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The Current Fellows

The 2019 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.
Sarah Alvarez | IntegrateNYC
BFA 2020 | Illustration
As an illustrator engaging with design and communication, Sarah Alvarez approaches her practice with an understanding that a cultivated narrative can and should serve as the backbone to any work. This summer she will apply this perspective to her collaborative work with IntegrateNYC, a non-profit organization based in NYC that is primarily led by students in high schools throughout Manhattan and the Outer Boroughs. These student activists and their adult allies advocate for racial integration in NYC schools and in schools across the nation. Sarah will be acting as an artist/designer in residence for INYC, working in tandem with the student leaders and adult allies in order to develop a consistent narrative and aesthetic that will drive all future demonstrations and outreach, in addition to bringing design thinking to all legislative, educational and development work being done during those summer months.
Enrico Giori | ABCittà
BFA 2021 | Architecture
Born and raised in the outskirts of Milan, Italy, Enrico Giori is a candidate for a BFA and BARCH at the Rhode Island School of Design. Enrico seeks to use architecture as a tool to facilitate a wide array of human relationships, and therefore is a firm believer that the voices, opinions and visions of users –past, present and future– of a project are paramount to its success. During his Maharam Fellowship, Enrico will be working in Milan with ABCittà, a social cooperative made up of professionals with different skills and expertise in participatory planning. Enrico will focus on the development, facilitation and analysis of city planning workshop initiatives, helping architects, urban planners and city officials hear the voices of the residents of low-income social housing neighborhoods. Additionally, Enrico will assist with the development of new cultural initiatives in the Milan area, which hope to foster new forms of dialogue and collaboration between cultural institutions and people of all backgrounds.

Joyce Kutty | Tenaganita
MDes 2019 | Interior Architecture
Joyce Kutty is an interdisciplinary artist, musician and designer from Rhode Island. As part of MDes Interior Architecture: Exhibitions and Narrative Environments department at RISD, her thesis is focused on the personal narrative, using hybridized methodologies of storytelling to bring contextualization of intangible cultural heritage to museums and other historically hegemonic institutions. Her work for the Maharam Fellowship will be a continuation of her thesis, investigating and learning more about public policy advocacy for domestic workers in Malaysia and other neighboring countries of Southeast Asia. She will be partnering with Malaysian NGO Tenaganita (“Women’s Force” in Malay), and will be working with women at their shelters and craftswomen from the Myanmar refugee community to create an exhibition exploring the oppressive nature of gendered labor, the rich traditions of womanhood, and all things outside and in between.
Cornelia Overton | Walk Bike Nashville
MLA 2020 | Landscape Architecture
Cornelia Overton came to RISD’s Landscape Architecture program with a background in cultural anthropology, environmental studies, carpentry, farming, and time spent volunteering with cycling and environmental groups. With landscape architecture, she hopes to promote beauty, health, and equitability in the world from an ecological perspective. Originally from Smithville and Nashville, Tennessee, Cornelia cares deeply about advocating for positive urban design in the Southeast. This summer at Walk Bike Nashville, Cornelia will work with activists, bureaucrats, and community members to develop a citizen’s guide to the politics and decision-making around their streets in order to empower Nashvillians to advocate for much-needed public space and transportation amenities in a rapidly growing, car-centric city. In addition, she looks forward to working with the organization as they prepare for community design workshops envisioning improved open space and active transport infrastructure.
Eden Tai | Taiwan Tong Cao Association
BFA 2019 | Photography
This fall, Eden will be teaming up with Irene Wei to research the plant Tong Cao (tetrapanax) and its usage in making Pith Paper. Pith Papermaking is both a traditional craft important to Taiwanese culture and a more sustainable process than pulp papermaking. Most of the documentation regarding pith paper is written in Chinese, and the English literature that is available on the subject is written from a colonialist perspective. Eden and Irene will be the first known artists of Taiwanese descent writing about tetrapanax and Pith Paper in English, and they will produce educational resources which represent Taiwanese culture and the craft more respectfully than previous iterations. The team will be working with the Taiwan Tong Cao Association to learn about the harvesting and usage of Pith Paper. Irene, a skilled papermaker, will focus on learning and teaching while Eden will lead the production of a short, bilingual documentary.
Irene Wei | Taiwan Tong Cao Association
BFA 2019 | Furniture Design
Irene Wei is completing her degree in Furniture Design with a concentration in Nature Culture Sustainability Studies. In addition to her studies at school, Irene is a dedicated papermaker who studies various traditional papermaking methods to investigate how they can be applied in sustainable and practical ways within her furniture practice. This summer, Irene will be partnering with Eden Tai to document and facilitate research on a plant called  Tong Cao (tetrapanax) and its uses for the near defunct craft of Pith Papermaking. Since 1993, Pith Papermaking has hardly been practiced in Taiwan due to plastic’s rise to material predominance. The very little documentation about Tong Cao and Pith Papermaking offered in English are written from an orientalist lens that exoticizes Taiwanese culture. Using photography, videography and translational skills, they will archive knowledge about the methods of harvesting Tong Cao and making Pith Paper. They will partner with the Taiwan Tong Cao Association and the local Hwa Yuan tribe to revive this tradition and document it respectfully.


