Welcome back to my blog about my experience as an arts intern at the Q Center this summer. Now looking at the title I can understand the anticipation of finding out who Apple the Crow is but before I divulge this I must tell you Apple pushed me into becoming a Photoshop god (or at the very least more knowledgeable). This was mainly because we were working on ordering merch for Apple as they were this year’s Q Center pride mascot that was voted on by the community. After the voting was completed my coworkers and I jumped head first into getting merch sampled, formatted, and finding a local print shop we could print merch at a relatively affordable price.
The plan in mind was to have Apple the Crow merch ready for a fundraising event with a local vegan ice cream show called Kate’s Great Plant-Based Desserts or at the very least for Portland Pride Waterfront Festival, but during this point in my internship, the Kate’s event would be the aim. From behind the scenes I got to learn how the approval process for the merch was another variable to how much time it would actually be till we could even start getting the designs sent to print. Drafting and finalizing the designs for Apple felt like a training arc. Then there was the whole aspect of making sure the files could have a clear print and have them in…(imagine shivers going down my spine as I write this okay) VECTOR FILES! It was a challenging learning experience adapting a digital artwork to a vector file but in the end, we were happy the small details made it through to the final product.
Due to Apple’s initial design having many different values of similar colors, I needed to contact the original artist, Jay M, to ask for a file version with fewer detailed textual elements and readjusted colors as we wanted to make sure a printable version of Apple is still in their vision. The quick turnaround that week for drafts, files, and advertising had my life flash before my eyes….in a fun marathon way.
Then there was creating a post to excite the community for free ice cream (yum), by the way, the ice cream was so so so delicious I very much recommend if you are ever on Mississippi Avenue in Portland stop by Kate’s. We had to create some adjustments to the advertisement Kate’s kindly gave us to post, but I had to format it for Q Center’s social media while also incorporating the opportunity to preorder Apple merch. Because the Apple merch was not printed by the time the Ice Cream fundraiser rolled around my coworkers and I used our massive brains to brainstorm alternative merch we could make to sell for the fundraiser and we came up with buttons as we had the materials and tools for them in our office (which is very weird to say this now, but felt very retro).
Above where the four designs I made for the Q Center to sell during Kate’s Great Plant-Based Desserts ice cream event at the Q Center parking lot. They were really fun to do, and although we did not sell a lot at this event we did end up selling nearly all of them during Portland Pride Waterfront Festival!
This is the setup we had for the fundraising event, overal it was really nice seeing how the community engaged with the items we were selling as well as getting another layer of understanding of what a place like the Q Center means for various community members as a space to get together and find support.
As the farm goes through its redevelopment, there are constant moments to reconsider the little details of the master plan. Every conversation and onsite activity offers a moment to contemplate what’s best for the farm, the farmers, and the community. Everyone is engaged in their day-to-day tasks at hand, but in the back of mind is this focus on the bigger picture of what this space will look like and how it will function as a 2.7 acre farm, community space, and training center. The consideration is ever present and truly a team effort.
I’m excited to say through this passive, iterative process we’ve identified an opportunity to evolve my role this summer and my project has gone from creating outdoor space to creating public sculpture. Our goal for this large scale object is to serve as an identifier of who we are and where you are as a visitor, volunteer, or employee. Because this is an urban farm, the property is quite visible from many adjacent streets, highways, and businesses. I see this as an opportunity to create something large enough to become a beacon in the peripherals of all passerby’s. I hope for this this sculpture to exist with the farm through the years and become part of the physical identity of the space and community. It will become an icon to greet visitors and, if we do it right, will convey the impact What Cheer Flower Farm is having on its community and instill a sense of excitement upon arrival.
And with that, design development is underway! This marks the start of the next chapter of my time at the farm. My big picture lens has shifted focus; the undertones of my conversations are motivated by capturing the essence of the What Cheer Flower Farm. I’m tickled wit the opportunity and grateful for the responsibility. However, we still need to process the thousands of donated flowers and create 75 bouquet’s before the day is over…
Lets get to work!
