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The Current Fellows

The 2018 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.
Adam Chuong | Direct Action for Rights and Equality
MID 2019 | Industrial Design
Adam Chuong is a designer and organizer whose work explores the intersections of designed objects, storytelling, and personal narrative. This summer, they will be partnering with Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), a Providence-based community organization that mobilizes low-income families in communities of color for social, economic and political justice, to combat gentrification and the displacement of low-income communities of color. DARE is currently pushing a for a ballot initiative that would mitigate Providence’s housing crisis, save tenants money, promote community stability, incentivize the creation of affordable rental housing units and investment in the city’s low-income communities of color, and improve landlord-tenant relations. Adam will work with DARE to develop tools and strategies to document and promote community member narratives of a sustainable and equitable future for Providence, with the overall goal of supporting DARE’s ballot initiative.
Micah Epstein | Providence Department of Planning and Development
BFA 2019 | Industrial Design
Micah is an advocate for equity in sustainable transportation and a self-labelled bike geek. He will be working this summer with the City of Providence in the Department of Planning and Development. With experience as a freelance graphic and web designer, a passion for the relationship between equity and sustainable transportation, and a penchant for local action, he will help to design and implement two new sustainable transportation projects: a bicycle/pedestrian corridor called the Providence City Walk, and an e-bike share program. Micah will be using human-centered design concepts and techniques to make city planning, a discipline with a reputation for opacity and bureaucracy, more accessible and equitable to the diversity of citizens living in and moving through Providence. By working on projects with a variety of timelines at a variety of scales, Micah hopes to create designs ranging from education and advocacy to permanent signage and infrastructure.
Nakeia Medcalf | African Alliance of RI
MDes 2018 | Interior Architecture
Straight out of Milwaukee, WI, Nakeia Medcalf has always been driven to fulfill her personal civic responsibility– engage with the community and find new ways through design to do so. Upon completion of her Master of Design in Interior Studies, Nakeia aims to continue her analysis of existing architectural conditions as they relate to economy, race and history to empower communities through a design practice that speaks to an audience of people of African heritage and beyond. Working with the African Alliance of Rhode Island, Nakeia will facilitate workshops in Afrofuturism and how this concept can be implemented to provide social solutions for a local site on the Lower South Side of Providence. Through participatory interviews, conversations and workshops, the community of the African Alliance of Rhode Island will explore ideas of self-design, self-build, self-surveillance and self-governance through a hands-on approach.
Sara Naja | Karam Foundation
MArch 2019 | Architecture
Sara aims to apply the methodologies and practices often embedded in architectural practice to social work. She believes in the universality of the discipline of architecture and sees opportunity for the architectural skill set to be applied in areas where it is often needed. In response to the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, Sara will deploy her skills as an architect to provide opportunities for Syrian refugee children to achieve their goals and strive towards brighter futures. Over the summer, Sara will intern with Karam Foundation, a non-profit organization whose aim is to restore dignity and quality of life for people affected by conflict by eliminating barriers to success through innovative education, entrepreneurial development, and community-driven aid. Sara’s internship will begin in Lebanon where she will document and analyze the effects of a playground built in the refugee camps of Bekaa. She will then travel to Turkey and continue her work at Karam House, a community workspace that helps provide education for refugee kids in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. She will apply her thinking methods and background to influence the children by personal mentorship and group workshops.

William Samosir | Strong National Museum of Play
BFA 2018 | Sculpture
Born and raised in Indonesia, William Samosir is an interdisciplinary artist and experimental technologist who is excited about alternative affordances in the realm of computation. As a concentrator in Computation, Technology, and Culture in RISD, he has created multiple experimental technological tool-objects that honor spatial and bodily knowledge, therefore paving ways for computational systems to be worn, performed, and embodied. This summer, William will be working with the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY as an artist-in-residence to build further upon this line of inquiry. He will be conducting hands-on research with the museum’s play artifacts and the collection owned by its sub-department—the International Center for the History of Electronic Games. Together with the museum’s various departments, he will venture into developing an alternative, object-based educational language that teaches computational literacy through spatial thinking and collaborative play—a model which he hopes can be eventually disseminated and recontextualized in different educational institutions. Ultimately through this internship, William is hoping to contribute towards shaping and reorganizing computational language beyond the strictly logical and mathematical, therefore expanding the medium’s creative access and inclusiveness.

