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The Current Fellows

The 2016 Maharam STEAM Fellows are working in arenas not typically associated with art and design students and have the opportunity to effect real change in policy and practice in local and global organizations and communities. As part of the program, fellows blog about their experiences throughout the summer and make a final report to Maharam about what they discovered through their internships.
Natalia Blanco | Fundación Amistad
BFA 2016 | Sculpture
Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Natalia is concluding the final year of her BFA in Sculpture. She will be collaborating with her long time friend and colleague, Nicholas Fernandez, to aid Fundación Amistad and the World Monuments Fund in their efforts to better communicate and develop sustainable and financially feasible approaches to the preservation and revitalization of two endangered historical sites, El Vedado and the National Art School. Her photo documentation and research will serve to advocate for communities within Havana that lack adequate funding and resources to preserve these sites. She will gain experience collaborating with urban planners, conservators, economists, activists, entrepreneurs, and locals working to shape Cuba’s future while preserving its history and voice. Together, Natalia and Nicholas will also be working on a publication that archives the ingenuity and  resourcefulness of the Cuban people through bricolage objects and their unusual beauty. Natalia believes that artists play a vital role in the observation, dissemination, and creation of culture and their perspectives remain integral to missions like that of Fundación Amistad and the World Monuments Fund.
Callie Clayton | GenSpace
BFA 2017 | Textiles
As an artist and designer, Callie thrives on listening, observing and seeking understanding. She strongly believes in interdisciplinary collaboration as a pathway for sustainable innovation and educational opportunities. Based on her belief in the integral relationship between art and design and science, this summer Callie will collaborate with Genspace, a community biolab in Brooklyn, New York, to investigate the importance of public access to biotechnology education and consequent changes in biotechnology regulatory policy. Through research and involvement in Genspace’s biotech classes and community, she will explore how public access to science education empowers individuals to pursue scientific innovation, how governance structures deal with fast-paced technologies and information access interactions between the government, media and citizens. Callie hopes to initiate more conversations about the societal and ethical implications and human-centered design opportunities biotechnology offers. Currently, Callie is on the planning committee for the annual A Better World by Design conference and is a project leader for the Brown and RISD BioSTEAM organization. She is an avid environmentalist with a love for carrots and spontaneity.
Chris Cohoon | Cadence International/US Marine Corps Installations Pacific Command
MA 2016 | Art Education 
While developing a project for a social enterprise in Nepal, Chris discovered the power of Fine Art and Design skills as problem solving and community building tools. Chrisʼ time at RISD allowed him to research Design Thinking for creative community development. As a RISD Maharam Fellow, Chris will be building an Empathic Design-centered leadership program for US Marines and high school students stationed in Okinawa, Japan. Participants will learn creative processes emphasizing empathy, collaboration, conflict resolution, and problem solving through researching, designing, and manufacturing stand up paddle boards. The curriculum developed during this program will be available as a leadership tool and adapted for use by organizations working with underserved communities around the world.
Lucille Crelli | Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island
BFA 2017 | Apparel Design
As a proud feminist artist, Lucille is studying Apparel Design with a concentration in Gender, Sexuality, and Race to explore how art and design can be used to address social justice issues. She is taking advantage of her time at RISD to influence campus change alongside her peers as president of the RISD Global Initiative and co-founder of RISD SHARE (Sexual Health and Relationship Educators). The skills she has learned through her campus activism led to the Maharam Fellowship with Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, a Providence-based organization that works with refugees and immigrants to aid the transition into a new home. Through the use of art “empowerment” sessions, this project will allow DIIRI to address the emotional needs of their clients and introduce arts programming as part of their wide array of services. Lucille will also take advantage of these sessions to conduct research on the role social entrepreneurship and community partnerships can play in successful resettlement, and will use this research to complement DIIRI’s services and inform her Apparel Thesis Collection.


