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Posts from the ‘RISD Maharam Fellows’ Category


Groundwork RI – Define + Discover | Juliana Soltys, Jason Hebert | MID ’22

Week 2: Define + Discover

Intended Curriculum

We wanted to start Week 2 with a short lecture about a general design process and different types of design. There are six steps in this process: define, discover, develop, deploy, test, and iterate. We defined each term and related it to a board game project that Juliana worked on this past semester. These steps aren’t linear; therefore, we highlighted how this is only one way of thinking about solutions. On the next page, we discussed different areas within design and had the youth call out examples. This exercise was a great way to recognize the ubiquity of design and the spectrums connecting designed goods and services! Following, we explained the levels of impact adopted from the Ashoka Systems Change Crash Course. They list four levels: direct impact, scaled direct impact, systems change, and mindset shift. GWRI is involved with all four, with one example being their tree planting initiatives. The trees have a direct impact on PVD, but also a scaled effect since they are planted in the surrounding towns as well. GWRI is involved with initiatives to fund and support more tree plantings in redlined neighborhoods and redefine our relationship with trees. After a short break, we dove deeper into the first two steps of the design process: define and discover. The define phase sets up the background for understanding, sharing, and starting a design intervention. There should be no design solutions at this stage! There are four main concepts: the problem statement, design opportunity statement, design statement, and design criteria. As an example to explain the terminology, the redlining board game was elaborated on further. As the second phase, discovering involves observing a problem and collecting data about the issue as well as benchmarking current solutions. There are two main types of research used: market and user. The youth are primarily focusing on user research through ethnographic research, demographic data, and surveys. 

PVD x PCF Monday – combined due to weather conditions

Because of the weather conditions, the two groups combined, and it was an excellent opportunity for them to get to know each other. We reintroduced ourselves and played an icebreaker game about proposing a movie. The groups had 15 minutes to develop a movie: detailing its plot, actors, and budget. They would then propose this movie to the judges (J + J and the Green Team coordinators) who decided to fund both movies. After, we had a group lecture and discussion about the design process and, in further detail, spoke about the define and discover phases. As the sky cleared up, we took that information with us and walked around the Hope Artiste Village, taking observational notes on general sights, sounds, and smells. 

PCF Thursday, July 15th 

After lecturing about the design process and systems design, we walked around Hope Artiste Village and Pawtucket, writing down observational notes. We relaxed under a tree at Baldwin Elementary and started discussing the problems we observed while walking around. The conversation shifted quickly towards Galego Garden, a Pawtucket community garden the group was working at once a week. Located in the back of the Galego public housing complex, the garden is a space for residents and community members to tend to their plots. The youth work at the garden once a week, helping with a variety of gardening tasks. With the goal of the summer to have the youth choose their project, they were more interested in working with this space. Additionally through this discussion, they were able to acknowledge a variety of problems as a group. For example, they noticed the center path is too steep to climb with a wheelbarrow, the weeds are difficult to control and lead to a low retention rate of gardeners, and the lack of advertisement and awareness about the garden amongst the community. After a successful talk, we grabbed yummy Mamacita ice cream as a treat for their attentive and thoughtful work. We left that day excited about the prospect of this space that we were unaware of prior. 

Youth walking down a street with low tree canopy cover

Additional Activities

After hearing how excited the youth were about Galego, we went to check out the 1.5-acre garden. We met Chandel, the garden coordinator, and Everett, an AmeriCorp member, who were eager to show us around the hilly, green landscape. Community gardeners grew a variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and some even had beehives! They were very friendly, and we sat in the shade to learn more about the lush community garden and our involvement and intentions for the student-led projects. For the upcoming week, we will work in the garden to learn about the space and struggles of maintaining the constantly evolving garden. 

Juliana standing at the entrance to the Galego Community Farm


The weather was rainy and cold, creating a sluggish PVD x PCF group. However, the youths were engaging and talkative during our discussion about the different types of design. The icebreakers also helped re-engage the youth to get them thinking and moving with their fellow team members. We used a giant paper pad to prepare the lecture notes the first week, but the paper was too flimsy and slippery. We needed something to hold the slides up and decided to get a whiteboard to pin up information and brainstorm sessions. Unfortunately, the print-out design process sheets were not an engaging form to share information, and the youth were less interested in reading and following along. 

We originally had an additional print-out with the 5 W’s + 1 H as an outline for taking observational notes on their clipboard. However, the youth didn’t use it because it was easier to have an open discussion with a designated note taker.  


Groundwork RI Introduction | Juliana Soltys, Jason Hebert | MID ’22


This summer, we are working with Groundwork Rhode Island’s (GWRI) Youth Green Teams: two groups in Central Falls/Pawtucket and one other in Providence. We meet with the Providence team at multiple locations: GWRI’s Greenhouse in South Providence and Billy Taylor Park to discuss a mural project at the West River. We additionally meet with the Central Falls/Pawtucket groups at GWRI’s office in the Hope Artiste Village and the Galego community garden. Our main goal for this collaboration is to bring the tools of design thinking and making into the hands of youth working in redlined neighborhoods, ideally giving them the power to design their own small-scale solutions within their surrounding communities effectively. We plan to hold lectures and run workshops for hands-on learning experiences. In addition, we plan to support the youth — financially, temporally, emotionally, and physically — to define a communal problem and design their unique solutions. The aim isn’t to create for these communities but to lend them support in developing on their own.

