AICAD 2020 Academic Symposium - (Why) We Can't Stop Thinking About the Future - Call for Proposals

AICAD 2020 Symposium - (Why) We Can't Stop Thinking About the Future

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Thursday, November 5 – Saturday, November 7


Tri-hosted by:

Moore College of Art & Design

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

University of the Arts



For the first time in the history of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design, three AICAD institutions will collaborate through active partnerships of faculty, staff, students, and campuses to host the 2020 AICAD Symposium in Philadelphia. Located within blocks of each other in Philadelphia, a dynamic contemporary cultural center with richly diverse historical sites, Moore College of Art & Design (MCAD), Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), and University of the Arts (UArts) have planned a lively and prescient annual conference with collateral and coordinated opportunities to visit and explore a remarkable city.

The 2020 Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (AICAD) Symposium, (Why) we can’t stop thinking about the future takes place November 5 – 7, 2020 on the campuses of Moore College of Art & Design, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and University of the Arts (each day at a different AICAD member site). 


(Why) we can’t stop thinking about the future*

*Inspired by Aleksandra Mir’s exhibition and book, We Can’t Stop Thinking about the Future, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2017

”The ability to use imagination to envision future needs is crucial in art, design and architecture. Future thinking and making require the capacity to create narratives for near and far futures and to compose proposals to meet the imagined needs of the future. Future-oriented creative practices also require future literacy—understanding the temporal continuum in which future-oriented work is created and being aware of the underlying incentives, motivations and structures of works, commissioned or self-initiated. Similarly, viewing or consuming speculative creative works requires some level of understanding of the context of the works and the history in which they were created.

Jan Boelen, Ils Huygens, Heini Lehtinen / z33 (Editors), Studio Time: Future Thinking in Art and Design, London: Black Dog Press, 2018


Prospectus: A Future-Focused Conference

The expanding range, accelerating velocity, opportunities, and challenges of a present and pending future include projections of significant change and new developments in education, culture, climate, technology, communication, economies, materials, methods, and creative processes and initiatives.  How do we become future-thinkers and speculators?  And why is it important?  Do artists, designers, scholars, and educators have a particular role in this time of uncertainty? (Why) we can’t stop thinking about the future is both a query and call to action.


Call for Proposals

The three AICAD host institutions and their conference planning teams seek proposals for presentations, panels, workshops, thinking conversations, performances, and other traditional and new forms for communication and delivery at the 2020 AICAD Symposium to be held in Philadelphia, November 5 – 7.

The topic of the symposium is “the future” – and what it means or looks like to be future-thinking as faculty, artists, designers, and scholars who seek to educate, animate or prompt students (as well as our own thinking) for futures of accelerating and often unpredictable change.  What does it mean to be future-minded?  In addition to retrospection, how do we engage in “prospection?” 

Introduced by Daniel Gilbert and Timothy Wilson (2007), prospection suggests the development of different representations of futures.  Both a psychological and cognitive phenomenon, prospection includes the imagination of future scenarios (episodic foresight), planning, response and emotion (affective forecasting), and inherent speculation.  Areas of research include human learning, conceptual and mental time travel, deliberate practice, concepts of creativity, flexible decision-making, and motivation.

All teachers, artists, designers, and scholars operate in different temporal frames.  (Why) we can’t stop thinking about the futureIs this an ambiguous concept or bold assertion, a philosophical query or call to action?  Why we can’t stop thinking about the future because . . . Because educators seek to (and arguably must) prepare students for the future or futures -- the known and unknowns. Are creative people predisposed to think more frequently about the future – or to engage in these questions through different intellectual dispositions, perspectives, or vantage points?

It is often reported that 65% of primary school children today will work as adults in jobs (and perhaps in ways) that don’t yet exist.  Global and ubiquitous challenges include the changing scope of technology, privacy, and surveillance capitalism; global warming and severe environmental change; global economic (in)justice and food and climate refugees; and the nature of work, and increasing care and green economies.  Paradoxically, schools can both be agents or harbingers -- recalcitrants or obstructions – of change.

