Kathy McTavish

Kathy McTavish is a media composer, cellist and installation artist whose work blends data, text, code, sound and abstract, layered moving images. Her recent work has focused on creating generative methods for building networked, multichannel video and sound environments. She creates cross-sensory, polyphonic landscapes which flow from the digital web into physical spaces.

Her background in cello performance, mathematics, ecology, music theory and coding informs her work as a composer and multimedia artist. She is drawn to multi-threaded, dynamical systems and chance-infused, emergent patterns. She is interested in the infinite, fluid, cross-border between.

McTavish has created installations for both traditional gallery spaces and for non-traditional storefronts, abandoned buildings, root cellars, cathedrals, barns, warehouse elevators, alleyways and silos, and loves to work with physical structures ::: textures, pipes, beams, dusty windows. A critical part of her installation work is the resonance of a space and its ambient sounds and silences. She dwells in the creation and evolution of a work ::: in sounding a space, marking its walls, tuning the whole. She believes art has the potential to open subliminal, submerged aspects of ourselves ::: to foster reflection and transformation.

In late 2018, Kathy started working with her machines and a computer controlled, long-arm, quilting machine. The result is new work that can be considered an archive or work product of her machines – generative textile drawings. This new work was exhibited in her first solo-exhibition at JNG. count. map. pulse. breathe., Dec. 2019 to Feb. 2020


● McKnight Composer Fellowship (2020)
● Jerome Foundation Artist Fellowship (2019-2020)
● Bell Museum Showcase Artist Commission (2019-2020)
● Northern Lights.mn Art(ists) on the Verge Commission (2018)
● Tweed Museum of Art Artist Commission (2017)
● Duluth Depot Foundation Artist of the Year (2017)
● Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant in Media (2017, 2014, 2012)
● Jerome Foundation General Program Commission (2015, 2012, 2011)
● Northern Spark Artist Commission (2015)
● Walker Art Center / Northern Spark Artist Commission (2014)
● Made Here / Hennepin Theater Trust Artist Commission (2016)
● American Composers Forum JFund Commission (2013, 2009)
● Zeitgeist New Music Ensemble Composers Residency (2013)
● Creative Community Leadership Institute Fellowship (2013 – funded by the Bush Foundation and administered by Intermedia Arts)
● Arrowhead Regional Arts Council (13 grants awarded 2010 to 2020)
● Puffin Foundation Artist Grant for Video, Film or Radio (2013)
● United States Artists Projects / Cheswatyr Foundation Matching Grant (2011)


● Ph.D. coursework in Theoretical Ecology and Scientific Visualization (all but dissertation), University of Minnesota
● M.S. Applied Mathematics (Ecological Modeling), University of Minnesota
● B.S. Mathematics (Economics minor) – University of Minnesota, Duluth
● Sign Language Interpreting Certificate, St. Paul Technical College
● The School of Impermanence – self-designed curriculum in Music Theory, Digital Media, Poetics (funded by the Jerome Foundation)
● Independent study in cello performance and composition, arts and culture, liberal studies

Selected Projects

swarm – travelling, cross-media installation supported by an Art(ists) on the Verge Fellowship from Northern Lights.mn, Rochester Art Center October 2019 – February 2020, Rochester, MN; Field Trials at the Food Farm’s historic Free Range Film Festival barn August 2018 – September 2018, Wrenshall, MN; Lyric Center for the Arts March 2019 , Virginia, MN. Swarm used generative methods to create a networked, multi-channel kaleidoscope of animation, sound and physical artifacts.

chance – solo, cross-media installation, Sax Gallery at the Tweed Museum of Art, October 2017- October 2018, Duluth, MN. Chance explored the intersections between art and technology, humans and machines, networks, sound and mathematical systems. This installation included a landscape of painted walls representing the human imprint. Multichannel sound surrounds networked machine quartets that are choreographed to draw interconnected chance-infused, emergent, and interconnected animated patterns. The computers render infinitely and are never the same.

the duluth quantum computing project ::: storytelling in a digital age – media installation, 8-week workshop and hands-on code / arts lab – August 1- October 1, 2016.

railway prophecies: z3r0 & br1Nk – a series of networked, interactive machine environments built for mobile, desktop and multi-channel projection. The railway prophecies incorporated a simple mobile response to “touch” and a cross-screen type / telegraph aspect that operated with or without a human typist. Events in NY and MN 2015 to 2017.

the tempest ::: dost thou love me? – commissioned for live performance by the University of MN, Duluth in honor of an original copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio coming to Duluth, the multichannel projections provided a complete environment for a concert by the band Low at Duluth’s Karpeles Manuscript Museum on October 22, 2016.

mill city requiem: for solo instrument & distance – iInteractive, geolocative, multimedia installation commissioned by Northern Lights for the 2015 Northern Spark Festival.

road to williston – multimedia installation for the Plains Art Museum’s exhibit “The Bakken Boom: Artists Respond to the North Dakota Oil Rush” January 29, 2015 – August 15, 2015, Fargo, ND.

graffiti angel in sophronia – interactive, multimedia installation commissioned by the Walker Art Center and Northern Lights for the 2014 Northern Spark Festival. Appeared dusk until dawn in the Medtronic Gallery at the Walker Art Center June 14-15, 2014 with companion online collaborative story / netprov. An interactive mobile site gave visitors access to write across the generated projections.

Learn more about Kathy McTavish.