Rod Northcutt receives Ohio Campus Compact Award for Excellence in Service

By Susan Meikle, news and communications


Rod Northcutt, associate professor of art and social

Rod Northcutt, associate professor of art at Miami University, is one of two recipients of the Ohio Campus Compact 2016 David Hoch Memorial Award for Excellence in Service.

The award recognizes and honors the outstanding work in service learning and/or civic engagement done by a faculty or staff member at one of the Ohio Campus Compact member institutions.

Ohio Campus Compact is a statewide nonprofit coalition of 40 college and university presidents and their campuses working to promote and develop the civic purposes of higher education.

Northcutt is a social sculptor whose collaborative practice connects artists, designers and students with different social groups. They work to address social challenges through the use of art, intervention and dialogue.  

He introduces students to the practice of socially engaged art (SEA) through his service learning sculpture class — the only course in Miami’s College of Creative Arts that is a designated service learning course.

In SEA, collaborations are the norm and social interaction is prioritized over aesthetics, Northcutt explained. His students practice both through a semesterlong service learning project that helps local community members in need. 

Miami President David Hodge wrote that Northcutt’s service learning course “prompts students to evaluate their own history, preoccupations, learning styles and intellectual curiosities.” 

Students connect with underserved populations in the local community to “make art that engages social challenges,” Hodge said.

Read about Northcutt’s fall 2015 class project on winterization of mobile homes.


The pickle bike made its debut at the Cincinnati Reds
Opening Day parade last week. Look for it at the
Oxford Kinetics Festival. Northcutt and Kate Carlier
Currie held weekly workshops this spring with boys
from the Changing Lives Youth Services group home in
Cincinnati to create pedal-powered sculptures, part of
MAKETANK's STEAM programming.

MAKETANK: Building community through "creative making and innovative thinking"

Northcutt is co-founder of the nonprofit MAKETANK Inc.which works to help people of all ages find confidence in their creativity; to facilitate skill-sharing; and to build community through innovative programming.

MAKETANK directors and volunteers also design and implement engaging STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) programming for children throughout the region.

Their goal is to add creativity to STEM classroom activities, to “reach kids who aren’t connecting with STEM as it is currently being taught,” Northcutt explained.

Some of this programming takes place in after-school activities like the STEAM clubs at Talawanda Middle School in Oxford and the Frederick Douglass Elementary School in the Walnut Hills neighborhood of Cincinnati.  Other programming involves regional Big Brothers Big Sisters programs and group homes.

Through this work, Northcutt aims to increase creativity and innovative thinking in STEAM among his Miami students as well as younger students, especially traditionally underrepresented minorities, girls and children of low socioeconomic status.

Oxford Kinetics Festival


Northcutt rides his tall bike in the Scramble Race at the
2013 Oxford Kinetics Festival.

The signature event of MAKETANK is the Oxford Kinetics Festival, which Northcutt co-directs with Kate Carlier Currie (Miami ’93).

The free event showcases the creativity of students, community members and professional artists. It features hands-on workshops, performance art, music, kinetic sculpture races, food, children’s activities, skill sharing and much more. 

It is also an opportunity for artists and students who have been working on projects throughout the year to share what they have done with the community, Northcutt said. Students from the STEAM clubs, Big Brothers Big Sisters and other groups have a chance to demonstrate their STEAM into Action projects.

There is only one other festival like it in the country, Northcutt said.

The festival has grown exponentially since it started seven years ago. It now includes a series of design-build workshops and activities in the weeks leading up to the event. Students in Northcutt's spring semester service learning sculpture class connect with school children and community members who may not have regular access to the innovative environment and creative learning that the festival provides, Northcutt said. 

Find out what is happening at this year’s Oxford Kinetics Festival April 17.

Opportunities for Miami students to work with underserved communities

Northcutt offers opportunities for all his students to reach out to underserved communities through his classes and MAKETANK programming.

“It is important that students feel comfortable taking risks, pushing envelopes, and exploring the boundaries of media, so my approach is one that never belittles the exploratory process and always pushes for the quantum leap.”