Frances Whitehead is a civic practice artist bringing the methods, mindsets, and strategies of contemporary art practice to the process of shaping the future city. Connecting emerging art practices and the discourses of climate change, post-humanism, counter-extinction, and culturally informed sustainability, she develops strategies to deploy the knowledge of artists as change agents, asking, What do Artists Know?
Questions of participation, sustainability, and culture change animate her work as she considers the surrounding community, the landscape, and the interdependency of multiple ecologies. Whitehead’s cutting-edge work integrates art and sustainability, as she traverses disciplines to engage citizens, municipalities, and other communities of practice, in order to hybridize art, design,science, conservation, and civic engagement, for public and planet.
Whitehead has worked professionally as an artist since the mid 1980’s and has worked collaboratively as ARTetal Studio since 2001. She is Professor of Sculpture + Architecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she founded the SAIC Knowledge Lab. She explores Experimental Geography and other trans-disciplinary topics that engage the aesthetic, technological and geo-political dimensions of artmaking as a component of spatial practice.
A long term resident of the Greak Lakes region, she has recently relocated to New Mexico to focus on xeric landscapes for the future, undertaking a new "dwelling"project, and is working towards a Master Gardner certificate for New Mexico.