Week 1: Introductions + Icebreaker

Intended Curriculum

As it was our first time meeting the youth, we kicked off with a design-centric icebreaker. This was adapted from a class we both took last semester. The group split into pairs for this activity and set off to design a utensil for their partner – “utensils” being loosely defined. For the beginning 15 minutes, each person interviewed their partner. Questions asked included, but were not limited to, “what utensils do you prefer,” “are you right- or left-handed,” and “what is your favorite color?” With that information, everyone dove into sketching and making utensils. Available materials included playdough, wooden sticks, hot glue, and wire; moreover, tools included utility knives, pliers, and elbow grease. Halfway through, partners exchanged whatever utensil they had made thus far with their partners to gather feedback to further progress. This small part of the project parallels testing and iteration in the design process. Soon after, the youth returned to making. With only 10 minutes left, everyone was told to hand off their final utensils and, in a circle, describe the essential elements of their customized utensils. The ultimate goal of this activity was to quickly introduce the youth to a simple use-case of the design process and create a comfortable space for open communication and fun!

PVD Monday, July 5th

On Monday, July 5th, we met the first group of youth – a group of 8 adolescents ranging from 14-18 who grew up in Providence’s redlined neighborhoods. We kicked off with the intended curriculum outlined above, and the quirks of this group quickly emerged. The group was energetic and creative. Some found interest in communicating with their partner to learn about what they were interested in, and others were more absorbed in the sketching or modeling processes. Regardless, the group was diverse and lively; moreover, the utensils they made were cool and creative. Before heading out, we gathered around to pull and tie some garlic. 

Youth working through the design process creating utensils for their partner.

Utensils designed and created by PVD youth

*two utensils were omitted because they were deconstructed before we could document them

PCF Thursday

At Groundwork Rhode Island’s main office in the Hope Artiste Village, we met with the first Pawtucket and Central Falls youth group on Thursday, July 8th. The group was small, with only three youth, one of the PCF coordinators, and us. After going around and introducing ourselves, we turned on some K-pop and got to work with the utensil workshop! We paired off to begin the pre-planned curriculum that was successful with the PVD group; however, this time, the energy in the room was off — we believe it was because it was the first day, the weather was gloomy, and interest in the activity was low. Regardless, there was good fun involved, and most of the youth understood and fulfilled the assignment. It was, generally, a good icebreaker activity. The utensils made are seen in the image below:

Utensils created by PCF Thursday Group

We planned to meet with only the second Pawtucket and Central Falls (PCF) group on Monday the 12th; however, due to weather conditions, we had to join the Providence and PCF teams. 


Perhaps due to the good weather, nearby garden, and full bellies, we ran into few problems with the Providence group during this entire kick-off. Most of the youth were attentive and communicative. Many were creative; however, some ran into artist block from the start. Talking between partners mainly was sustained throughout the process, and the most talkative shared that they were very interested in the user research process. The rest were primarily interested in the making process, with many fiddling with the materials even after the activity.

Despite the highlights, the trickiest part with the first PCF group was getting them to interview each other to get the information necessary to make their partner a catered utensil. From the start, some youth were not interested in the discussion part of the activity and instead found interest in the act of making and playing with the materials. Knowing this, we can cater their personalized curriculum to involve more hands-on, making activities over sit-down discussion activities.

Additional Activities

Outside of these meetings, we met an additional time with the PVD team on July 7th at Billy Taylor Park to hear from the local artist, Ysanel, to discuss the role of place-based public art in social justice movements. Ysanel is known for painting the electrical boxes around Providence with feminist figures! The reason for this meeting was to begin a discussion about a mural that would bring awareness to the hidden West River near the Stop & Shop off Branch Avenue. Located on the fittingly named West River Street, the wall would be painted with imagery decided by the Providence youth team. Currently, the West River is heavily polluted with trash, and cleanup was planned for the 10th but was rescheduled because of weather conditions.

PVD Group visiting the West River with Ysanel

Visualizing Enough is ENOUGH. | Kansas City, KS. | Leslie Ponce-Díaz, BArch/BFA ’23

Researching visuals pertaining to gun violence and public programming within my community and in other initiatives helps me understand how Enough is Enough could be visually engaging for middle school and high school students. I believe that social media is a great tool to increase student participation within any program. Especially, if the content posted is visually engaging and catches the attention of students. At my community library, the West Wyandotte Library, I scanned six different visuals I found that indicated a service for helping others, the community, or within education. These scans allowed me to research different ways on how my community communicates events and information in a visual and written manner. My community is a melting pot of many different ethnic and racial backgrounds and it helped me understand the importance of translating information both written and visually.