So it’s been around 3 weeks into my time as a Maharam Fellow at The ArQuives in Toronto. It’s been one of the most reflective, enriching, and unexpected experiences I’ve had yet as a student at RISD. While it was initially quite nerve-wracking, I found myself entering a space of extremely passionately queer, intelligent, and kind experts in their fields! It is no wonder that my brain has grown quite a lot since being here.
Some fun acts about The ArQuives:
- With over 100,000 items in its collection, The ArQuives is the largest independent LGBTQS+ Archives in the world and the only one of its kind in Canada!
- I’ve also been told it has one of the largest porn collections in the country, if not the world, as well.
- We do our work in a historic building that dates back to 1860! One small historic house surrounded by the skyscrapers of one of Toronto’s busiest shopping and business districts! (Think the house from the movie Up!)
- Did you know archives actually write about space three-dimensionally? A storage room isn’t 150 square ft, it’s actually 1500 cubic square ft! Even records as small as magazines are catalogued by thickness as well as diameter. How are you gonna know how many records you can store when you only think two-dimensionally?
These facts may or may not help illustrate what my experience has been as of late—combing through thousands of records in this little treasure trove of history in the heart of Toronto. Man have I done a lot of combing. My projects and initiatives are all based around discovering what home and domesticity was like for Toronto’s historic queer community. What does that look like aesthetically, infra-structurally, and politically? How can I visualize this history and make it more accessible to the public? I’m especially becoming interested in queer POC communities!
Everyday at work is a little different. I may be reading through The ArQuives’ extensive books collection, looking through old artifacts (newspapers, census records, etc…), digitizing photographic records, or watching videos made by prominent queer filmmakers in Toronto. Along the way I’m taught archival vocabulary (which is kind of a lot), tour offsite storage facilities, and learn about Toronto’s queer community from my colleagues. It’s been a lot of reading, writing, and learning.
That’s about it for now but stay tuned for a couple interviews, research trips, and new findings I’ve set up that I’m very excited for!
It is crazy to think that there are only two weeks left of my Fellowship! As of late, I’ve been trying to pause every now and then to try to soak in the time I have remaining in Singapore. It’s not to say I don’t miss home in the States, but I know I’ll miss Singapore much more once I leave.
Lots have been going on! If you’ve been following my previous blog posts, you’d know I’m working on developing a national curriculum alongside Singapore’s Ministry of Sustainability to introduce students to the expanding green sector in Singapore. Throughout the summer, I’ve been exploring various learning styles and methods, and what we’ve landed on is a curriculum plan to be reviewed for implementation in secondary schools across Singapore, partnered with a gamified learning workshop that Terra will be able to host. The key learning objectives cover critical topics like sustainability and circular design and engage students with how we can reimagine more environmentally-forward, regenerative urban living.
Coming from the States, I wanted to prioritize amplifying local perspectives and learning styles as I went through the design process. Accordingly, I was able to host rounds of user testing to measure learning and retention rates, and it was such a rewarding process to see Singaporean students interact and learn with the tools I had designed. After each round of user testing, I refined and reiterated the various learning plans, and I am proud to say that I am ending my time here with a comprehensive and considered project that will help further Terra’s mission of redefining climate education in Singapore.
Additionally, I’ve been able to walk the Terra team through the foundation of biomaterials and biocomposites sourced from local food waste. In the previous blog, I mentioned that I had started experimentations with eggshells, and since then I’ve been able to develop a workshop guide that will help Terra further explore biomaterials at a more long-term capacity. Terra has many exciting plans coming up after my internship ends, so I wanted to be sure they had a clear understanding of the process so that they can seek how to adapt various biocomposite experimentations to their large-scale events even after I have left.
Lastly, we’ve partnered with Singtel (a local telecommunications company) to throw a large-scale public event to bring the community together! I was able to help lead their upcycling programming, in which my team and I facilitated workshops and conversations about sustainability and a carbon-zero future. Throughout the Sunday afternoon, we saw over 500 people and it was such a privilege to be able to engage with them on such pressing issues. The highlight for me was able to work with Singaporeans from all different walks of life – I felt especially excited about working with the young kids!
For the remainder of my time with Terra, I’ll be focusing more on wrapping up and handing off my projects. The weather is as humid as ever, but I have undoubtedly been treasuring my time here nonetheless.