Potential directions of inquiry may include:

 - The future is now: New creative practices, future studios/spaces, emerging exhibition forms

- Climates/Change: Creative and green economies: Navigational tools, future roles and jobs

- Technology: Commons, peer-based learning, and stakeholder theory

- Me to we: Collaboration and collective activism, sharing economies

- Communication: Cognitive and creative evolution

- Future-Mindedness / Growth Mindset

- Human + machine imagination: Growing collective and extended intelligences

- Art and design education: Imagining/inventing toolkits for tomorrow, established and temporary curricula, inclusive pedagogies

- How do we understand, learn from, and contextualize the past to help us plan for the future?

- The role of art and design in future imaging, future literacy, and future ethics (Boelen, Huygens, Lehtinan)

- Predictive strategies in art and design, education and pedagogy

Seeking aspiring and challenging content, forms of presentations may include individual prompts (15-30 minutes), organized panels (we strongly encourage participants from different colleges and communities to present together) (90 minutes), participatory workshops (60-90 minutes), performances, interventions, conversations, and other inventive forms that place us in the future.

Presentations from different perspectives and positions -- individual and collaborative by faculty members, staff, administrators, and students – are encouraged through a dynamic range of art and design trajectories, curricula, and cultures.  Moore, PAFA, and UArts invite broad participation from AICAD member schools in an expansive range of formats that may include papers, individual or collaborative presentations, panels, workshops on future-facing teaching and pedagogy, research methodologies and the future. Regardless of the form or format, interactivity, conversation and dialogue are encouraged. In order to invite and encourage an exciting range of proposals, there is a single form that requests information in the following areas:

- Title: Subject / Content of Proposal

- Potential Form of Presentation or Activity

- Prospective Participants and Affiliations

- Duration: How much time will this require?

- Facilities: What kind of space or support does this require?

- Expectations for Audience: Is the event interactive?

Submission Form: Please Submit Session Proposals Here

Please complete your proposal using the link above and submit it by 11:59pm on Wednesday, April 15, 2020. Outcomes of the proposal process will be announced by June 1, 2020.

Note: A panel of faculty and staff from MCAD, PAFA, and UArts will review all submissions, organize and “curate” exciting, engaging, and challenging presentations, events, and content over three days.



Registration for the 2020 AICAD Conference in Philadelphia opens in May 2020.  The registration fee includes all sessions on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with breakfast and lunch on Friday and Saturday, as well as an evening reception and dinner on Thursday. Registration fees will be announced in forthcoming emails.


Hotel Information

AICAD and host AICAD schools have secured a special rate of $174 a night at The Warwick Rittenhouse Hotel, centrally located between all three colleges, for the duration of the symposium.

In order to reserve a room, please follow this link to the booking website.



AICAD – the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design – is a nonprofit consortium of 42 leading art schools in the United States and Canada.  It was founded in 1991 by a group of 25 presidents who felt the need for the similarly structured art schools to come together so as to mutually develop their schools and programs.  Our mission is to help strengthen the member colleges individually and collectively, and to inform the public about these colleges and the value of studying art and design.


Moore College of Art & Design

Moore College of Art & Design is dedicated to excellence in art and design. Founded in 1848, Moore is the first and only visual arts college for women in the United States. Through its undergraduate Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees for women and its coeducational Graduate Studies programs, Moore cultivates creativity, promotes scholarship and research, and prepares students for professional careers in the arts by emphasizing critical thinking, problem solving, risk-taking, and strong communication skills. Building on its historic legacy of educating women and men for successful careers in the visual arts, Moore is committed to adapting to the needs of future generations of artists, designers, scholars and educators throughout its diverse educational programs.


Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Thomas Eakins, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.


University of the Arts

University of the Arts’ mission is simple: to advance human creativity.  Established in 1876, UArts believes creativity is the most essential skill for success and has educated generations of groundbreaking creative leaders.  After gaining university status in 1987, University of the Arts became the nation’s largest institution of its kind, offering programs in design, fine arts, media arts, crafts, music, dance, theater and writing. It now features 30 undergraduate majors, 15 graduate programs and the nation’s first PhD program in Creativity.  UArts is also home to the Center for Immersive Media, Lightbox Film Center, Art Alliance and Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery.