Columbus Makes Art Presents Marshall Shorts on Taking Creative Control of Design World
Marshall Shorts is busy. The 2006 graduate of Columbus College of Art & Design’s Industrial Design program is the owner of the creative agency Artfluential and cofounder (with fellow CCAD alum Corey Favor) of Creative Control Fest, an annual conference that spurs conversations about race, diversity and inclusion in art and design. In 2017, he and Favor shared the Greater Columbus Arts Council Emerging Arts Leader Award, and, on Feb. 12, Shorts will return to his alma mater for the panel discussion, Diversity in Design, which will see speakers sharing their personal and professional experiences within the field.
Below, Shorts discusses Creative Control Fest, how diversity leads to innovation in design and what’s next.
Jennifer: Creative Control Festival’s mission is to grow, support and connect diverse talent. Can you share a bit about the festival’s origins?
Marshall: Creative Control Fest was born out of a need for creating a space with people who looked like me in mind. It wasn’t about exclusivity but about centering creatives of color. As we began to navigate the design industry by attending conferences and meetups, we were inspired by what we would often see in these spaces but often felt “othered” and discouraged by who we weren’t seeing consistently in these spaces. It was important for us to not only have a seat at the table but to curate our own table.
Jennifer: Any notable partnerships or activities to come out of Creative Control Fest?
Marshall: We’ve been fortunate to develop relationships and bring in presenters from across the globe. We’ve worked with local organizations like the Lincoln Theatre, CCAD, King Arts Complex, Blockfort, Wexner Center, Greater Columbus Arts Council and many more creatives and local businesses. We’ve also partnered with Mailchimp and Procter & Gamble in the past.
Jennifer: Why does the design industry need more diverse voices?
Marshall: Designers typically design for other people. If the strength of the design industry is innovation and creativity, then it is lacking a tremendous opportunity because of its lack of diversity. It is important now more than ever to have authentic representation and equity in the industry.
I think it’s important to point out that the topic of “diversity” can mean everything, or nothing at all. We should always strive to define the type of diversity we are hoping and trying to achieve, i.e. gender, race, ethnicity, ability, etc. Once we define that, then it can serve as a guide to making sure that inclusion happens.
Jennifer: Why did you want to participate in the Diversity in Design panel?
Marshall: While I don’t speak for all Black people or creatives of color, I think it’s important to be at the table and to use that opportunity to spark conversation or action. Plus, I am honored to be called back by my alma mater.
Jennifer: What’s the best thing about the Columbus art scene right now?
Marshall: I think the best thing about the Columbus art scene right now is that artists are taking control of their own narratives, creating their own products and not waiting on permission. We are starting to see more murals, and art is becoming more embedded in creating the culture of Columbus. There is also a lot of opportunity for growth and support of individual artists.
Jennifer: What’s next for Artfluential and for Creative Control Fest?
Marshall: As for Artfluential and CCF, it has always been my vision to bridge the gap between the studio and the event by bringing branding, design and content together as a creative catalyst that inspires, informs and empowers creative people and their dreams. So you will hopefully see more workshops, events and services addressing some design challenges around civic engagement, diversity and access. We are also looking to scale CCF with this potential in mind by cultivating more community and collaborations across the city and region.
Hear more from Marshall Shorts at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 12, when he appears as part of the panel discussion Diversity in Design in CCAD’s Canzani Center Auditorium. The event, featuring multicultural voices in design, is hosted by CCAD’s Industrial Design department and is free and open to the public. A reception will be held before the discussion and networking will follow.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art and sharing information about exhibitions, performances, concerts and more at ColumbusMakesArt.com. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.