Hi! This blog post has been crazy belated since starting my internship at the Q Center but WOW it has been lively, to say the least. During my first week (around June 5th), I got situated at my desk and started preparing Google Forms, getting introduced to my coworkers, and the projects I could start working on. This included working on logo designs for the Q Center’s Marsha P. Johnson fund, which is a community fund that offers microgrants to transgender Black and Indigenous people. I made some sketches and after discussing with my coworkers, I will be working on a finalized version of the sketch where she is holding the flower bouquet!
My first week’s adventures did not stop there, while on a break with my coworkers Julie and Ryley, I saw tiny horses attached to antique horse posts on the sidewalk, they were very cute! The Q Center is located on Mississippi Avenue and there are many local businesses such as a taxidermy shop that could potentially rival RISD’s own collection!
Speaking of local business during the first week a local pizza business called Wild Child Pizza came in and gave my coworkers and I this DELICIOUS rainbow pizza. They held a special fundraiser for the Q Center by donating a percentage they earned from the rainbow pizzas to the center. Purple was onions dyed with beets, blue was pineapple combined with citrus to make it blue, green and yellow were bell peppers, orange was seasoned squash, and red was pepperoni! Wild Child Pizza would not be the only place holding fundraisers for the Q Center during Pride month, a few weeks later a local vegan ice cream place called Kate’s Ice Cream would hold a fundraising event both at their shop and the Q Center, but I plan to touch on that event on my next blog post!
On the Saturday of my first week there also was a fundraising concert event on the weekend with music artist Bobby Jo Valintine. There I had the opportunity to talk with a volunteer named Josie, who is a local queer elder, drag king, and artist in Portland, they are also Puerto Rican! We talked about our experience growing up in Puerto Rican families and how LGBTQIA+ culture has changed or shifted, especially in finding spaces of community.
At the concert event, I helped out setting up the outside area, trained volunteers on using the online donation system, and processed donations. Bobby Jo Valentine’s performance was lovely! Bobby Jo mentioned he made a song as a hint for a past partner of his to propose to him. Later on, he would perform the song at weddings, and in the audience was a couple he had played for in the past! While the performance was happening I was sketching people at the event when there was time. ANYWAY thank you for tuning in! I’m hoping in blog post #3 I can talk about my adventure curating a gallery show at Portland Pride Waterfront Festival this weekend, but alas there is still so much internship lore I must blog about before then MUAHAHAHAHA!
I say “Belated: The Adventure Begins!” because this past month has been but the precursor to this summer’s main spectacular: 826LA’s Write On! Summer Camp and today, it started. I’ve chosen to hoard my blog posts until now because I suspect quite a lot of stories from the next two weeks and I only wish to give you the most thorough look into what me and my colleagues have been working hard to prepare for. However, before I get to the first day anecdotes, let me tell you a bit about my time up till now.
I arrived on June 5th, absolutely thrilled, only to be welcomed to the city of angles by an awful case of June Gloom (a Californian term I learned quite quickly, that describes cloudy, overcast skies with cool temperatures during early summer.) It was like that for two, never-ending weeks and it made sitting-at-the-computer office work a little more difficult than it had to be. I will admit, the traditional desk work that has taken up the majority of the past month was tedious but mostly because the first day on the job was so overwhelming with joy; it made the lack of people actively shuffling through the space incredibly palpable.
The first day I came into work was, coincidentally, the last day 826LA was hosting a field trip for the academic year. At 10am, a swarm of 40 1st-graders gathered into the back patio and I had no idea what was going on. Mari, the leader for the field trip, saw me lingering around task-less and recruited me to help. She described her role as “a three hour long, one woman show” and that it was. In the span of 10am – 1pm, the students wrote the characters, plot and conflict for an original story as a group, had it illustrated, typed up, printed and bound, complete with an author picture for each booklet. The whole procedure run like a well oiled machine, ending with priceless smiles from the children when they realized they would have their own book to take back home and personal feedback from the teachers concerning their individual contributions. Three of them even ran up to hug me at the end! It was a day I will never forget because I realized how much an experience like it can impact a student and how well run a place has to be, to deliver that kind of change.