Flyers focused on education

Flyers focused on support groups
Flyers translated information needed for immigrant families

After researching the flyers I found from my community library, I began to do research on organizations outside of my community that focus on raising gun violence awareness. One of my favorite ones that I found is the organization Change The Ref. The create year long projects using different visual mediums and performance to raise awareness on gun violence and NRA corrupt actions. Change The Ref uses visual art to bring attention to the needed conversations surrounding gun violence. My favorite project that they have done is create soap molds in shape of a gun and asked individuals to wash their hand with the soap until it disappeared. This performance action was shared across social platforms to raise awareness. I also really enjoy their most recent project where they presented, “The Lost Class”, a collection of empty chairs graduating to represent all of the student lives lost due to gun violence that were unable to graduate high school.

Another organization that I researched was the March for Our Lives organization that was a student-led demonstration in support of gun control legislation. The organization was led by a group of students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (Never Again MSD). March for Our Lives partnered with Gun Safety Alliance to create posters and social media visuals to express their messages on gun violence control.

After researching Change The Ref and March for Our Lives, I realized the impact that visual arts has when expressing issues towards gun violence. It is very powerful to see the voices of students within their communities speak up visually about these issues. It appears that the partnership between March for Our lives and the Gun Safety Alliance asked students to sketch out ideas and then a graphic designer helped create the content. In the initiative Enough is Enough, they are known to use a blue ribbon as a symbol to express the need for gun violence awareness within the Kansas City, KS community. However, I think that it would be more helpful for the initiative to express themselves visually by connecting the students voices to the forefront of the conversation similar to how the two organizations I have researched.

I found it powerful to read posters on what the students wanted to be in the future and how they were afraid that they would not make it because of the gun violence present in their communities. I think it is important to also recognize the symbolism behind a blue ribbon when connected to a police department. Making the voices of students in the community be heard and expressed should be visualized within the initiative as it allows other students the freedom to express themselves. Students might feel uncomfortable participating in an initiative that can be visually connected to police enforcement.

As I continue my internship with Enough is Enough, I think it is important to focus on the visual language of the initiative. I want students to feel like they can express themselves without any restrictions. By including a more expressive and visual language, it will create a better representation of the youth voices. Enough is Enough focuses on the 21+ student lives that have been lost within the Kansas City KS School District. My goal in this internship is to continue supporting their work to help students have the necessary resources to pursue their post-secondary educational goals and or other pursuits.

I believe that Enough is Enough can have a better social media presence through different forms of graphic design. As a founder of RISD’s Latinx club, Mango Street, I have experience with creating social media graphics that bring attention to events and information. Putting forefront the voices of the youth within the community is my goal when designing to enhance the branding of the initiative.

The Enough is Enough initiative focuses on helping curb the violence by educating their families and students as well as promoting student involvement in leading the change. I created a couple different posters that engage in what students are currently interested in, such as accessories, sports, and music. I then combined those interests with Enough is Enough to lead students to learn more about the program. How can students continue to promote and engage with Enough is Enough? Will engaging students with a more contemporary visual help them feel more comfortable in accessing the information? I am challenged to design posters that feel welcoming and engaging but still communicate ideas of gun control without it feeling overwhelming. I created a a more engaging Enough is Enough Poster Contest flyer to hopefully encourage students to apply to the competition. I hope that these posters can help inspire students to visually express themselves creatively when designing their own posters in the future for Enough is Enough.

My research within the library and the community organizations have helped me understand how information could be translated in different forms to reach a variety of audiences. I think my next steps will be to continue making content that communicates why the initiative Enough is Enough is important within the community. Why should students be involved? These online visuals will be more text heavy but I will use my research to indicate what are the best ways to organize the information. The flyers will focus on: What is Enough is Enough?, Why is it important?, and, How can I get involved?. I will also continue brainstorming on how the posters can be enhanced to continue the conversations surrounding gun violence in Kansas City. How can I use my research from the March for Our Lives campaign, to inspire the visuals be a more critical way of visualizing gun control?

In First-Gen Chisme (, I have continued to organize the resources on the website to make them more accessible for visitors. I want students to feel supported with the needed information to continue pursuing their post-secondary education. Researching for Enough is Enough has helped me understand the importance of having content that is easily understood for its target audience. Students can download PDF’s on resources towards applying to college and financial tools that prepare them for their education.

Alongside my graphic design research and projects, I have purchased the school supplies that I will be giving out on July 17th and 24th at Bethany Park. My original plans were to visit the high schools in the area but I was advised by a community member that it would be more beneficial to attend an event that already has an active audience. This is because sometimes students can find it difficult to go to their schools during the summer without their needed transportation resources. I will be attending the Bethany Park, ‘La Placita’ event hosted on Saturdays from non-profit Central Avenue Betterment Association (CABA). La Placita is known to have local vendors on Central Avenue Street located in Kansas City, KS. Central Avenue is an important location within my community as it has many Black and Brown businesses that helps support the Black and Brown families in the community.

