James A. Reeves
Writer, designer, educator, disc jockey, motorist.
Twitter • Flickr • Faceworld • Curriculum Vitae
Exactly six feet tall.
I've lived in Detroit, New York, Helsinki, New Orleans
Childhood fear: Mannequins
Favorite fonts: Helvetica Light (sans-serif), Sabon (serif)
Favorite word: 'motorway'
James A. Reeves is a writer, educator, and designer. He’s a partner at Civic Center, a creative studio dedicated to restoring dignity to public space. To date, he’s driven 75,000 miles along the backroads of America and his first book, The Road to Somewhere: An American Memoir, was published by W. W. Norton in 2011. He has taught courses in design, history, and visual culture at Pratt Institute and Parsons School of Design, and he’s established several successful design programs for K-12 students in Brooklyn. He attended the University of Michigan, Pratt Institute, and (briefly) Tulane Law School. His work has been featured on CBS News, GOOD, and Zócalo Public Square. He has been published on Twitter and his work frequently appears in Facebook. After midnight, he makes mix tapes and audio loops, and he’s performed in New York, Helsinki, New Orleans, and Grenoble. He’s currently finishing his first novel, a thriller about a very old man who travels across the country to kidnap the host of the third most popular radio show in America. He lives in New Orleans.
“The inspiration is so simple: Head out at random into America and see what you find. James A. Reeves found the America no one seems to be looking for anymore, and he also found himself.”
“A tantalizing 21st century cross between James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, this remarkable and utterly original memoir heralds the arrival of a new and important American voice. James A. Reeves’s The Road to Somewhere will take you places you will not easily forget.”
“Through his photographs and candid, episodic storytelling, Reeves documents his experiences and the people he encounters in various regions of the United States, reflecting with uncommon honesty on both positive and negative aspects of the culture. Reeves’s obsession with driving long distances in rental cars is fuelled by his search to figure out what it means to be an adult and to live a meaningful life in a complicated world. His unique point of view clearly comes through in both his writing and images—quirky, beautiful, disturbing, humorous, and at times unexpectedly and achingly moving.”
A Speech About Driving. TEDx, 2012.
The Road to Somewhere: An American Memoir. New York: W. W. Norton, 2011.
“Point and Shoot.” GOOD Magazine, 2011.
“Panic in Aisle 5.” GOOD Magazine, 2010.
“My Living Room.” Urban Omnibus, Architectural League of New York, 2009.
“American Blend.” What Happened to Us? Life in the Bush Years. Eugene: Elope Press, 2007
“The Shape of Content.” Presentation at NAEA Conference. New York, NY. 2007.
Before studying film and graphic design at the University of Michigan, James switched his major no less than six times (including the ever-popular Japanese Literature in Translation) and held 23 part-time jobs (selling oriental rugs, developing photographs, gas station clerk, and delivering pizzas).
In 2001, James moved to the big city, where he worked as a freelance designer for a few Madison Avenue companies before realizing that he did not care if another chocolate bar or cellular telephone was ever sold again. At this point, he was ripe for discovering the manifestos of the Constructivists, Ken Garland’s “First Things First” declaration, and the broadsides of Adbusters and Émigré. Design as a method of education and empowerment; he dug it. These things weren’t mentioned to him during his schooling, so he enrolled in the education department at the Pratt Institute, where he received a Master’s Degree in Design Education in 2004.
Also in 2001, he founded a creative studio and record label called Red Antenna with Candy Chang, Stephen Baker, and Dan Parham. Launching a traditional record label in the same year that the mp3 achieved popular currency proved to be a challenging business decision. Some might even call it dim. Nonetheless, several well-received techno records were pressed and even sold to people, and the Red Antenna experiment continues to produce intriguing design projects.
In addition to writing grants and serving as a program director for K-12 design programs in Brooklyn, James has also taught several undergraduate and graduate courses in design and history at the Pratt Institute and Parsons School of Design. He also taught first grade, middle school, and a few months of high school. Middle school was the scariest experience by far, followed by undergraduates who are addicted to Facebook. The best students to teach are first graders and graduate students because they want to be in the classroom (really, they’re just excited to be in public).
After eight years in New York City, James moved to Helsinki to get some perspective before returning to Freedomland. After driving around for several weeks, he decided to go to law school in New Orleans but ended up starting another company called Civic Center, an urban design studio dedicated to making cities more comfortable through public installations, storytelling, and design. His first book, The Road to Somewhere: An American Memoir, will be published by W. W. Norton in August 2011.
At some point in the future, he plans to go off the grid and sit in a cheap room somewhere in Saigon or Reno and read lots of books and stare at a ceiling fan.