The days and weeks after were significantly less underwhelming, but I’d like to think equally as important. I’ve spent most of my time developing lesson plans with the team, creating slideshows, calling families, and ordering 400 individual snacks all in preparation for camp. My original ideas considering visual art informing the creative writing process were somewhat dialed down in the process upon realizing the already decided upon theme for this year’s summer programming was music. It seemed to me that visual art, writing and music were going to be a lot to mush together in a two week endeavor, so I took a more subtle route in my lesson plan writing including poetry writing inspired by music videos and learning ode writing by studying it’s muse hands-on. We got actual tomatoes and socks for the kids to hold as they listen to Pablo Neruda’s odes — I’m psyched for that day.
Me, calling families to confirm their child’s assistance
Anyways, that’s mostly been it — clicking and clacking away on administrative duties. I’ve realized the behind the scenes requires more than I ever thought. I know I promised a run down on the first day of summer camp, but I feel it only makes sense in a second blog post recounting all there was to this first week, plus then I’ll leave you wanting more. That was my first month in LA, and now the adventure will begin, wish me luck.
Since my last blog, I’ve been mainly diving into my other project, the Building Differently project focusing on promoting modular and offsite construction technologies in Boston. We’ve been conducting interviews with developers, contractors, designers, researchers and other government officials to learn about how we can make modular work in Boston.
Modular construction is not a new thing. However, it has not been a huge success in Boston, realizing it’s potential benefit of being able to create a large amount of housing quickly and effectively. Some of the challenges we identified through research and interviews so far include storage of modular units, staging, and transportation of units from modular factories. These challenges are mainly due to the fact that Boston is such a dense city without many nearby modular factories.
What resources are there to help? My awesome colleague Holly and I are currently working on mapping the land resources in Boston that might be suitable for storage, staging, and building a micro-factory. (Image showing map in progress) These include the publicly owned vacant land and some other unconventional land resources – a researcher at MIT suggested that we look into potentially renting sports fields in high schools and primary schools during the summer, when they are not using them as much. Another important resource would be open-air parking lots that are not being used as intensely, but I’m still figuring out if they exist (as parking is such a huge problem to start with) and if so, how to find out which lots are usually more free.
I want to end with an interview insight that I found super helpful. We kept asking people: what do you think the government can do to help? One of them, a researcher from McKinsey, said that there are three things the government can do to promote a new beneficial technology: demand/mandate, incentivize, and educate.
I’m ending Week 3 now, and I feel like I’ve lived in Singapore for much longer! My time here has felt monumental in the ways I see the world, both professionally and personally. I am approximately half a world away from the States (which is where I’ve lived my whole life), and I feel so in awe to have been able to form deep relationships, discover and rediscover cultures, and relish an entirely new way of life in such a short amount of time.
I’m checking in to update you all on what I’ve been up to! There’s been a lot going on, but I will attempt to summarize everything into three main spheres that I’ve been involved in:
Firstly, I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside the National Ministry of Sustainability in expanding learning opportunities for students interested in the green sector of Singapore. While I can’t dive too much into the details, I’ve been exploring gamified learning techniques to engage students who are at the age to consider career paths, focusing on not only introducing them to green careers, but reinforcing the learning of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (to which Singapore is a key signatory), and offer students an interactive way to understand sustainable city planning. In order to ensure proper implementation, I’ve had to do my fair share of research into Singapore’s education system and align my proposal with their existing learning goals. The end deliverable will be a core learning curriculum that can be adopted by secondary (high school) and tertiary (junior college) schools across the country but for now, we’re still in the works on it!
Secondly, I’ve been exploring repurposing eggshells to develop a workshop curriculum to teach kids about circular design! I was already familiar with the basic principles of this biomaterial recipe thanks to some of the work I’ve done with my friends at Design For America (RISD/Brown), and I’ve had the opportunity to lead meetings and educate my fellow coworkers and supervisors on the science and design behind repurposed food waste. We’ve done some recipe experimentations with various form molds and have since been slowly integrating the science into planting programs that the organization offers. Just a few days ago, we partnered with a local youth community service organization to have children assemble their own planters and plant their own eggshell “power bombs” that will help nourish the soil!