Yiyi Wei | Wildlife Conservation Society, China
BFA 2019 | Glass
Yiyi Wei is an interdisciplinary artist interested in perceiving connections between entities—to find a poetic intermediate space, where interconnectivity and interactivity between lives is possible. As a Maharam Fellow, Yiyi will be travelling back to China to work with the Chang Tang branch of the U.S.-based conservation organization Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The Chang Tang plateau, located in the west of Tibet, has a special climate formation due to high elevation. Disruption as the result of climate change has led to the disappearance of wildlife, alterations in landscape, and conflicts between herdsman and wildlife. Working with WCS, Yiyi is researching and exploring water as a medium that interconnects the habitants of Chang Tang. Through observation, interviews and material investigations, Yiyi wants to find that intermediate space, where she can bear witness to the changing water, and to the entities that are interconnected because of this material. Yiyi hopes that with documentation of her experiences at Chang Tang, she can initiate conversation and education with a greater audience.
Raina Wellman | Volunteers in Medicine
BFA 2019 | Graphic Design
Raina Wellman is an interdisciplinary artist and designer who works with public health, communication, and community engagement. Raina has worked at the Santa Fe New Mexican Newspaper, the American Museum of Natural History, MGMT Design, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. During this summer’s Maharam Fellowship, she will be working with Volunteers in Medicine and the New York Health Department to study health service practices in the U.S. as a response to healthcare coverage issues and community health needs. Using her experience in brand identity creation, writing, and public engagement, she will work to collaboratively create scalable, user-friendly, and playful design outreach that fits the needs of both organizations. Through exposure and hands on involvement, she hopes to develop an artistic practice that responds to public health advocacy and outreach, and elevates design’s changing roles in healthcare promotion. She will also create a publicly accessible archive relating to material gathered on healthcare inequity, design solution making, and grassroots approaches toward providing better healthcare.
Jisu Yang | Providence Parks Department – Roger Williams Botanical Center
BFA 2021 | Architecture
Jisu Yang is a designer who explores intersections between social engagement and gardening practices. As 2019 Maharam Fellow, Jisu is working with the Parks Department from the City Government of Providence. With The Parks Department, she will be engaged in creating a platform that increases accessibility and communicability of public gardening and farming for immigrant families in the city. As urban agriculture in Providence was initiated by refugees, cultural diversity in the city is manifested by the practice of gardening by different communities. The essence of the project is to map existing gardens to enhance public awareness and allow the city to better advocate for community engagement in urban agriculture. By implementing way-finding systems and organizizing events for cross-cultural interaction, Jisu aspires that this design can increase the interaction among different communities in Providence.