It has been about 4 weeks into my internship experience here at the NASA Ames Research Center, and I can happily say that I am enjoying being a part of such an inspirational and thought provoking community! It has been extremely interesting seeing how my background as a Graphic Designer is influencing the ways I approach the research that I have been doing with my fellow team, comprised of Stanford University, Brown University, and Brown|RISD Dual Degree students.
The Stanford-Brown-RISD Team!
Though the research we are doing is taking place and being funded by NASA Ames, located in Mountain View, CA, all our findings are also going to be presented at the international iGEM Jamboree, taking place this upcoming October. iGEM was started by MIT in the goal of forwarding the field of bioengineering, while promoting collaboration between students at the High School, Undergraduate, and Graduate levels. Teams are encouraged to take their projects into whatever form they’d like, so long as they contribute to iGEM’s Registry of “BioBricks”, which are essentially building blocks for synthetic biology that, for example, allow engineered bacteria to act in ways that scientists want them to.
This year, the Stanford-Brown-RISD iGEM Team, that I am a part of, is focusing on how to build a habitat for humans on Mars. For many years, it has been one of NASA’s goals to bring humans to Mars to continue growing our knowledge of Space. One of the largest hurdles that NASA has come to, however, is the enormous expense that is required of space travel – it cost NASA about $2.78 Million USD per kilogram to send the Curiosity Rover to Mars. This same issue will rise if NASA wants to send humans to Mars, as it would require bringing a large, already built human habitat. But what if NASA did not have to send this habitat to Mars? What if it could be built –– or grown –– on site? Our iGEM Team proposes that through the use of fungal mycelia (the vegetative part of fungi that is analogous to the root system of most plants), a small amount of mycelia spores can be sent within a mold to be grown on-site, thus reducing the cost of space travel.
The use of mycelium to create material is nothing new – it has been done successfully by several researchers and designers. A noteworthy designer that I had the honor of meeting – Phil Ross, founder of Mycoworks – actually developed a form of mycelium that is similar to leather, and is being used to create high fashion items. Ross spoke to me and my team a lot about the hurdles he went through in order to develop this new kind of material, as well as the fact that he even developed materials that were as strong as wood and concrete. There are several other companies and labs that focus on such work, such as Ecovative, that have shown that mycelium can be used to replace materials such as styrofoam, wood, bricks, cement, and more, thus offering a biodegradable and sustainable alternative.
Materials produced by Mycoworks while researching the material capabilities of fungal mycelium.
Though, our iGEM team wants to utilize this increasingly popular material specifically on Mars. Our team is exploring how to use our expertise in Bioengineering to push the boundaries of how mycelium is grown and used. To better explain how our project is taking shape, below is a poster I made that we have been using for some showcases that our team has been a part of.
The project still has several places that it may go, but I am excited to see how it is really taking shape after working closely with other students in the bioengineering field. What particularly excites me about this project is how much it relies on design – how will this habitat look? What is the best mechanism to get mycelium spores to grow into an actual habitat? How can the strength of this material be tested? How will this material hold in a completely different environment? The design opportunities are endless, and its intertwined relationship with biology and engineering are inspiring me to look at different ways that science and design may intermingle.
Below are a few images of the mycelium being grown on different media. We have found that though it is easier to track growth on PDYA plates (Potato Dextrose Yeast Agar), the mycelium is also able to grow on different food wastes like used coffee grounds, old grains, corn starch, and wood chips.
If the use of mycelium on Earth gains momentum, it would be interesting to see how food waste may be repurposed to grow new materials that may be used for everyday objects!
There’s so much more to talk about and so much more research being done. I’m looking forward to continue to share the team’s progress and my involvement! Till next time~
The Strong National Museum of Play is a grand confluence of colors, historical toy artifacts, interactive playthings, and of course, children who are brimming with summer energy! Inside the cuboid exterior of the architecture, there are sinuous hallways that weaves many different themes, forms, and eras of play into an organic and interconnected collection. Here you can find things ranging from a towering, kinect-operated interactive screen to a glass-display of the first ever, pre-Parker Brothers monopoly board. Rows of vintage dolls and miniature houses; multicolored rows of the most eccentric video game consoles; indoor playgrounds—you name it. By appropriating Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence as an exhibit guideline, the museum ensures that alongside the provision of historical contents, all sensory aspects are catered to in its design. All in all, it was a pleasant task to get myself lost in the museum, simply because the curation lends a visitor the opportunity to revel in a space of childlike imagination, and thus view the world anew through the lens of play.
