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Award-Winning Design Documentary “If You Build It” Comes to Ohio Northern University

ImageFebruary—The Department of Art & Design at Ohio Northern University is sponsoring a screening of the documentary film If You Build It at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19 in the Wilson Art Center. Admission is free and open to the public.

“There’s something cool about solving problems, especially those really tricky, complex ones,” stated Patrick Creadon, the director of the film. “If you meet someone who’s truly great at problem solving, you find they have a tendency to inspire those around them. They’re smart, often funny, and almost always strong, confident, wonderfully infectious individuals. They’re the kinds of people who would make great teachers.”

If You Build It follows designer-activists Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller to rural Bertie County, the poorest in North Carolina, where they engage high school students in a year-long course in design-and-build construction that they hope will transform both the community and the students’ lives. Living on credit and grant money and fighting an uncooperative school board, Pilloton and Miller struggle to maintain hope for their vision of a new kind of classroom in which students develop new skills and knowledge—and their own lives. The story exemplifies the power of hands-on education, the raw brilliance of youth, and the impact a few budding creative minds can have on the future of a community.

“Bertie County, NC is 2,600 miles from our home in California, and yet this always felt like a very personal story for my wife and me,” explained Creadon. “Our three kids go to public schools in Los Angeles, so we understand the challenges and the potential that public education has to offer. We felt from the beginning that Emily and Matt and their students would make for an interesting story. What we didn’t realize was that it would become such a universal story, resonating with parents, students, and educators far outside Bertie County limits. Imagine a world with better, more creative problem solvers. That’s what Studio H is about, that’s what If You Build It is really about and that’s why we are so thrilled to share it with others.”

Studio H is a public high school “design/build” curriculum that sparks community development through real-world, built projects. Originally launched in rural Bertie County, NC, Studio H is now based at REALM Charter School in Berkeley, CA.

By learning through a design sensibility, applied core subjects, and industry-relevant construction skills, students develop the creative capital, critical thinking, and citizenship necessary for their own success and for the future of their communities.

Over the course of one semester, students earn high school credit and have the opportunity to design, prototype, and build a full-scale community project. Studio H graduates have designed and built chicken coops for families in need, and a 2,000-square-foot farmers market pavilion.

Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller are the founder/executive director and project manager, respectively, of Project H Design.

Pilloton holds a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master of Product Design from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has taught at the School of the Art Institute, published a book called Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People, appeared on the Colbert Report to talk about humanitarian design, and lectures worldwide, including presentations at the TED Global conference and others.

Miller holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Tennessee and a Master of Architecture from Cranbrook Academy of Art. He has designed and built houses and schools in Detroit and Uganda, and has taught architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design; University of California, Berkeley; and more.

Patrick Creadon (director) was born in Chicago and is a 1989 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. He earned his Master’s Degree in Cinematography from the American Film Institute in 1996.

Creadon began his career as a cameraman at PBS, shooting and producing cinéma vérité-style stories for the critically acclaimed series “The ’90s.” His feature-length directorial debut Wordplay was a breakout hit at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. After an intense bidding war, the film was sold to IFC Films and The Weinstein Company. Wordplay went on to become one of the top 25 highest grossing documentaries of all time.

His follow-up film I.O.U.S.A., a non-partisan examination of America's national debt, premiered at Sundance in 2008 and was shortlisted for Best Documentary for the Academy Awards. Critic Roger Ebert named I.O.U.S.A. one of the top five documentaries of the year.

If You Build It is Creadon’s third feature-length documentary and is a recipient of grants from The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund. Creadon has served on several film festival juries, including the Sundance Film Festival, the Los Angeles Film Festival, the Ashland Film Festival, and the Cinema Eye Awards. In 2011, he made his television directing debut on NBC’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”

Ohio Northern University’s quality, student-centered education distinctively combines nationally ranked sciences, arts and professional programs for more than 3,600 students in its five colleges: Arts & Sciences, Business Administration, Engineering, Pharmacy and Law.

Originally designated as the School of Fine Arts and later the College of Fine Arts, the art & design program was first established as an independent academic unit at Ohio Northern in 1878, largely as an outgrowth of course work in engineering and architectural drawing. Today, Ohio Northern offers both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with majors in advertising design, art education, graphic design and studio arts with concentrations in two-dimensional, three-dimensional and pre-art therapy. The department of A&D holds memberships in national organizations such as the National Art Education Association, College Art Association, Foundations in Art: Theory and Education, AIGA: The Professional Association for Design, and the National Council on Education of Ceramic Arts. The department is recognized in the second and third editions of “Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers” as one of the best creative programs nationwide. For additional information about the department of art & design or the University’s 2013–14 Arts Exhibition Season, contact the department at 419.772.2160.