Open Call Details

Future Present: Design in a Time of Urgency

Open from 
20th November 2019, 12:00pm EST to 31st January 2020, 6:00pm EST
Results by 
21st March
Digital Dark Side
Genetic Design

Design makes worlds. It directs the traffic of humanity through the creation of cultural, social, and material space. But do we feel empowered to direct? To design?

Most moments of our existence are touched by design. We all sketch, we fashion trial balloons, we tinker with thoughts and concepts, we revise, we prototype, we analyze and critique, and we build. And then build again.

Design intersects with science and art. We design experiments for research, scientific visualizations, and genetic models. We design performances, texts, and communication. We design gardens, houses, and cities. We create small and large. We find beauty in experience and efficiency.

Design often mimics the intricate and perfect connections of healthy biological systems that nurture life. Yet design can also create destruction and chaos, or limit our participation and humanity. How might we explore this fantastic and perilous labyrinth of connections and implications bound up with art, science, and design?

The open call is an invitation to explore the world of design and its intersection with art and science. We invite proposals that address a wide range of subjects and themes, including the following:


  • What would a world without design be like?  
  • How might design influence our vision and creative process? Our desires? Our identities and the identities of the world?
  • How could biodesign restructure, improve, and restore our lives, or damage and destroy them?
  • What might we learn from the ways that artists structure their studios, and the ways that scientists lay out equipment and material in their labs?
  • Could we design ways to have our consciousness and cognitive acts leave traces beyond the death of our body?
  • How does design expertise interact with a participatory design process? How can we design spaces where experts and non-experts build together?
  • Could we create a participatory process for designing the future?
  • How might design conjure up a beautiful, eerie, exciting, or creepy anticipation of the future?
  • How might we think about vernacular design?
  • What is the past and future of the relationship between nature, biology, and design?
  • How does design direct intentions?
  • How can we deal with the fact that design is both magical and dangerous?
  • How could design not suppress the chaotic, unexpected, improbable, and disruptive?
  • How might we design spaces and communities for highly mobile geographically nomadic groups of people?
  • How could we address the trauma of digital data and selves becoming commodified, transacted, and controlled and suppressed?
  • Could design guide a desirable transformation of society toward an equitable sustainable state?
  • How do the designs of our technologies reflect or challenge our biases?


Experimentation, provocation and research are at the heart of SGD’s values and programs. This exhibition will explore the practice and concept of design through the lens of artists, psychologists, storytellers, digital gamers, molecular biologists, performers, neuroscientists, designers, computer scientists, nurses, engineers, musicians, mathematicians, architects, and young people. The list of possibilities is endless.  

Your proposal could be a new or existing artwork, performance, workshop, digital intervention, research project, virtual reality game, or other activity. We strongly recommend that you keep our target audience of young people aged 15-25 years in mind and consider including interactive or participatory elements. We would love humor to feature in the exhibition. Check out our tips on what makes a good open call submission.  


We collectively acknowledge that Michigan State University occupies the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary Lands of the Anishinaabeg – Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi peoples. In particular, the University resides on Land ceded in the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw. We recognize, support, and advocate for the sovereignty of Michigan’s twelve federally-recognized Indian nations, for historic Indigenous communities in Michigan, for Indigenous individuals and communities who live here now, and for those who were forcibly removed from their Homelands. By offering this Land Acknowledgement, we affirm Indigenous sovereignty and will work to hold Michigan State University more accountable to the needs of American Indian and Indigenous peoples. 


Science Gallery Detroit creates exhibitions with young people for young people. Future Present Design will be shaped by the curatorial panel which is made up of active artists, scientists, and designers, advised by young people and Science Gallery Detroit staff.

  • Cézanne Charles, Partner, rootoftwo - a hybrid design studio focused on civic future-making.
  • Ralph Borland, Independent Artist, Curator and Knowledge Worker
  • Antajuan Scott, Head of Programming, Science Gallery Detroit
  • Olga Stella, Executive Director, Design Core Detroit
  • Mark Sullivan, MSU - Hub for Innovation, College of Music; Science Gallery Detroit - Creative Director


As a guide, the majority of our projects are funded up to around $3,000 USD which includes all artist fees, materials, equipment, shipping, and travel. We enthusiastically welcome proposals that come in below that budget.  


