VERMONT COLLEGE OF FINE ARTS
Nikki Juen is an artist, designer, and educator interested in the spaces where these practices overlap. She is Co-Chair of the MFA in Graphic Design at Vermont College of Fine Arts and an instructor in the Division of Experimental and Foundation Studies at Rhode Island School of Design. In Juen’s design studio Happymatter she partners with individuals and cultural institutions to develop an attentive and holistic understanding of their intention, function, and efficacy. Juen recently spoke in Chicago on International Women’s Day as part of the American Institute of Graphic Arts initiative, Women in Design: Leading with Intent and Integrity. Juen’s collective, Public Displays of Affection (PDA) is a collective of artists, designers, educators, and organizers that engage in nonviolent direct art action. Their actions start with hope and aim to build communities that thrive on intersecting relationships. To resist misogyny, sexism, and exclusion they practice rematriation and believe interconnectivity is essential in honoring the earth and all living beings. PDA collective stands in solidarity with a chorus of voices from all socio-economic, geographic, religious, and ethnic backgrounds, including indigenous communities, people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ communities.
HOW AND WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO MAKE EDUCATION A MEANINGFUL PART OF YOUR CAREER?
Teaching is a lineage and by entering into larger conversations about art, design, history, culture, humanity, and education I have encountered mentors who have changed my life in blinding instances. Luckily, I listened long enough to catch on. My teachers and mentors, who all taught from a perspective of love[s] are: Elise Curry, Malcolm Grear, Jan Baker, Matthew Monk, Dr. William K. Mahony, Dr. Marie Shurkus, and the entire faculty of the MFA in Graphic Design at VCFA remind me regularly that teaching is centered in listening and that all designers are educators and educating in one way or another.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE THE TEACHING OF FUNDAMENTALS VERSUS THE NEED TO RESPOND TO OUR FAST-CHANGING WORLD OF MEDIA, TECHNOLOGY AND CULTURE?
I recognize that balance is equivalent to change and remember that the most important tool in the equation is the human body. Wellness and community building are essential tools in resistance to fast-changing worlds. To teach from this perspective is to open space to student-centric learning, respect of differences, and to value and encourage personal agency.