Student Focus: Johanna Cairns

Video stills of Johanna Cairns' work Sacred Pathways

The Intermedia Program is please to announce that second year Intermedia MFA student Johanna Cairns has been accepted into the Landscape Architecture summer program at Harvard, has received a scholarship from the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Rockport, Maine and will be traveling to Portland, Oregon with The Feminist Pop Up Festival this summer.

Johanna Cairns comes primarily from a modern dance background, with a strong emphasis in gender studies and embodiment philosophy. She has performed in/shown work at The American Dance Festival (Durham, NC) St. Marks Church (New York, NY), Judson Memorial Church (New York, NY), The Joyce Theater (New York, NY), Hollins University (Roanoke, VA) and Dance Space (New York, NY), CMCA, (Rockport, Me). She is a founding member of the art collective Spaz.Lab and the co-creator of the Feminist Pop-Up Festival, a touring performance festival.  She has worked extensively in performance and video in recent years, including projects shown at the University of Maine, The Sugar Space (Salt Lake City, UT), the Mudlark Theater (New Orleans, LA), Portland Stage (Portland, ME), and Gannet Gallery (Augusta, ME). She holds her BA in Dance and Womens Studies from Hollins University, and is currently pursuing her MFA in Intermedia Studies from the University of Maine where she is focusing on furniture design and collaborative performance art.

Poster for Feminist Pop-Up Festival Portland, OR May 10, 11, 12


Johanna will be taking part in the Portland, OR installment of the Feminist Pop Up Festival on May 11th and 12th, 2013.  Through a series of workshops, networking events, and public showings of feminist art, this highly mobile grassroots strives to create community and conversation.

The Feminist Pop Up Festival was founded in 2012 by Maine artists and Intermedia grad students Rachel Nelson and Johanna Cairns to speak to what they see as the lack of conversation about feminism in the modern art world. “Contemporary art tends to either fetishize or ghettoiz feminists.  We craved a community that was about functionality and agency.  We couldn’t find one, so we decided to start one,” says Nelson.  “The beautiful thing about this event is it brings together people all across the contemporary art world- there’s performance artists sitting down with riot grrls, and watercolorists hearing philosophers talk about politics.  It’s kind of awesome,” says Cairns.  Over the summer and fall of 2013, the Feminist Pop Up Festival will continue to travel- visiting Minneapolis, Brooklyn, and Portland ME, with potential stops in 2014 in LA and New Orleans.

The festival serves as a venue for them to premiere their latest performance art piece “dark/heavy/full of holes”.  They will be bringing Minneapolis riot grrls Kitten Forever along with them- dubbed one of Minneapolis’s “best bands of the year” by CityPages Magazine. Film work will be shown from several artists around the country. In addition, there will be a wide variety of local talent on display.  They are still recruiting artists and community members to perform and speak.  “This is a great opportunity for existing local feminist communities to deepen and stretch, as well as connect with performers from all over the country,” Nelson says.

Photos of rustic tables and shelves made by Johanna Cairns, photos by Amy Pierce.


The recipient of a scholarship to the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, Johanna will study Basic Woodworking, which is an introduction to furniture making, with a focus on traditional hand skills. at the Center in Rockport, Maine  this summer. She has already begun to study furniture making at UMaine as seen above.