For this Maharam internship, I am incredibly fortunate to have JP Dyson, the vice-director of exhibit, as my internship supervisor. He had given me a comprehensive tour of the main space as well as different behind-the-scenes operations of the museum. One of the highlights in the tour is the cool-temperature toy collection vault, in which there are rows and rows of artifacts and archives of play, obtained through collaborations with collectors and donators. This space serves as a research archive and a conservation space, and at the same time it confers credibility to the museum’s dedication towards play.
Additionally, JP has also been incredibly generous with imparting information about the museum’s history, trajectories and latest projects. This summer, the museum is undergoing a 100,000 ft. expansion, and recently, in partnership with Rochester Institute of Technology, it just opened an exhibition called Rockets, Robots, and Raygun. This exhibition looks specifically into the ways in which science fiction toys, books, and video-games have captured and influenced people’s perceptions of the future. Not mentioning, there’s a theremin in there too! One of my favorites however, is inside the museum’s permanent installation. It is a physical simulation of a grocery store, where children can play the role of being customers or cashiers—in either cases, handling incredibly convincing pseudo-grocery objects.
This summer, I am super excited to be performing the role of an artist-in-resident. The main drive for enabling this role is to pilot-test an experimental approach within the not-for-profit framework of the museum, and evaluating its feasibility. Since this type of program is actually the first to ever be carried in the museum, there were several things that had to be rethought and realigned in the context of this program. These include intellectual property rights (who will own the IP rights to the artwork/experiments made in the museum?), a more fluid protocols for safety in between different work spaces, potentially investing in rapid prototyping tools (such as 3d printers), as well as the possibilities of housing an experimental/pop-up type of play installation. While many of these questions are up in the air as of now, it has provided me the challenge of infusing bureaucratic and pragmatic concerns into the experimental practice that I am already familiar with.
All that said, and even though I am filled with excitement to start working alongside the amazing interns and museum teams, unfortunately my post-graduation work authorization has not been approved. And so I was not able to start working just yet. With the outlook of the delay, I am looking to start somewhere mid-July to early August. However, I still conduct weekly hour-long meetups with JP to continue discussing different logistical concerns and experimental possibilities—we talked about the novelty of Johann Sebastian Joust, balancing physical and meditative play, and some of the awesome places for me to check out in Rochester. Alongside that, I started doing a little bit of an off-site research.
For about a week in June, I delved into the museum’s online publication called the American Journal of Play—something which I think would be a great resource in art schools, if not already; or for anyone interested in play for that matter (also while you’re at it, check out this comprehensive online toy archives and collection provided by the museum!!). Typically, the journal houses interviews, essays, as well as reviews of play-related books. In particular however, I was drawn towards the papers written by play scholars. Three topics piqued my interest, and each one of them deals respectively with green/red play (green as stability and continuity, red as change and disorder), the history and nature of pre-D&D role-playing in the children’ literature the Egypt Game, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of affordance in visuo-spatial constructive play objects (VCPOs, think Legos, Mega Bloks, or Timber Planks). These three concepts intersect each other at many points, but I was specifically drawn to their potential linkage to the language and building blocks of computation. Specifically so, in finding the place for risk, pleasure, collaboration, and play in computation. This non-comprehensive schematic is an abstraction of my hazy thoughts:
How can concepts of world-building also exists in the culture of computation? How can coding afford green and red play? What is playful and imaginative function-making; can you throw and spin a parameter of a function? While I initially planned on making toy objects, this preliminary research and consultations really drove me to investigate the possibility of designing constructive modules that manifest in the form of costumes and wearables—something that honors and occupies the body, and therefore performs a type of role; an identity. But what kind of form and function will the role-playing wearable takes? I am hoping to be able to give a possible answer when I finally start doing my research from the museum’s Playthings magazine collection, researching on the history of pre-computer wearable and role-playing toys. This is where I am going next for my first research:
And thus, I once again return to the awaiting of my work authorization—which will hopefully be approved soon! Apart from all that, it has been a great start here in Rochester. It’s been very warm (but then again where isn’t), but everyone has been very welcoming and friendly, and I have been getting the best suggestions of places to go. The R Community Bikes in Rochester is a great volunteer-operated bike store initiative that helps distribute bike ownership to people who are in need; free lottery-style giveaways and free repairs to those who qualify. The 6×6 Contemporary Art Center provides an interesting business and curatorial model for a more egalitarian representation in art-making—all of the artworks in there is in the format of 6 x 6″, and sells for a flat price of $20. Rochester Jazz Festival had just recently ended, and two days ago I dropped by the Rochester Corn Hill Festival. The festival took place in Corn Hill (the area in which I am currently living in) and they basically just closed off the whole area of the weekend. Bazaars, food, and music! My roommates and I celebrated 4th of July by staying in, cooking food, and playing video and board games. Wegmans grocery is great, Java’s coffee is the hip coffee place in town, and the river bike trail by Corn Hill (the area where I live) is such a nice bike trail to take in the late afternoon.
