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Stephanie Rowden

When I stumbled onto the magical, shape-shifting powers of sound, I couldn't help but wonder how it is that even a brief snippet of a particular voice or a small detail in a soundscape can transport a listener across time and place, all the while creating astonishingly vivid images in the mind’s eye.

For many years I built sculptures and installations around moments of listening —inviting visitors to draw near and listen to delicate layers of voice and place. A cabinet drawer might open to sounds of a thunderstorm rushing across a city street, or to a street vendor’s sing-song. A collection of leather-bound books might open to sounds of a late night summer walk along a gravel road or to the spoken memory of a childhood encounter. I designed these sculptures and installations for an experience that is aural, visual, and deeply private.

Now I mostly explore sound and storytelling apart from tangible objects, making projects for broadcast, podcast and audio walks. Despite the absence of physical form in some of these pieces, my interest as a visual artist is never far behind. I'm searching for aural images that are memorably visual: a red velvet cowboy hat flying in the wind, tiny pale feet tiptoeing through the spring rain...

I'm inspired by aspects of oral history, creative non-fiction, radio documentary and musique concrète. I'm curious about the ways stories give shape to experience, the musical textures and phrasing present in the sounds of people and places I record, and — more than anything — the unexpected flights of imagination and understanding that are possible as a listener.

Stephanie Rowden is a sound artist whose work encompasses projects for radio, podcast, installation and participatory public art. Recent projects include a series of audio essays and sound walks. Her audio collaborations with writers include a series of radio poems with Jennifer Metsker, an audio postcard with Keith Taylor, and a soundscore for a video dance performance with Anne Carson.


Rowden's audio pieces have been broadcast on WBEZ-Chicago Public Radio, Michigan Radio, PRI’s Studio 360, and BBC-Radio 4’s Shortcuts and featured through the Third Coast International Audio Festival. She is co-founder of the Radio Campfire community listening event series in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Detroit; and was co-curator of the Sounds of the State series of audio shorts on Michigan Radio.


She is an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan's Stamps School of Art & Design. Rowden co-leads the Creative Campus Voting Project, a research initiative with colleague Hannah Smotrich. Their ongoing project is focused on creative non-partisan interventions to increase college-age voter participation.


Rowden has received grants and fellowships from the U-M Institute for the Humanities, ArtServe Michigan / the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Alliance / National Endowment for the Arts, ArtMatters, Inc., the University of Michigan Arts of Citizenship program and Artists Space in New York. She has been an artist-in-residence at the MacDowell Colony and the Ragdale Foundation.

photo: John Baird

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