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A photograph of various woven objects around a tv with a woven frame.

Gallery view of Stephen Burks: Shelter in Place. Photo by Hugh Dillon.


Stephen Burks: Shelter in Place

November 19, 2023–April 14, 2024

For nearly twenty years, industrial designer Stephen Burks has forged a unique path by finding opportunities for innovation in the space between handcraft and industry, which has become a hallmark of his practice. Burks and his studio Stephen Burks Man Made have collaborated with artisans and craftspeople all over the globe, from Senegal and South Africa to Peru and the Philippines, to develop collections that creatively synthesize handcraft traditions with industrial production. Guiding Burks’s approach is his underlying belief that design should be inclusive of all cultural perspectives and backgrounds.

Stephen Burks: Shelter in Place surveys the past ten years of Burks’s craft-centered, workshop-based design practice and features a specially commissioned speculative project, called Shelter in Place. In the wake of several global crises, ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to climate change and racial inequality, Burks and his studio responded by reconceiving our domestic spaces and posing the question, “How can we design our domestic interiors to enable joyful living while empowering our creativity?” Stephen Burks Man Made developed five prototypes that explore radical ideas regarding design’s relationship to our spirituality, homes, and communities. This exhibition brings together these prototypes along with several other facets of Stephen Burks’s practice, including award-winning contemporary furniture, key products, and craft-related experiments.

Stephen Burks is the recipient of the 2023 Design Excellence Award, which is issued by Collab, the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s affiliate group for modern and contemporary design. He is the first African American designer to receive this award.

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About the Artist

A Chicago native, Stephen Burks (b. 1969) is one of the most recognized American industrial designers of his generation. He has worked as a product development consultant in close collaboration with artisans and craftspeople on six continents. Burks and his Brooklyn-based studio Stephen Burks Man Made have been commissioned by numerous global design-driven brands to develop collections that engage hand production as a strategy for innovation including Cappellini, Dedon, MASS Design Group, Missoni, & Roche Bobois. His work has been exhibited internationally, including the Studio Museum in Harlem and the High Museum of Art. Burks is the first African American to win the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Product Design and the first industrial designer to be awarded the prestigious Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Photograph of artist Stephen Burks sitting next to one of his sculptures.

Stephen Burks (American, b. 1969) with his prototype, The Ancestors (2022), from the series and exhibition Shelter in Place. Photograph by Caroline Tompkins.


Stephen Burks: Shelter in Place is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


Stephen Burks: Shelter in Place, the 2023 Collab Design Excellence Award exhibition, is made possible by The Lisa S. Roberts and David W. Seltzer Endowment Fund in Support of the Collab Design Excellence Award Exhibition. Additional support provided by Collab.


The organizing curator is Monica Obniski, Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the High Museum of Art.

In Philadelphia, the exhibition is curated by Alisa Chiles, Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture.

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