To top it off I just finished building a new self-assembly 3d printer, and so I might be a hermit in my room for a while to make some fun and weird prototypes. This is a first rendition: a 3D color picker that is eventually going to be a glove/hand-operated type thing. Anyway! Will be posting more updates soon—keep a lookout! :^)
Alright! I’ve officially settled into this fellowship for the summer. I would say that the “honeymoon phase” of the summer has finished, which comes with some perks, a couple learning lessons, and, as always, some shiny examples of my latest projects!
I feel like this period is defined by consistency. I’ve established a consistent schedule, and become comfortable enough with my supervisors and coworkers to tweak what times I can come in and leave the office. I’m really thankful that this type of flexible scheduling exists at the city level, and speaks a lot to the progressive nature of this department.
Part of this flexibility has come out of my most recent project – fieldwork in the major commercial corridors of the city, identifying possible locations for bike racks.
Feeling very official with my city-provided clipboard. The second map shows all the places I have gotten to survey. Doing this all by bike has been a really good workout and a really good way to explore the city.
This project has taken me all over Providence, allowing me to see wards, streets, and communities that I never knew existed! RISD is a prestigious and innovative institution, but this often times mean its community can be a bubble. Because of this, I’m really thankful that I have gotten the opportunity to explore Providence in this way, at this stage of the fellowship, to build a broader mental map of the city I am designing for.
I personally believe that experiencing the breadth of your city firsthand is fundamental to good urbanism, for civic professionals and citizens alike. I also believe that cars are actively detrimental to those experiences; Making neighborhoods blend together to the drivers while compromising the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists who seek those experiences. One of my biggest takeaways from this project has been the awful impact that automobility has on our cities. Cars blow past me, honking at me for inconveniencing them from reaching speeds that can kill. But by no means is this the driver’s fault! Vital businesses like clinics, grocery stores, pharmacies, and discount stores are far away from where people live and work, yet often grouped together, two or three to the same block.
I’ve gotten into the habit of taking pictures on my phone during this project. Cities designed around cars have a lot of places that no one would choose to go. However, I wanted to highlight places that I thought had interesting colors or configurations that with some small interventions might be more inviting and useful to humans.
My last and longest term project has been the traffic education campaign that I mentioned in the last post. I am now just putting on the final touches and integrating the Spanish translations, and then we will be getting ready to build a landing page on the Providence site and begin sharing on social media.
I’m really happy with how these turned out. I think the visual language is both eye-catching and referential to traffic signs / signals, and I’ve really enjoyed thinking about multilingual design (something that’s really important for city-distributed resources like these!)
I think I’m still struggling to think about how to distribute these beyond the social media follower base of the city. The difficulty here is a lack of budget for the project, meaning I have to stay digital with it (printing can get expensive fast!). Let me know in the comments below if you have any ideas for further reaching digital distribution!
That’s all the project news I’ve got for you. On a personal note though, today is my 21st birthday! It’s a perfect day for it. Friday the 13th is actually an auspicious day for lots of Pagan belief systems (its unlucky connotations are patriarchal and Christian dogma). Not only that but its also just a Friday! Definitely lucky that my first foray into drinking culture falls on a day where I don’t work tomorrow 😉
I’ll post pics from tonight when I have them!