My First-Gen Chisme cart has arrived and I began painting it the First-Gen Chisme branding colors! I will be taking it to Bethany Park and handing out supplies and information surrounding First-Gen Chisme and Enough is Enough. On the next blog post, I will show it fully painted and assembled! I am excited for you all to see it.

My Maharam Fellowship and B-Lab Venture Accelerator, have inspired me to re-think ways in how my help in non-profits can grow within my community. The next project I am hoping to pursue is the possibility to re-imagine First-Gen Chisme. How would it function if it was established as an official non-profit in Kansas City, KS? How can my work in this fellowship grow in the future to make a permanent collaboration between the USD 500 Kansas City KS School District and First-Gen Chisme? Are there any locations in Kansas City, KS that I should have my eyes on for the future home of the First-Gen Chisme headquarters? I will explore these questions and create more content in regards to the questions I asked about Enough is Enough above in the next blog post. Thanks for tuning in!


Food as Liberation, Shreya Kaipa, BArch’ 23

July 12, 2021

This is a long overdue update as I have been caught up meeting people and getting my hands and mind busy! My priority this summer is to build meaningful relationships with as many growers, vendors, and other Sankofa members as possible; while finding small and large moments for my art and design orientation to support their needs. 

For the first few weeks, I plopped myself in the main Sankofa Garden, which is surrounded by Sankofa Apartments (affordable housing from the West Elmwood Housing Corporation). Whenever someone would come out to water their plants, I’d start to weed with them, and ask about the vegetables they were growing. One such woman I met was Ana, a Dominican woman who immigrated alone to Providence at 18 years old. When I first met her she was grieving the recent loss of multiple members in her family, yet finding time to nurture her plants in between calls from relatives. Ana is an English-learner; she pointed to weeds, demonstrated how to pluck them correctly, and directed me to do the same. Her gestures, directness, courage, and patience reminded me of the warmth I often feel with Indian aunties or women in my family. They see you as their own, and are always thinking of you. After only an hour or two together, Ana playfully pushed me inside her home for some home-cooked beans and rice. On another occasion, she brought out popsicles and had me rest inside to stay out of the heat. This generosity is seen among all of the growers. Everyone is an immigrant or a refugee from a multitude of places; such as Liberia, Rwanda, Dominican Republic, or Cambodia. Growing vegetables from their home countries, and then cooking culturally specific dishes for their families is a healing practice for them; as they are celebrating who they are.


1. Kids from the Sankofa Apartments painting with me in the garden, as I work on the sign.

2 and 3. Vendors at the Market

So onto my greatest reflection of this internship: regardless of what country they come from, if they are wealthy or not, or if you have already eaten lunch, immigrant women will always force you to eat their home-cooked food!

The Sankofa Market opened June 23rd, and has been running every Wednesday 2-6pm outside Knight Memorial Library since (it’s open through October, so if you’re in town, you should stop by)! At the market, I have been helping vendors wherever needed, and as a result, getting to know them and their work better. Every week, I help set up tents, write out the prices of their produce, and spray cold water on vendors on sweaty days! On the first market day, a Cambodian vendor immediately rushed as he saw an African older woman struggling with her tent. Although they couldn’t understand each other’s words, the Cambodian man used body language to suggest an ideal placement of the tent and table. I find this kind of camaraderie between different immigrant groups pretty rare. Oftentimes, each community is struggling to meet their own needs in this country, and are pitted against each through capitalism and white supremacy. I saw this small act as a larger representation of mutual aid; which is critical in order for communities of color to move towards liberation and independence from discrimination.


Market sign before 2. Sketch for painted sign 3. Painted sign in progress at the Market

Growers often struggle to describe a vegetable on their table with its English name (especially if it is native to their home country). This usually isn’t an issue as their clientele are usually immigrants from the same region as them. However, learning about different foods, how to prepare them, and what the dish means to someone, is one of the most beautiful aspects of this community. I find it’s also a fruitful way to connect through care with someone from a different background and story. When I am struggling to communicate my questions about the produce or even themselves, I find drawing is a universal language. I sketch to ask questions, and also to communicate to other customers about the produce vendors are selling. 

There’s no doubt that the gardens are a healing space for growers and vendors. For me, the place brings me a sense of home and comfort, like a bowl of warm dhal my mom used to prepare when I was sick. However, conflict is bound to arise with language barriers, cultural differences, and miscommunication. As I move onto the middle of my internship, I am collecting the needs of different individuals in these spaces in order to design a spatial intervention with them. Stay tuned to hear more about these observations and plans!

Live music at the market (by me)!

Ocean Species Shifts | Jasmine Gutbrod | Teaching and Learning in Art and Design | 2021

Species profiles being created in InDesign.

