Michael Burton

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Animating History

Michael Burton Art

Michael Burton Assistant Professor of Art and Design - Director Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery - Faculty Fellow in the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities - Research Affiliate in the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families, and Schools

2007 M.F.A., University of Nebraska-Lincoln
2000 B.F.A., Green Mountain College

Michael is a teacher, artist, and filmmaker. He works with a team of scholars, writers, and alumni called Animating History to produce award-winning animated films. Their work makes visible the stories of marginalized and enslaved families by telling their stories and connecting them to the larger historical narrative of American history via the medium of animation.  

Michael has produced seven films developing a specialized technique and aesthetic that combines real actors in costume with 3D animated environments. He has won eight filmmaking awards nationally and screened films in nineteen peer-reviewed (juried) film festivals across the US including two Academy Award qualifiers. Additionally, Michael has exhibited artwork in major museums across the US including the Denver Art Museum, Vero Beach Museum of Art, and Rhode Island School of Design Art Museum.   

Michael teaches: Computer Basics, Visualization Studio, Color Studio, Advanced Design for Printed Textiles, and a new course - Digital Apparel Design. 

Selected Film Festivals and Exhibitions:

2024 Phoenix Film Festival (juried) - April 2024

2024 Omaha Film Festival (juried) - March 2024

2022 Silk Roads International Film Festival (juried)- October 2022 Cannes, France 

2022 Prince George’s Film Festival (juried) – September 2022 Bowie, MD  

2022 Art Struct – Vero Beach Museum of Art (invited) – Dec 2022 Vero Beach, FL 

2022 The 15th Annual Digital Graffiti (juried)– May 2022 Alys Beach, FL 

2021 Floor of the Sky (solo) Kiechel Fine Art Lincoln, NE. 

2020 A Gold Slipper (solo) Kiechel Fine Art Lincoln, NE. 

2020 Nebraska Now; Anna (solo) Museum of Nebraska Art Kearney, NE. 

2020 A Gold Slipper (solo) Willa Cather Foundation Museum Red Cloud, NE. 

2019 Hip Hop Film Festival (juried) Harlem, NY.

2018  Virginia Film Festival (juried) Charlottesville, VA 

2018 New Media Film Festival (juried) Los Angeles, CA. 

2018 Utopia Film Festival (juried) Greenbelt, MD. 

2018 Atlantic Selects Film Screening Online 

 2018 Bronze Lens Film Festival (juried) Atlanta, GA 

2015 Art Seen Joslyn Art Museum (juried) Omaha, NE 

2011 Blink! Light, Sound and the Moving Image -Denver Art Museum Denver, CO 


Total: $323,570.00 

External: $237,700 

Institutional: $85,870 

Funded - Internal Support

M. Burton, Dreher, K. Thomas, W.G. (2023 - 2024) UNL Research Council: Layman Grant, Animating History; Using Film as an Educational Tool to Tell Stories of Enslaved Families Who Sought Freedom through the Law - $10,000

M. Burton, Dreher, K. Thomas, W.G. (2022-2023) UNL Research Council: Interdisciplinary Research Grant – Animating History Lab, The Diary of Michael Shiner – Film Production $20,000

M. Burton, Casto, M.A., Starkey, S. (2022) UNL Convocations Grant – Kendra Benson – This Woman’s Work – Exhibition and lecture in the Robert Hillestad Textiles Gallery- $1,000

M. Burton (2021-2022) Bridge Funds - CEHS Audrey Newton Innovation and Excellence fund– Animation staff for Animating History Lab - $12,000

M. Burton (2021) GAP Funding – UNL Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor - $2,000

M. Burton, Starkey, S. (2021-2022) CEHS Technology Innovation Grant – Motion Capture for Animation $7,370

M. Burton (2017-2019) UNL Cather Project - A Gold Slipper film and art exhibition production grant  $8,000

M. Burton, Thomas, W.G. (2016-2017) UNL Arts and Humanities Research Enhancement Program Grant - support for film production of Anna $10,000

M. Burton (2016) Hixson Lied Dean’s Office - support for film production of Anna $2000

M. Burton (2013-2014) CEHS Technology Innovation Grant – “Vault” Video Tutorial Database - $13,500

Funded - External Support

 M. Burton, Dreher, K. Thomas, W.G. (2021-2022) Kitty M. Perkins Foundation NU Foundation - The Bell Affair finish costs for distribution $20,000

M. Burton, Dreher, K. Thomas, W.G. (2019-2021) National Endowment for the Humanities - Media Production grant  $200,000

M. Burton, Dreher, K. Thomas, W.G. (2020-2021) Maryland Humanities Major Grant – Media Production grant  $8,400

M. Burton (2016) Hatchfund.org Crowd - funding support for film production of Anna $4,300

M. Burton (2013) Nebraska Arts Council - Distinguished Film Maker Award $5,000

Selected Press:

2022 William Ford, Animation Documentary Tells Story of Enslaved Family Who Fought for Freedom, Washington 

Informer, June 2, 2022 

2022 Sheilah Kast, The Searing Story of the Enslaved Family’s Fight for Freedom, On The Record, May 14, 2022 https://www.wypr.org/show/on-the-record/2022-05-19/the-searing-story-of-the-enslaved-bell-familys-fight-for-freedom 

2022 Deann Gayman, New film,‘Bell Affair’ explores freedom suits in America, Nebraska Today, April 4, 2022 

2022 Nelson, August UNL Professors Create Film Celebrating Black-led Emancipation, Daily Nebraskan Feb 23, 2022 

2022 Kiechel Fine Art Center showcases NFTs by local artists, Nebraska News Service, April 2, 2022 

2021 Nebraska Quarterly Magazine, Professor earns kudos for history of freedom suits, p34, Fall 2021 

2021 Willa Cather’s ‘A Gold Slipper’ adapted for exhibition, Nebraska Today Dec 3, 2021 

2021 L Kent Wolgamott, NFTs, The Hottest New Product in the Art Market, come to Lincoln, Lincoln Journal Star Sep 6,2021 

2021 Kiechel features Burton’s Nebraska-inspired artworks, Nebraska Today, August 30, 2021 

2021 Magic Alchemy; Artists Talk about Inventing the NFT and Digital Art at Kiechel Fine Art, Customs BMX.com, August 2021 

2021 Friday Live radio program, Nebraska Public Media: Discussing The Bell Affair 

2021 Deann Gayman, Thomas Earns Lynton Prize for a ‘Question of Freedom’, Nebraska Today, March 26, 2021 

2020 L Kent Wolgamott, A Gold Slipper Illustrates and Illuminates Cather Short Story, Lincoln Journal Star Jan 23,2020 

2020 Rick Brown, MONA to host ‘Collection Connection’ program Jan. 22, Grand Island Independent, Jan 8, 2020 

2020 Rick Brown, UNL professor Michael Burton tells Anna's story of escaping slavery in 12-minute animated film Kearney Hub, Jan 16, 2020 


Areas of Expertise:

    Art and Design

Professional Highlights

Honors and Recognition
Best Animation (Best in Category)- Prince George's Film FestivalBest in Animation Category - New Media Film Festival CEHS Distinguished Research and Creative Activity AwardDudziak Prize for Legal History - Anna filmNUtech Creative Works of the Year AwardDistinguished Filmmaker Nebraska Arts Council
FATE; Foundation Art theory and Education