Great. We love questions. There are overall open call FAQs and we have listed some extra bits below. Have a read through these extra bits first to see if they help.

Who can apply?

Anyone. There are no restrictions on age, education level, research background, country or any other factor. 

Can individuals or groups and collaborations apply? 

We welcome submissions of interest from individuals, groups, collaborative projects, and productions working locally or internationally.  

How big is the exhibition space? 

We are negotiating space at the moment. Stay tuned.

How do you decide which projects are included?

We believe that young people hold the creative potential to tackle the world’s biggest challenges, and they are involved every stage of the selection process. The projects we receive through this open call will be reviewed and debated by our curatorial panel. This panel is made up of young people from Michigan and Science Gallery Detroit staff. All short-listed proposals will be reviewed and vetted by our Expert Advisory Group (which includes experts and advocates from different areas of the design industry and academic peers). If your proposal makes it to the shortlisting stage you will be invited to discuss your project with the Science Gallery team in person or on video call. This slated to occur in early 2020.

If I’m shortlisted does it mean I am successful?

No. It means the panel really liked your idea and think it would work well in our DESIGN season. The next step is meeting with us to discuss your idea in more detail and to talk more seriously about budgets and timelines.

How many projects will be included? 

We’re not absolutely sure and it will depend on the size of the projects that go in the gallery. The final gallery will have between 20-24 works installed in the exhibition. There are all sorts of other opportunities to collaborate with us on talks, performances, poetry battles, dance-offs, apps, outreach programs, school programs, citizen science projects, or pop-ups.  

What kind of project formats are accepted? 

Science Gallery isn’t a traditional gallery space. We’re not too keen about plonking things on plinths for people to look at. We love interactivity and inviting our visitors to participate with the installations. We welcome projects across all forms - that could include digital, physical, immersive, game-based, video, sound, imagery, interactive, sculpture, web-based work, live research experimentation, data mining, medical, or natural science research – essentially we are not format-prescriptive and we love outrageous ideas. 

Who are your audience? 

Young people are at the center of all things we do. Seventy percent of our audience is under 30 years old, and all our exhibitions will be created with young people for young people. It’s really important that you think about how this audience will connect with your work. It’s really, REALLY important.  

What sort of projects are your favorite?  

We’re so glad you asked. Science Gallery’s approach is interdisciplinary, so we especially love to see the creativity that erupts from the collision of different disciplines. That means:  

  • If you are an artist, then we’d love your project to include collaboration with people from other fields – scientists or engineers or technologists or designers….the list goes on.  
  • If you are a researcher, we’d love your project to include collaboration with creative practitioners not in your field.  

Don’t panic if you haven’t connected with a collaborator, we can hook you up if you are selected. It really is the ‘vibe of the thing’ that we are after at this point.  

I don’t really have a project to pitch, but I work in this area and I’d love to be involved. 

Let’s gloss over that this isn’t technically a question to say: Fantastic! We want to know about your practice. Come join us as we embed research and knowledge within the fabric of all our programs. We want to connect you with the public, creative practitioners, academics and industry both locally and globally. Get in touch –

When will I get an answer? 

Once the open call closes we will convene the curatorial panel to review the submissions, make a short list, and meet with all those people to discuss in more detail. This will most likely happen in early 2020. Science Gallery Detroit will keep all applicants informed of the progress as the discussions evolve.

Can I receive feedback from my application if I am not shortlisted?

Sorry but it’s not possible due to the volume of applications we receive. Feedback is only available to proposals that make the shortlist when they meet with the Science Gallery team.


We have not made final decisions about the dates. Tentatively we are aiming to open around September 122th, 2020, and will likely run from then for ten to fourteen weeks, so roughly to roughly Nov. 21st (or possibly as late at December 15th). M.V.S.

Yes, there is no limit on the number of proposals that can be submitted. Cheers!

There is no cutoff point. We are especially eager to engage with young people, but we welcome the participation, and have had participation, of all ages.

Yes, you can add details, and flesh out parts of the proposal, or change it. You can also

adjust budget details. Most important are a good working description (even if in process) of the concept of the exhibit (or programming event), the planned implementation, and the imagined mode of interaction with the public.

We are hoping to send out letters of response next week. We had to delay due to variables
related to opening scenarios, and contingency scenarios, and didn't want to tell people with
proposals one thing and then have to change it a week or two later. Thanks for your patience!