Evan Daniel | Dynamic Robotics Lab, Oregon State University
MFA 2017 | Digital Media
Originally a painter, Evan Daniel has incorporated robotics and programming as an integral part of his artistic practice over the past several years.  A driving force for this research has been complex tensions inherent in robotics such as interaction, authorship, and knowledge.  It was with this in mind that Evan contacted the Dynamic Robotics Laboratory (DRL) at Oregon State University.  The DRL is a site of cutting edge robotics development — a place where dilemmas arising from new technologies can be analyzed before they become part of our daily lives.  Evan’s work will address the ethical, social, and political dilemmas arising from the research at this site.  His approach will address both public policy (think of the complex issues brought about by self-driving vehicles) as well as the nature of the laboratory’s research.
Josephine Devanbu | The California Institute for Water Resources
BFA 2016 | Painting + Science And Society (RISD/Brown)
Josephine will work with California farmers impacted by drought to create maps, drawings and writings that explore their experience of groundwater use. Between trips to farms scattered across the state, Josephine will return to the Oakland headquarters of the California Institute for Water Resources where she will assemble multimedia features about each farmer. The Institute will publish these visual stories of identity and adaptation on their news blog The Confluence. She hopes that adding images from farmers’ perspectives to existing maps and models will contribute to a greater understanding of the social dimension of groundwater use. Josephine grew up in the Central Valley, surrounded by some of the nation’s most productive farmland. She looks forward to reporting on how farmers conceive of the underground aquifers that kept her aboveground childhood green.
Nicholas Fernandez | Fundación Amistad
BFA 2016 | Sculpture
Nicholas Fernandez is a first generation Cuban American completing his BFA in Sculpture. He will be collaborating with colleague and companion, Natalia Blanco, to contribute to the preservation and documentation of Cuban culture during this time of significant political and social change. Through this fellowship, he will be a part of Fundación Amistad and the World Monuments Fund’s mission to raise international awareness of two endangered historical sites, El Vedado and the National Art School. The long-term goal is to develop technical and financial aid for their preservation. Along with his partner, he will be responsible for gathering research and case studies relevant to each urban project, photo and video documentation of the sites, as well as event planning and programming for the Watch Day in Havana. He hopes to understand how a non-governmental organization develops hands-on strategies for tackling issues pertinent to international relations. Together, Natalia and Nicholas will also be working on a publication that documents local bricolage objects and reflects the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Cuban people.
Qi Guo | St. John’s Vocational Training Centre
BFA 2017 | Architecture
As a senior architecture student at RISD, Qi is well aware of the great potential and responsibility of the profession he chooses. He believes an architect should also be an active social participator in order to maximize his/her value and contribution to the society. Inspired by the previous winter travelling experience in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka with Professor Lili Hermann, Qi, this summer, will go back to the district and cooperate with students and teachers from St John’s Vocational Training Centre (SJVTC). Together, they will explore the possibilities of the future housing in local community. Their exploration will include the experiments with unconventional building materials and techniques as well as the discussion and imagination of the ideal future living space. Qi holds the strong belief of the significant role of design education plays in retrieving the underprivileged regions in the world. Through the interaction with students, he wants to sparkle the student’s creativity and bring the design thinking he developed at RISD to SJVTC.
Bo-Won Keum | Books to Prisoners
MFA 2017 | Graphic Design
Bo-Won Keum is a storyteller currently pursuing her MFA in Graphic Design. This summer, she will partner with Books to Prisoners in Seattle, WA, a non-profit that receives and responds to letters from prison inmates across the US who ask for books. There, she will help develop a global archiving strategy for keeping records, restriction lists, and reading materials in order, traveling to various other prison book donation programs in the US in the process. She will also design a resource guide designed to be distributed inside the prison system, along with a personal document that holds interviews that she will conduct with volunteers and designers that considers the politics of what it means to give a book to someone.


Yuko Okabe | Boston Children’s Hospital
BFA 2017 | Illustration
Born and bred in Nutley, New Jersey, Yuko Okabe has always possessed a great connection to narrative and how she can create emotive work that reaches out to people. This Summer, she will collaborate with Boston Children’s Hospital and its Psychiatry Department’s start-up, Neuro’motion, to research and interact with staff to help create mobile therapy games for children struggling with mental health illnesses and disabilities. She has proposed this project as a response to both the growing attention needed for better mental healthcare as well as her personal connections and history. As an illustrator, she wants to learn how these analyzations can help create suitable storytelling and relatable characters that will stimulate patient motivation and development of coping skills. By interacting with health scholars and children at in-patient and out-patient facilities, this project will help her better understand the sensitivities surrounding mental health. Yuko has always loved working with children: she has volunteered as a TA and instructor for local Providence schools and organizations. On a final note, she likes hedgehogs, curry, and collecting postcards.
2 Comments Post a comment
  1. George Baum
    Jul 25 2015

    Great projects, great students

  2. Ellen Winsor
    Aug 10 2015

    Congratulations on your endeavors. I write from the island of Jamestown, RI and am interested in your projects for multiple reasons, so please be in touch via my email address used to register for commenting here. Also, I have a job posting at RISD’s ArtWorks involving our butterfly-shaped house (landmark house in architectural history, 1897, the original being in England). The ArtWorks listing is entitled, “Architectural update private residence; green energy, some Interior Design and some Landscape Architecture.” A fifth year RISD student (Architecture) designed the house with his professor signing off on the plans at the time. I welcome hearing from you and will explain more why. Best wishes! Wonderful humanitarian efforts you have conceived.


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