Ocean Species Shifts | Providence, RI

The more I learn about ocean sustainability the more I come to understand how complex the issues of habitat conservation and seafood supply chains are. One way that Eating with the Ecosystem is approaching such complex issues is by researching how different species in New England waters are reacting to the effects of climate change. Effects can be observed through warming water temperatures, new current patterns, differences in salinity, and more. There are many species that are exhibiting population shifts potentially as a direct result of climate change. Some species, such as Atlantic Croaker, Blue Crab, and Black Sea Bass have been scientifically studied and their shifting population centers recorded. For other species such as Triggerfish and Northern Pufferfish, the evidence is more anecdotal through word of mouth of fishermen and those in the seafood industry. Either way, there are species that are expected to make distinctive, often Northbound, shifts in their typical population centers, perhaps on a journey to find cooler water temperatures.

How these sea creatures are responding to climate change has important implications for everyone, particularly for people working in the seafood industry and for consumers who expect certain seafoods to be available to them. If species that are more common in Southern Atlantic waters are becoming more popular in Northern regions, will there be a market for those fish? Or will consumers expect the same fish to be available, forcing the supply chain to stretch and increasing the transportation required to deliver traditional species? It is possible to build a healthy relationship between us and the organisms that feed us, and one element of that is to adapt our eating habits to fit the ecosystems around us, ecosystems which are continually changing.

These past few weeks I have been working with the data that Eating with the Ecosystem has collected to make a series of species profile sheets detailing information on 12 fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods that are part of our diets. By organizing information in a clear and engaging way, viewers can learn about how species populations are changing more succinctly. These species profiles are intended for seafood market professionals who will be briefed and interviewed as a way to collect more information on these species. This sharing of knowledge also will allow fishermen and market professionals in New England to prepare their business models in advance so that they may adapt to new species being available due to climate change. These species population shifts are expected to continue and increase. If we can introduce the new species to relevant regions and build a market for them in advance, maybe the seafood industry can better adapt to a fishing model that is sustainable for those working in the industry as well as the ecosystem we depend on.

Species profile sheet for Scup shows information such as size, average boat price, geographic range, and culinary description.
Species profile sheet for Summer Flounder shows information such as size, average boat price, geographic range, and culinary description.
Sketches of icons describing the fishing method.

I’m excited to see how this project develops and am looking forward to learning more about the complex supply chains involved in the seafood industry. Alongside the species profiles, I am also coming up with ways of highlighting projects through social media pages as well as early brainstorming for a community outreach event. More updates to come!


Violacein | Kate Reed | Industrial Design | 2021

Recap: I am Artist in Residence at BosLab, in Cambridge, MA, researching new ways to use bacteria to dye textiles. So far, I have been successful in growing beautiful shades of pink dyes using magenta synthetic e.coli, but unsuccessful in maintaining the colors through the bacteria killing process. I have been researching other types of bacteria for textile dyeing.

In my research, I came across the bacteria Violacein. Violacein creates a variety of colors ranging between deep purple and light gray. It is a bacteria that can be found naturally in puddles all over the world. After talking to some of my advisors, we found a source for Violacein and I was able to start working with it at BosLab.

To dye with the Violacein, I followed the same bacteria dying process as I had used before. I grew up a vat of the dye in LB Broth, added textiles to the dye bath, put the dye bath on heat and came back a few days later to the most beautiful rich blue and purple hues.

The Violacein dyed the textiles beautifully. It really seemed to fuse to the textile fibers, which was unlike anything I had experienced with bacteria in the past. Even better, I was able to kill the bacteria with the autoclave and the color stayed true. I have officially dyed my first textiles using Violacein!

Once I knew the Violacein could dye the textiles, I spent the next few weeks trying different dying techniques and starting to understand the intricacies of the textile bacteria dying process. I was able to create many beautiful tie dye effects and consistent dye swatches. While I am happy about my ability to dye the textiles, I am now hoping to find a way to dye the textiles allowing each bacteria to grow in its own natural patterns, which are very beautiful.


Educational Ice cream Cart | Kansas City, KS. | Leslie Ponce-Díaz, BArch/BFA ’23

The opportunity to continue my post-secondary education after high-school is a great privilege and honor to have. As a First-Generation college student, I have realized the difficulties and challenges that many students from marginalized communities face within pre-dominantly white institutions. I created First-Gen Chisme,, as an opportunity to give back to the upcoming generations of Students of Color pursuing their education. During my internship, I have been able to connect with my supervisor, Sharita, to explore ways on how content could be distributed in an engaging manner. The Enough is Enough initiative has created many visuals around the community where they ask students to register in any violence seen around their communities and schools. An issue that we realized is that many students would not engage directly with the visuals. This could be due to the fact that they are not familiar with the work of Enough is Enough and might not know how to get involved. I took some time to think on how to bring attention to the initiative with visuals, movements, social media, and more. I realized that el paletero (the ice cream man), always caught the attention of the community with his ice cream cart ringing bells on the block. I began to wonder… What if I could integrate my cultural upbringing with my educational resources? This is where the idea for an educational cart that hands out resources and information about Enough is Enough and First-Gen Chisme came to be! The goal for the educational cart is to have it completed by middle July to visit at least 3 high schools in the Kansas City School District. The educational cart would give students school supplies and important information in regards to Enough is Enough and First-Gen Chisme.

