Midcentury Design: A Closer Look

Summer Course 2019

Whether you are a midcentury design buff or just discovering this dynamic era and style, join us in a three-session summer course for a deeper look at Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America.

Learn more about the social, cultural, and political context of midcentury America, ponder the ways in which “fun” informs the design aesthetic of this period, and get playful with an exploration of iconic midcentury chairs.

Session 1: Moderns before Midcentury

June 15, 2:30-4 pm

In this presentation, University of Colorado Denver art historian Maria Elena Buszek will give a brief introduction to the "Moderns" at the turn of the century whose work preceded and inspired Charles and Ray Eames.

From Arts and Crafts to Art Nouveau to the Bauhaus, Dr. Buszek will survey key figures and concepts in design history that led to the work on display in the DAM's Serious Play exhibition.

Session 2: Playful Seriousness

July 13, 2:30-4 pm

As a six-year-old, speaker Carla Atwood Hartman spent a glorious summer at the Eames House (along with her mother, a brother, and a sister) playing, learning, making and exploring all while under the exuberant tutelage of grandparents Charles and Ray Eames.

Hartman will delve into the connections, the iterations, problem-solving, and “Powers of Ten thinking” of their designs.

Session 3: Fun, Taste & IKEA

August 10, 2:30-4 pm

Why do people shop IKEA across the world? Accessible design and reasonable prices come to mind.

But look closer and you find fun lurking in the meatballs, carefully arranged domestic tableaux and winding trails of discovery. Beauty has long dominated the world of art and design, but playful, joyful fun has long motivated artists and creators, delighting the minds of consumers and patrons alike.

$60 DAM members/$70 nonmembers for all three sessions

$22 DAM members/$25 nonmembers for single sessions

Tickets now on sale to DAM members, on sale to others April 8.


Maria Elena Buszek

Maria Elena Buszek is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Colorado Denver, where she teaches courses on modern and contemporary visual culture. Her recent publications include the books Pin-Up Grrrls: Feminism, Sexuality, Popular Culture and Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art, and contributions to the anthology Design History Beyond the Canon and exhibition catalogs In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States, and Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia. She also co-edited an anthology of new writing with Hilary Robinson, entitled A Companion to Feminist Art, published by Wiley in spring of 2019.

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Carla Atwood Hartman

Carla Atwood Hartman, eldest of five grandchildren of Charles and Ray Eames, has been the Director of Education for the Eames Office since 2004.  In this role, she collaborates with museums, schools, institutions and the public to extend the creative legacy of Charles and Ray Eames through interactive programming, exhibitions and publications.  Prior to playing at the Eames Office, she enjoyed thirteen years of museum experience in architecture, design and graphics at the Denver Art Museum while earning an M.A. in Museum Studies from the University of Denver.

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David Thomas 

David Thomas is a scholar of fun. He is assistant professor attendant at the University of Colorado Denver, in the Department of Architecture. His field of study focuses on fun—the aesthetics of fun, the value of play, fun in the workplace and the design of fun places and objects. For almost 20 years he worked as a professional game journalist writing for local and national outlets, including the Denver Post, Electronic Gaming Monthly, Wired and Edge Magazine. He is currently at work on a book about fun in architecture, “Ludic Form for Architects” and regularly speaks on the topic of fun at work. He is the co-author, with John Sharp, of Fun, Taste and Games: An Aesthetics for the Idle, Unproductive and Otherwise Playful (MIT Press).