After receiving her graduate degree, Marianetta Porter worked as a product designer in the corporate world, first for Armstrong World Industries, Inc. and later for the Ford Motor Company. From 1987 until 1994, she served on the faculty of the School of Design at North Carolina State University. She joined the University of Michigan faculty in 1995.
Porter's research and scholarly investigations are grounded in the study of African American history, culture and representation. These themes encompass various genres ranging from ethnography and folklore to visual culture, language and religious traditions. She is particularly interested in the ways these complex relationships are woven into the fabric of everyday life. Through the language of visual art, Porter seeks to draw a correlation between historic memory and modern African American life, to give voice to the history of the diaspora, and to acknowledge the importance of its influence in the birth and blooming of American culture.
Porter is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Smithsonian Senior Research Fellowship Award, the Smithsonian Laureate Award, an AT&T Network Grant, and the Atlanta Life National Arts Competition Award. Her work has been exhibited nationwide at venues that include the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, the Spoleto Festival, the Harriet Tubman Museum, and the Hampton University Museum of Art.