This picture demonstrates the inspirations from the paltero man (ice cream man) for the education cart.
This is a draft of how I plan to paint the educational cart. These visuals are logos that can be found within the First-Gen Chisme education website.

As an Architecture student, I have learned the necessary tools to visualize how I would program this community event. I began to create construction drawings on how the educational cart would function. The most important factor about its function is that it must be easy to take a part and assemble in order for easy transportation.

I asked my dad if we could collaborate together to create the cart from scratch since we both have experience with wood working. We went to the hardware store and bought some materials to get started! We began a base for the cart and had a fun time working together. However, we both realized that our schedules began to become really busy and we were unable to fully finish it by the deadline needed. We also did not have all of the necessary wood cutting equipment which made it difficult to get the project completed into the quality that we both wanted. Thanks to the Maharam Fellowship, I had the freedom to research for an already built candy cart that I could purchase. I found an amazing one from Etsy and will be arriving in the first week of July, right on the deadline I originally planned! Although, I really wanted to build the cart from scratch I am fortunate to have the necessary resources to be able to find one just in time. I also am very appreciative of my dad for taking time out of his busy working schedule to help start a project with me!

The plan is to have the educational cart travel to at least 3 high schools in the Kansas City, KS school district to provide with school supplies and visuals supporting Enough is Enough. We will have conversations on what Enough is Enough is doing within the community and how students can get involved. Students will receive folders, stickers, pencils, pens, pencil holder, and visuals pertaining to Enough is Enough and First-Gen Chisme.

As I wait for the candy cart to arrive, I have continued my research on visuals pertaining to Gun Violence within my community and in other initiatives. I will be collecting different visuals from the public library and online that demonstrate community building. What do these two flyers in the folders need to have to create an engaging and visual messages surrounding post-secondary education and gun violence? Is there any other things I can help give that catch the attention of students? For example: Pins, Buttons, Stickers, Posters, etc. How can I best support the gun violence awareness work being done in my community in a respectful manner that helps catch the attention of others? Engaging the youth in conversations surrounding gun violence is very important. I want to help support students pursue their education and have success outside of the violence present in their communities.

These illustrations help provide an idea on how the educational cart will look when present at the schools. I am very excited to be able to visit the schools in person and distribute the necessary resources for students to have a safer educational environment! My focuses will be on the Kansas City, KS High Schools: F.L. Schlagle High School, Washington High School, Wyandotte High School, J.C. Harmon High School, and Sumner Academy of Arts and Sciences. Due to lack of time, I will not be able to attend the Middle Schools in my community but the three day event will be open to all students.

I look forward to updating you all more on my research visuals for gun violence research in the next blog post. As well as, hopefully, answers to the questions asked above. Thank you for reading!

Quick Brown University B-Lab Updates:

To read more on my venture:

Alongside my Maharam Fellowship, I am participating in the Brown University 8-week summer accelerator program for Brown and RISD students developing high-impact ventures. Recently, I pitched a 90 second venture pitch for 80+ people on Zoom for preparation on a bigger pitch in September. It was definitely a nerve-wrecking experience but I am very appreciative of the practice pitches we are able to have during B-Lab. I am currently continuing my bottom-up research to understand how an app focused on providing First-Gen students with academic and financial resources could best work.

The Pitch: Every time I come back home from college, I talk with my friend about our experiences and difficulties in being the first in our family to attend college. We shared conversations where we often felt lost,  pressured, and always feeling behind our other peers who’s family did attend college. I realized that we were sharing our First-Gen Chisme. The ability to build a First-Gen community that can help support incoming students inspired the tech non-profit First-Gen Chisme.

First-Gen Chisme is a non-profit tech app that focuses on providing First-Generation, Low-Income, and BIPOC students with needed academic and financial resources throughout their post-secondary education. We provide school year-long content and mentorship on academics, scholarships, FAFSA, mental health and more. First-Gen students need 24/7 support to successfully guide them through their education. Based on our bottom up research, many First-Gen students do not know where to start when asking for help. They need accessible resources that help them feel supported within their institutions. 

Nationally, 89 percent of Low-Income First-Generation students leave college within six years without a degree.  As a First-Gen student myself, I speak from personal experiences on the struggles that we face coming from under-resourced communities. Many Universities fail to acknowledge the extra support needed from First-gen students. First Gen Chisme believes that with access to direct resources, students would feel more supported and graduate their institutions with great success. 

If you are interested in learning more please visit our resource website for more updates on our tech-app and content. Let’s continue to make education accessible to ALL students with First-Gen Chisme. 


Sterile, Kate Reed, Industrial Design, 2021

The textile dying process is one of the most polluting processes in the world. Chemical dyes are used until the color is no longer consistent, then the liquid chemical dye is thrown away, with little regard to where it goes and the harm that it creates. It is an unsustainable and toxic process. Due to high demand and fast fashion, little is being done to disrupt this harmful cycle.

