 2007 - April 27, 2008
  • culturing nature :: culturing technology: curator: exhibition at UMN Nash Gallery, February 26, 2008 - March 27, 2008
  • Present Moment Project - an IAS / University Symposium Award for Research and Creative Projects: In collaboration with Rebecca Krinke, Landscape Architecture and Henry Emmons, MD, Center for Spirituality and Healing, we are developing a series of contemplative, stress-reducing installations, interactive spaces and responsive objects., September 2007 - September 2008
  • Wonder Women :: Art & Technology: Catalyst - hybrid Symposium (phase one) at UMN, March 12, 2008 - March 14, 2008
  • Domestic Vitrines: 36 Hour Installation, Science Museum of MN, March 17 - 18, 2006
  • ReFresh :: Gateways: Interactive Installation / Okawa Center, Keihanna, Japan, 2005
  • Eyes of the Wind and Soft Touch, Interact/React exhibition, Minnesota Museum of American Art: Interactive Installation, April 9, 2005 - June 30, 2005
  • Leave-ings III: Interactive Installation, Nash Gallery, U of MN, 2004
  • Sound Garden. MindFest, Ft. Worth Museum of Science and History: 2003
  • Whispering Touch. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum: 2003
  • Biologically Motivated. Willow, Diane, Co-Author, 2016. Link
  • Mud: Willow, Diane, Sherry Turkle, MIT Press, Falling for Science: Objects in Mind, 66-68, 2008. Link
  • Ideas That Technology Can Reveal: Willow, Diane, Gretchen Jennings, National Association for Museum Exhibition, The Exhibitionist, vol. 27, no. 1 Spring 2008 79 - 86, 2008.
  • Volumes: Sound and Space: Willow, Diane, Studio XX, Montreal - .DPI, .DPI, Edition no 7 online journal, 2006. Link
  • Digital Dialogues: Technology and the Hand. Willow, Diane, Stu Kestenbaum, Haystack, Co-Editor, 2002.
  • Handhelp Reflections on Digital Dialogues: Willow, Diane, Haystack Monograph Series, Digital Dialogue: Technology and the Hand .
  • Arctic Circle Residency, June 7, 2021 - June 24, 2021
  • Institute for Advanced Studies, ArTeS [Art+Technology+Science] Research and Creative Collaborative, July 1, 2020 - December 31, 2021
  • Grand Challenges Research Scholar Collaborative, September 2018 - June 2019
  • Institute for Advanced Study, Research Collaborative • ArTe [Art + Technology] , July 2017 - June 2018
  • Imagine Fund Spcial Events Award • Futures Exhibition + Participatory Socially and Ecologically Engaged Art Event, July 2017 - June 2018
  • Faculty Residential Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, University of Minnesota • By Any Medium Necessary, January 2017 - June 2017
  • Grant-in-Aid of Research, University of Minnesota • Freedom of Movement, January 2016 - December 2017
  • National competition winner for the Permanent Public Art Commission for The Commons - the new two block public park in downtown Minneapolis, Award, Fall 2015 - Installation, 2018
  • Research Artist in Residence Program [RARP] • Bell Museum of Natural History, 2015 - 2016
  • Imagine Fund Research Grant • By Any Medium Necessary: Cybernetics Serendipity, 2015 - 2016
  • Institute for Advanced Study Creative Collaborative • Improvising Ecosystems, July 2014 - June 2017
  • Art Place, Creative CityMaking, City of Minneapolis + Intermedia Arts, January 2013 - December 2013
  • Sabbatical with Supplement Award, Ambient Sites: the Lure of the Contemplative, August 27, 2012 - May 26, 2013
  • Institute for Advanced Study Research Collaborative • Studio Co-Laboratory, July 2011 - June 2012
  • Imagine Fund Research Grant • Listening to the Silent Landscape of the Everyday, July 2009 - June 2010
  • Faculty Residential Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, University of Minnesota • The Body Electric, January 2010 - June 2010
  • Grant-in-Aid of Research, University of Minnesota • Ambient Sites :: Poetic Explorations of Permeable Boundaries, January 2009 - June 2010
  • A University Symposium Award, Institute for Advanced Study + the Office for the Vice President for Reseach • The Present Moment Project in collaboration with Landscape Architect Rebecca Krinke + Psychiatrist Henry Emmons, MD, 2007 - 2009
  • Osher Fellow • Exploratorium, 2007 - 2008
  • Grant-in-Aid of Research, University of Minnesota • Light Sensitive, Janary 2006 - June 2007
  • McKnight Summer Fellowship, 2006
  • Faculty Summer Research Fellowship, University of Minnesota • Light Sensitive, 2006
  • Daniel Langlois Foundation • Reflexive Membranes with Architect Philip Beesley, 2003 - 2004