Thanks for reading! Until next time.
// micah epstein //
Landing in Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, I was both nervous and excited about my upcoming internship with Karam Foundation. I had never been to Turkey and was curious about the culture and environment. Istanbul turned out to be a bigger city than I had imagined, spread across the Bosphorus with an Asian side and a European side. The Karam offices are located on the European side, quite a commute from touristic areas and the Asian side. Overall Istanbul has over 15 million inhabitants and I could certainly feel them around me at all times. The amount of people is truly overwhelming, and I say that having grown up in a dense and crowded city.
Karam Foundation is a non-profit organization based in the US and operating internationally. One of their many projects is Karam House, a STEAM based workspace for refugee kids. There is a Karam House in Reyhanli, Turkey and the organization is soon going to launch Karam House Istanbul as part of a larger plan to expand to Jordan and Lebanon too. Before my arrival, the team had already located a building to be transformed into Karam House Istanbul. The building is a four story house that is classified as a historic building, meaning modifications are limited to the existing structure and spaces. I have been helping design the space and prep it for the upcoming launch. The internship started out by visiting the building with the team to assess the space. Going room by room, we allocated the required functions within the spaces and discussed where some construction is needed. During the course of the first couple of weeks, we met with the landlord and lawyer to get approval on the changes that were to be done. We also visited furniture stores to get an idea of prices and manage the budget and our expectations appropriately. Simultaneously, I worked on developing the drawings of the building and organizing the spaces. Interviews were also being conducted for staff positions as well as construction staff, in which I participated at times. It has been exciting to be a part of the team that works on different aspects of Karam House at once. The pressure has been significant with the launch scheduled in September, however the people and the city are both inspiring.
For the time being, I work out of the office with the team. They are mostly Syrians that have been living in Turkey for the past few years. They work in a positive atmosphere despite the pressures of adapting to a new culture and the stress of constant work. They have been very welcoming and helped me fit right in, even offering tips and suggestions on important places to visit in the city and how to navigate it efficiently. Over the weekend, I took some time to visit some architectural landmarks. I visited the Blue Mosque as well as the Haghia Sophia. As an architect, I was fascinated with the structure and the attention to detail during the design of these mosques. I also spent some time walking the busy streets and the famous Istiklal Street, where I found plenty of inspiration for both Karam House and my ongoing work at RISD.
I have been in Philly for 11 days now acclimating very fast. Everyone along the way has been extraordinarily kind and helpful; as I was navigating the subway here, I accidentally left the station at the wrong stop and the transit employee let me back in for free. 🙂
My project has had a few changes which was predicted, however the shape is something completely foreign to me. I had originally proposed to host an art exhibition and now I am in charge of a symposium for 4 artists here in Philly. I really think this is the best thing that could have happened (right now anyways) because I now am forced to learn a new format in which to give the ideas of my art practice to an audience. Along the way though, I have met many arts organizers and artists who have given me resources and encouraging words to not only make my symposium happen at the end of august, but my original proposal for an art exhibition as well.
The NGO I’m working with, Women’s Campaign International, has been very supportive of my project, but one struggle I have is that in their nonstop dedication and effort to their various missions around the globe, I am taking on some of the office work to meet deadlines. The problem isn’t that I have to be doing the extra work, but I want to help them so badly because their causes seem so much more important than what I’m doing!!! For example; They are working with Bill Siemering (who helped start NPR, and All Things Considered), in Tanzania to set up a radio network that is all female operated and all female broadcasters. 80% of farm workers in Tanzania are female, and this would be content for these women BY these women, giving them technological skills they can build off of and use for whatever they like in the future.
I Currently have 2 Philly based women identifying artists who have agreed to be on the panel:
I have met with them both and they are ❤ absolute S2 dumplings ❤ 🙂
They have deep roots in art institutions so for balance I am currently working on finding some craft/outsider artists, or women who have never been to an art institution/are less established.