We have a plague on our society of consumer capitalism, with predictable and obedient consumers. Fast fashion is a product of this plague, where clothing is meant to only last for one season and then expire as the trend expires. This has created an uncontrollable amount of textile waste. In 2014, the United States alone produced 32.44 Billion pounds of textile waste.

As the Artist in Residence at BosLab, a community built molecular biology lab in Cambridge, MA, I have the unique opportunity to disrupt this fast fashion cycle through novel bacteria dyes. Bacteria dyes use significantly less water than traditional dying methods, and the biproduct of the dye is ecological, as opposed to foreign chemicals from traditional dying methods.  

I began my journey with safety training and learning the concept of sterile from a biologist’s perspective. Sterile is very different than being clean. We exist in a world surrounded by microbes, they are on our bodies, on surfaces, in the ground and in the air. To create a sterile environment means to rid that environment of all the microbes. This is commonly done with heat, UV light, rubbing alcohol, and bleach. Creating a sterile space is quite straight forward, but keeping a space sterile is much more difficult. If you reach your hand over your work surface, you have contaminated it. If you touch the outside of a bottle or container with your hands, you are contaminated. As result, I find myself spraying my gloved hands down with ethanol every 30 seconds or so in the lab.

This need to keep my workspace sterile shines a light on the cleanliness of my everyday COVID lifestyle habits. I am aware of how many microbes are living all over everything in my home, my car, and my food. I am also more aware of how strong my body is as it co-exists with microbes. But I would not want to be living in a glass bubble – microbes are good.

In my first attempt to dye textiles with bacteria, I used a magenta synthetic e.coli. I took a single e.coli colony and grew it up in a vat of LB broth which provides the food for the bacteria to grow.  Then I added textiles to the dye bath, then put the dye bath on heat. A week later I came back to find beautiful pink textiles. It was so exciting to see the dye work on the textiles, but this was only half of the challenge. Next, I had to figure out how to kill the bacteria while keeping the color, because you can’t have active bacteria living and growing on your clothing. Killing the bacteria turned out to be the most difficult part of the project. I experimented with ethanol, vinegar, UV light and an autoclave. Heating the bacteria in the autoclave was the only method that worked to kill this specific type of bacteria. Unfortunately, killing the bacteria by autoclave also meant killing the color as well. My autoclaved samples looked almost completely washed out, devoid of color.

Back to the drawing board. I need to fine a different type of bacteria for textile dyeing.


B2- Stimuli-Sensation-Perception-Reaction-Behavior-Culture: Design for Sensory Overload in Public Spaces- Chetan Dusane MID ’21

Looking Inward to Look Outward

How do we enjoy music that is well above 100 decibel or strobe lights millions of lumens intense at a concert when they cause discomfort in other situations?

What do these numbers mean? Do they mean anything alone? How does the context give them meaning? What counts as an overload?

As I was trying to build my research to answer these questions, the literature hinted that stimuli experienced by people in urban environments might not be entirely about numbers. Interpretations derived from stimuli gradually revealed themselves to be quite contextual, personal, cultural and dynamic to be explained entirely in rigid numbers. I realized that only a few senses like sound, touch (heat, humidity) and vision (light) have measurable/perceivable thresholds and they only serve as indicators of discomfort, depending on the period of exposure. The perceptual realities of humans experiencing them are very personal and contextual. These realities in this project’s context could be most appropriately understood only by drawing from personal experiences and gathering actual field insight from the citizens of Panvel city.

However, before inquiring the citizens about their experiences, I began investigating the process of sensing, its mechanisms and perception of these senses, to better understand the genesis of our sensory experiences. I wished to elicit genuine, meaningful responses from the stakeholders through this knowledge.

The literature on human sensation usually speaks about the five popular senses. However, many believe that there are more than 20. The senses are of two types, Exteroceptive and Interoceptive. Exteroception occurs when stimuli to be sensed originate outside of an individual’s body— such as sensing light, surfaces, foods, smells and sounds. On the other hand, Interoception is sensing the stimuli coming from within the body like pain, balance, body position, hunger, anxiety, etc. The meaning of objects/environments is derived through an interplay of multiple cues captured from various stimuli by a combination of these senses. Both types of senses together form the sensory ecosystem of a person; however, only exteroceptive senses are being considered in this study as they are more relevant to the topic.

Every sense has a biological system associated with it (like vision system, auditory system, olfactory system etc.). A sensory system collects, transduces, and transports sensory stimuli from the sensory organs to the brain’s relevant parts. Sensory organs and the nervous system are parts of these systems.

A sensory organ contains external stimuli collection and transduction units called the sensory receptors. The receptors detect, collect and transduce relevant stimuli like mechanical (vibrations for ears), chemical (smell and taste), thermal (touch) and light (eyes) into signals understandable by the brain. Neural pathways transfer the transduced signals to relevant parts the brain to read, perceive and act on them.