Thirdly, I’ve had the chance to help develop some local programming with the National Singapore Sustainability Gallery. Local preschools come from all over the country every day, and I’ve had so much fun ideating and testing new ways to engage with young kids on topics of climate change. A small detail that I find absolutely adorable is the matching uniforms that the kids wear so that school staff knows which kids are a part of their school!
I feel incredibly lucky to be in Singapore and have things go relatively smoothly. I feel deeply nurtured especially by the people I’ve met here, and everything from the food to the green landscape, to even the daily routine of taking a crowded subway to work, have all been an extremely joyous experience for me. This country for reminding me of some of the sweetest things of life that we can experience – and this is a sweetness I hope to share with you all over the course of the summer, as well. Talk soon!
Such a chaotic and fun starting at the Housing iLab! The past two weeks I got to know about multiple projects happening in the iLab, two of which I am going to work on this summer – Building Differently and Living Together.
Living Together is a research on how the City can support co-living projects in Boston. Although we’ve talked about co-housing so much at RISD, it is the first time I got to know about the difference between co-housing, co-living, co-ops, communes, and traditional shared housing. Co-living refers to three or more biologically unrelated people living in the same dwelling unit, sharing kitchens and common areas. I once got co-living and co-ops mixed up and hence got invited to a tour of co-ops in Boston. On the day of the tour it randomly started raining before the time we were supposed to meet, so I just waited outside one of the co-ops. The people coming in and out of the building were so nice!! You can tell that they had some kind of agency to the space and were super welcoming. Love this sense of agency and community, and community agency. Later in the trip, I was surprised to see such a large group of existing co-ops in the Fenway area. Actually, a building that I used to pass by a lot last summer in Fenway, Boston is a co-op!
As for my co-living project though, I talked to the director of a nonprofit in Boston looking to set up a co-living site. Hopefully we will be able to set up an RFP which will allow us to direct funds to these projects. Apart from the legal definitions around lease splitting etc., an important aspect that distinguishes co-living from traditional shared housing models is the intentionality in living together. Other co-living projects by this nonprofit have coaches coming in monthly to teach residents skills for living together.
Lastly, it was interesting to learn about how government RFPs work. I went to the Rent-to-Own RFP conference held by my supervisor and met some affordable housing developers from the community. For that project, we are trying to facilitate rent-to-own projects in Boston that help people gradually transition from tenancy to affordable homeownership. So far, the main job of the government that I’ve seen is to distribute money from the bigger government to hopefully the right people to do hopefully the right thing.
Day One at What Cheer Flower Farm | Samuel Aguirre | MFA Furniture Design ’24
Final projects complete. The studios are empty. Critiques have settled in and the weight of the semester has left my body. Campus is pleasantly quiet, the pace of Providence has slowed and the spring/summer weather is oh-so pleasant… Deep inhale through the nose… … hold… … exhale. ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Summer has begun.
For those just joining us, I will be working with What Cheer Flower Farm (WCFF), a nonprofit agriculture and floristry center dedicated to bringing solace, joy and healing to the people of Rhode Island by giving away hundreds of thousands of flowers annually and supporting the local floral economy via job training. What Cheer Flower Farm has ambitious plans to remediate and build out their 2.7 acres of former factory land in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence. I will be spending my summer leading a community effort to design-build a high profile, public facing outdoor space dedicated to community use.
Yesterday was our kick off meeting and the farm is alive with action. The farm is in a state of expansion and remediation is well underway with excavators and bulldozers moving dirt. WCFF Volunteers are hard at work and given the freedom to “do what feels good”. One can make bouquets with recovered and donated flowers in the barn or go outside and help with light farm work in the gardens. Everywhere the air is filled with pleasantries, conversations of grant writing, gratitude for beautiful weather, resource planning, and weekend plans. The overlap of casual conversation and passion for work feels at home.
And here I am in the middle of it. And full of gratitude. Grateful for the opportunity from Maharam and RISD to make this my summer. Grateful to Erin and Christine at WCFF for sharing my enthusiasm for the journey ahead. And grateful to embark on a project that meets me where I am: Craving a creative outlet in the interest of the greater community, with the guidance of hands-on, non-profit leadership to make it happen.
Lets do this 🙂