For now its a whirlwind of tasks and research that seems endless, but Something kindof beautiful happened yesterday that made me feel really good: I had just gotten back from NY by bus, and upon arriving back to Philadelphia, I was greeted with a gospel choir singing on the Independence Hall Lawn. I got off the bus and walked 20 feet to the concert where I sat and enjoyed the music (and honestly cried a little because music just really moves me and I was exhausted from NY). The experience left me even more in love with Philadelphia then before, and feeling so happy fortunate to be where I am and doing what I’m doing.
To further the conversation of Afrofuturism and the Afrofuture, I traveled to Charles Town Jamaica to attend and present at the Tenth Annual Charles Town International Maroon Conference, Maroons and Indigenous Peoples: Towards a Sustainable Future.
The Maroons, much like the Exodusters were some of the first Afrofuturists. The Jamaican Maroons are descendants of maroons, Africans who escaped from slavery to establish free communities in the hills of the eastern parishes of Jamaica. The maroons escaped strategically and unapologetically to return to their roots and way of life. Their traditions remain in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica.
In the coming days I will host the first of a series of Afrofuture workshops with the community with the African Alliance of Rhode Island. This workshop series will engage with members of the community young and old on their visions of the future through the lens of people of African heritage. My journey to a Maroon Village served as both a precursor to these workshops and also an opportunity to gain more information to share with others in regards to the visions of our ancestors. One of my goals working with the African Alliance of Rhode Island is to broaden the conversation amongst all people of African heritage on what the Afrofuture can be. This conference helped me make strides toward this vision.
The Maroon Conference was an enriching experience that I was eager to share with others. Being amongst a community with such longevity based on their defiance against the oppressive control that plagued them once before was the most compelling experience I have had thus far. From the music, spirituality, food and people, the Maroon people showed me how the norms of African heritage can exist in a community. Each day was more exciting than the next and I learned a great deal about the people who designed and built their environment for themselves. I was encouraged, inspired and grateful to have had such an amazing time. After my time here, I hope to spread the word about the goodness of this festival and the kindness of the people in this village.
We can all learn from the Maroon people. Though they had an uphill battle, through perseverance and self-determination they were able to carve out a path to an autonomous life, a life built around their design, their governance and their surveillance.
Communities of Color Are Not Commodities | African Alliance of Rhode Island | Nakeia Medcalf | MDes ’18
The African Alliance of Rhode Island has faced its steep challenges with grace, understanding, patience and sincere care for the community it seeks to serve. The obstacles presented to the African Alliance manifested in the early weeks of my presence there. The first challenge was justifying the significance of educating community members as health educators that serve the community to the Department of Health. Therein was the biggest problem. Why do organizations that seek to propel the community forward have to justify anything to the hierarchical superiors so out of touch with what is going on the ground? This question, and many others is one that has stuck with me for the duration of my time with AARI. That said, the obstacle was and is only a stepping stone to bringing an idea to life.
In order to raise awareness on the importance of blood pressure and hypertension disease within the community of people of African heritage, AARI is hoping to create a program within one of the most common gathering places for people of color– the barbershop. To initiate the program, we met with the DHS to find out where best to employ their resources. Their role as an organization is to aid in preventing disease and promoting health. Like all government institutions, the DHS must work within the boundaries of rules and regulations that limit their outreach capabilities to a certain degree. Rather than dwell on what the Department of Health could not do, we decided to think of ways to exhaust all of the resources they were willing to provide.
The idea to exhaust all of the resources in front of you brought up the discussion around communities of color as commodities who are viewed as experiments for an ideas with little follow through. Though the discussion with DHS proved to be discouraging, we all left the meeting hopeful that the Providence community does not have to be a commodity. Instead, we can be a community that takes the resources available and continues to strive for better. We can take the resources that we have and apply the same strategies to all communities of color.
The barbershop has always been a staple in the African American community. The barbershop is not simply a place to get your haircut—instead it is where your voice is heard, where conversations are started and resolutions are made. It is safe space where friends, family and the neighborhood can gather. The trust the African American community has built around its barbers and the barbershops role in the neighborhood makes it the perfect place to begin the conversation of best health practices around blood pressure and hypertension. Bringing in health practitioners to train barbers and other community members on using blood pressure measurement tools is the goal in growing an understanding to the importance of healthy habits.