K. Sarrantonio | Make The Road NY
MFA 2018 | Printmaking
K. Sarrantonio is an artist and activist from the Hudson Valley, NY. They will receive an M.F.A. in Printmaking from Rhode Island School of Design in 2018. K. studied printmaking at SUNY New Paltz, Mount Holyoke College and UMASS Amherst, and received their undergraduate degree in Art from Hampshire College in 2007. K. has been a member of the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Studio, The Lower East Side Printshop and The Printmaking Center of New Jersey. As a Maharam Fellow this summer, K. will be working at Make the Road NY, a member led organization that works to build the power of immigrant and working class communities. At Make the Road, K. will be engaging in a silkscreen printing project with the Youth Power Program. The process of building printmaking facilities and learning to design images for print aims to empower the youth to create their own messaging for posters and signs that will impact the greater community.
John Shen | Age Concern
BFA 2019 | Photography
John Shen is a photographer and painter from New Zealand interested in the future of how our society is changing and evolving. As a RISD Maharam Fellow, John will be travelling back to his homeland to work with the New Zealand based non-profit, Age Concern. By collaborating with this nationwide organisation, John plans to document and photograph some of the rapidly growing number of citizens who are over 65 and approaching their twilight years. As increasing life spans globally push the percentage of our population over 65 ever higher it is important to think of this issue not simply in a quantitative manner but to also add a human face and perspective into the discussion. By interviewing and documenting the realities of their lives as seniors, John hopes to explore the issue of the aging population in a more qualitative way as well as investigating the intrinsic challenges and problems faced by these senior individuals.
Bobby Joe Smith | Save Money Save Life
MFA 2020 | Graphic Design
Bobby Joe is a Black and Native designer from the Hunkpapa and Oohenumpa Lakota tribes. Raised in North Dakota and Minnesota, he ventured to Vermont after high school to earn a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science from Middlebury College. After a number of years working in public policy, consulting, photography, computer programming, and advertising, he decided to merge his multi-disciplinary background and passion for creating by earning a post-baccalaureate degree in Graphic Design from the Maryland Institute College of Art. He used this foundation in design to take a deeper dive into the discipline by pursuing his masters in Graphic Design at RISD. Bobby Joe loves designing systems and using design thinking to solve big problems with diverse groups of people. Thanks to the Maharam Fellowship he will be able to engage in both this summer in Chicago with the SaveMoneySaveLife (SMSL) Foundation designing a visual identity for the organization as well as conducting workshops with members of the community to develop SMSL programs.
Juan Javier Syquia | NASA Ames Research Center
BFA 2021 | Graphic Design
Javier is currently studying Graphic Design at RISD and Chemistry at Brown University, and is invested in developing and finding relationships between the two fields of STEM and Art & Design. Javier will be a part of the Stanford-Brown-RISD iGEM 2018 Team that will be focusing on building a synthetic cell at the NASA Ames Research Center. By conducting this research, the team is aiming to understand the basis of evolution of life on earth, or even alternative pathways in evolution, and may continually research its implications. Some questions that arise are – what is the difference between a protocell and life naturally occuring on earth? Is it possible to produce protocells that do not undergo evolution? Additionally, Javier will be creating all necessary designs for the team that will be essential to their success in the International iGEM 2018 Competition. Javier is excited to extrapolate his design skills to a completely new realm. He is thrilled to see how designing around complex scientific ideas will change his process and lead to innovative outcomes.

Kalina Winters | Women’s Campaign International
BFA 2018 | Painting
Kalina is a 2018 graduate from RISD’s painting department. She uses flatness as a metaphor to show the idea that women and other marginalized people are powerful despite the confinements they have to navigate around. She creates 2D vs 3D works, both pictorially depicted and physically executed in sculpture. The protagonists she creates are just a sliver of space yet packed with information, depth and care- a concept reflected in the paper itself. She will be teaming up this summer with Women’s Campaign International (WCI) in Philadelphia to create an art exhibition for the local community. WCI is an organization dedicated to transforming communities for the better by inclusion and support of women. She hopes to do the same for the arts community and to raise awareness for this NGO. Kalina wants to provide a platform for women to show their work and steer conversations. It will also hopefully lead to lasting engagement with the arts for everyone involved.

Gavin Zeitz | Journal of the North Atlantic and Arctic
MLA 2018 | Landscape Architecture
Gavin Zeitz came to landscape architecture from a diverse background in cultural geography, ecological economics, and community design. He seeks to position landscape architecture as a critical tool for understanding our messy global systems and as a common language for connecting people to their everyday environments. Originally from Maine, Gavin has long been interested in northern geographies and for the past two years has focused his research on the dynamic changes currently reshaping the Arctic. This summer Gavin will work in Reykjavik, Iceland with the Journal of the North Atlantic and Arctic (JONAA), a multifaceted media platform providing regional and global stakeholders with information and insight into the current events of the broadly defined Arctic. Gavin will be helping JONAA map the network of Arctic agencies and stakeholders to produce a communal tool to understand the interconnected web of Arctic knowledge, promote collaboration across disciplines, and ultimately work towards a unified and resilient North. He looks forward to traveling around Iceland to observe the relationship between the experience of cultural landscapes and spatial characteristics of infrastructure.