As healthcare issues continue to effect the African American community, specifically in the areas of blood pressure and hypertension, the new initiative by the African Alliance will engage the community in an effective way, where they are. And that is exactly what this community needs now.
Today marks the end of my third week as a design fellow at the Providence Department of Planning and Development. I’ve fully settled in and finished my first couple of projects, so I have some tasty first deliverables and impressions for you!
I started the week before PVDFest 2018, which meant that the Department of Arts, Culture, and Tourism (ACT) was in a huge crunch to finish everything for their biggest event of the year. As such, I got to help out in a couple ways for that event. One of my favorite things that I got to do was event photography. Photography has been a passion of mine for several years now, so I definitely enjoyed the opportunity to utilize my skill set. Also, getting to work with ACT was a blast! They are truly a dedicated, experienced, and hilarious team that are exactly the type of people that I was hoping would work in city government.
The size and variety of PVDFest made it an event photographer’s dream
One of biggest takeaways from the event came from the PVDFest Ideas Conference, which kicked off the weekend of festivities. Every panelist was incredible in their own way, but there were a few that stuck out to me. The keynote speaker, Sarah Williams Goldhagen, gave an overview of the findings of her most recent book Welcome to Your World. She has done an incredible job of compiling cognitive psychology and neuroscience research to effectively link the appearance of our built environment (architecture and urban design) with our own thought patterns and mental well-being. I could gush about her findings for the entirety of this post, but instead I’ll just encourage you to look into her work at the link above. In addition to Sarah, I also had the pleasure of hearing and meeting Julia Gold, the Chief of Sustainability, Autonomous Vehicles, and Innovation (or, as Julia calls it, the Chief of New Stuff) at RIDOT, and Dr. Sasha Costanza-Chock, a professor/researcher at MIT as well, as a one of the heads of the Design Justice movement. Together, these speakers really helped to affirm the importance of equity through design, and the fundamental framing of design as a public good.
After the craziness of PVDFest, I began to focus in on my work for the Planning department. I’m in the process of creating an education campaign for new traffic control devices (street markings and traffic signals) that are being put in throughout the city. You can see one of my very first drafts of this campaign below. I’ve developed the style and message significantly since this point, but the deliverables are still internal, which means you will just have to stay tuned in coming weeks for the final product!
My main goals here are for it to be eye-catching, readable, and accessible for a variety of road users. I was also curious about how to expand the reach of this campaign beyond the follower base of the city’s social media channels.
One of the biggest pieces of news is that this past weekend we had a truly wonderful demo day for the City Walk project (a walk/bike corridor going through Providence proper and one of my main focuses this summer)! This included a ground mural, the presence of a street team to answer any questions and collect input from community members, and a temporary bike lane that was true to the principles of Tactical Urbanism (a term developed and implemented by The Street Plans Collaborative, one of the major consultants for City Walk). Below you’ll find some photos I took the day of as well as some posters I designed for the event.
It was really inspiring to see the variety of bicyclists and community members that were interested in the project, from street artists to local shopkeepers to kids on bikes riding around their neighborhood.
This style of graphic design was certainly outside of my comfort zone. Really fun to be pushed towards different styles and types of content!
I think the event was really visible and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Not only did community members seem excited and interested in the project, but the murals and commotion had a noticeable traffic calming effect on Broad Street, which is typically quite aggressive towards pedestrians and cyclists. I learned a lot about planning a municipal event. There are a lot of boxes to check if you want to draw and maintain a crowd, such as food, water, bathrooms, music, shade, and of course something to do! However, it’s also important to think about what crowd you are trying to draw. For instance, if we went too far into the party atmosphere, we could have distracted from CityWalk as a project. This event seemed to be less about entertaining a crowd, and more about being visible and transparent to the community. I think I may just be spoiled from PVDFest.
I’m a huge tease, so of course I have saved the best for last. Below you can find a map that I am working on for the Urban Trail Network. The network is a future plan to connect the disparate recreational paths throughout Providence into a dense network that would let any pedestrian or cyclist get to most destinations in Providence safely. I think that if this project were to be implemented quickly and effectively, Providence would have the facilities necessary to begin to transition away from automobility.
My supervisor mentioned that I might get to work on signage and wayfinding for CityWalk and the Urban Trail Network. This is an exciting and intimidating opportunity to have a real impact on the accessibility of some large-scale city projects.
Thanks for reading! Until next time.
/ / micah epstein / /
p.s. here’s a bonus pic of me and my girlfriend at my first ever Pride Parade in Boston!
On September 9, 2017 the Oakland Avenue Urban Farm hosted Crop Up! an event featuring artists Andrew Black, Dr. Kno, Makeeba Ellington, and myself, along with various Detroit musicians including Emily Rogers and Mahogany Jones. The event took place in a former liquor-grocery store, where community could enter to view the collaborative master plan of the North End spearheaded by ONE Mile.
The exhibition envisioned how the farm can be programmed beyond traditional operations. In what ways can farmland become gallery, entrepreneurial incubator, or innovation hub? The beauty of the exhibit was that it envisioned the North End from community perspectives, rather than an outside one. More importantly it shows that growth and innovation can, and does happen from the ground up. ONE Mile will be instrumental in championing for the North End, and pioneering community based organization. Crop Up! left me feeling hopeful, and excited for the next phase of ONE Miles plans.
I developed wallpaper and prints inspired by the crops grown at the Oakland Avenue farm, drawing from American car parts. Traveling Detroit by bike, through fields and meadows, My mind dreams how nice it would to find love among the pheasants and wild carrots. I think about Moonlight, and the quote “in moonlight black boys looks blue,” and I think about all the queer folk up and down Woodward. What would it look like for us to be hugged by chicory and lace, amongst pheasant and cricket. I think about Erykah Badu’s “green eyes” to me characterizing the beginnings of queer love and longing, and the complications in navigating the world. My wallpaper is the setting of this story in Detroit. Love is what the wallpaper conjures for me, and after seeing it installed I believe it represents that.
For my last blog post, I have spent the past month (mainly being an orientation leader and recovering from that) parsing together my Maharam experience. I find myself highlighting so many of the amazing opportunities I had-from running a design thinking workshop with four departments represented or the passionate people that I met that I am real friends with (I still owe you a coffee date Z) or the struggles I had being positive and professional while answering constituent’s phone calls.
I think the most fun I have when catching up with people is when they ask me what I did. Like actually did? I spent my summer wrestling with that question, and while I was busy with things to do, I wasn’t quite sure how to answer that for myself.
last day in the office!
Now, I’ve finally realized what I did was to simply be there. The ambition of a Maharam Fellowship is not to produce an immediate solution to a social issue, but to provide opportunities for artists and designers to be at the table when those issues are discussed. It’s a subtle but powerful consideration when people say “Oh I thought about you when I was formatting this power point” or ask your opinion of the art being hung on the wall. It speaks to a larger consciousness of our visual world- not only in the context of ‘elitist’ design (different conversation) but breaking that down to understand that the best design is best when it’s for real people.
maps is (as) equity
Representation is a buzzword right now, a simple answer to an enormously complex issue of power and identity in society. But I also think it doesn’t get enough respect as a solution. We discussed representation during my last day at City Hall, at an Equity Peer Learning Luncheon, which came out of the Racial and Environmental Justice Committee work initiated by the Sustainability Office. I was asked to present my design thinking workshop and suggest a possible mitigation strategy through wayfinding in City Hall. It was a beautiful moment, that I was able to use both fundamentals of municipalities and design to present an informed strategy to my peers in government. I was so proud to represent as a designer, and recognize it was another intern- a RISD graduate interfering with the Sustainability Office that invited me to share my perspective.
wayfinding is(as) equity
Just as important, I also recognize other forms of representation that are also vital in creating effective, productive and inclusive institutions. It is still remarkable to me the amount of ethnic, racial and gender (just to name the most obvious) diversity that has been added/encouraged to the city during the current administration. These representatives don’t just matter in pictures, but represents a paradigm shift in power structures where government begins to be representative of the communities it governs.
That being said, I am so grateful for the support and opportunities the Maharam Fellowship gave me, my new (and old) colleagues at City Hall and hope to continue this work. I’m happy to be back in the creative energy of RISD, and become a representative for possibilities that exist outside of our typical art and design cannon.
Thank you for following me, and if you want more I invite you to visit my website.