As mentioned earlier, there are some numerical thresholds to the intensity of the signals known to create a sensory overload in some senses. However, the context within which theses signals are experienced, evoke different reactions irrespective of the numbers. In this project’s context, which concerns urban public spaces, the stimuli are unlike a music festival or an airport runway; but, they are dynamic, multitudinous and perceivably overwhelming because of that and less so because of higher intensity of the stimuli.

Interestingly, deriving meaning from an object/environment is not solely informed by the external stimuli. An individual’s context, mental makeup, expectations, motivations, and experiences greatly influence their interpretations. These aspects add and modify the meaning of the bare external stimuli, making experiences very personal. The discomfort and hence behaviors are greatly affected by people’s personal attributes. The culture of a place also plays a role in deciding what is acceptable and what is uncomfortable. This subjective perceptual experience of the senses is called Qualia. This is not to say that people’s reactions differ even in case of extremely intense stimuli. In fact, visual and auditory (not as much for other senses) experiences usually appear to be similar across demographics. However, as aforementioned, the stimuli in urban spaces cause discomfort and overload majorly due to their dynamism and multitude and sometimes due to intensity.

Selective Attention: Keeping undesired stimuli away

Another interesting aspect of stimuli detection and perception is that the criteria for these actions may shift based on the importance allotted by individuals to the incoming signal. These criteria can be bias, physiological state, expectations, personal experiences and environment. For example, some can read a book in a crowded place, and others may find it too noisy to do so. The ones who can; selectively filter out the external noises to not affect them. An overload of sensory stimuli can make this process difficult. However, this cognitive censorship ability could also come in the way of us experiencing the pleasures and dangers of a space, if the mind is trained, conditioned to ignore most stimuli in an environment of high sensory stimuli like in the urban areas of Mumbai. Also, a constant barrage of stimuli can lead to sensory adaptation, leading to closing out of the environment.

This combination of Sensation and Perception together precedes almost all elements of cognition, thought and behavior. This fact makes the study of Sensory Overload and the subsequent perceptual impedance more significant as it can affect our daily lives in profound ways. This study becomes even more important if we look at it in the context of a crowded Indian urban area like Mumbai/Panvel, which is a mélange of relentless sensory stimuli.

This understanding, then compelled me to learn about how a city, a medley of sensory stimuli, is experienced by its residents. How these stimuli, affect perception and how perception, in turn, affects the mindset, culture, and quality of life in a city.

Some literature I referred to

So, what is a city?

A place for us to house our bodies, as the body houses the self?

or a sensory and emotional experience as Charles Landry (Urban Planner, Author) in his book ‘The Art of City-Making’ says?

I feel it is all at once. An elaborate, intriguing mash-up of social groups, behaviors and cultures experienced through the senses. A melting pot of our collective needs, desires and aspirations. It strives to cater to our basic, economic, educational and health needs along with entertainment, cultural and emotional needs. All this builds unique contexts when we as citizens think of using its various public spaces.

Charles Landry says that the science of city making assumes certain predictability that the city’s human ecologies cannot provide. These ecologies need to be very closely observed, studied and their inhabitants must be involved, in the process of making city spaces. The sensory landscape is a complex interplay of known, long-standing senses overlayed with new, fleeting ones. In my understanding, a city’s sensory landscape elicits a pattern of perceptions, which inspires our behavior, which turns into the place’s culture. Hence, it needs careful consideration in the design phase itself as I feel it profoundly inspires a place’s culture and ultimately, the citizens’ daily lived experiences and quality of life. This is my hypothesis based on literature and personal experiences which is illustrated in the following image.

My Hypothesis

I believe, and the literature also suggests, cities are sensory, emotional and psychological experiences. Only codes, regulations, and ethics do not make a city; it needs the experiential immersion of its citizens to fully realize its potential. But, we as urban dwellers experience them on a lower level of awareness in terms of its sounds, visuals, touches, smells and even tastes. This is because the public spaces, especially in India, are designed only based on geography and demographic data, with perceivable disregard for sensory fulfilment often inducing a closing rather than opening out our senses. My personal experiences in Mumbai and Panvel made me feel depleted, drained, and defensive regarding my desire to experience the cities. By diminishing our desire to experience the sensory landscape, we approach the world and its opportunities from a narrower perspective. This narrowness makes us oblivious to the beauty of the city and its people and the many problems and even dangers it possesses.

All of the above learning led me to perceive a city and its senses in a completely different light altogether! It made me reflect on my own experiences with the stimuli in Panvel city. I remembered the shared feelings we have as citizens of Mumbai/Panvel before stepping out in a public space. Even though the context varied with the spaces I visited, what remained constant was the overwhelming rush and concern for safety due to crowding, chaos, mass media, information, traffic, dust, smoke, heat, humidity, smells etc. I realized that these feelings have shaped certain behaviors in me like excessive honking, cutting lanes, always crossing roads in a hurry irrespective of the traffic lights, contempt for crowds and people in general, anger, disregard for public property and rules, and ultimately apathy towards others. I have experienced these behaviors among my fellow citizens too, and I fear this may have developed a culture of indifference among us in Mumbai/Panvel.

The markets in Panvel with their own mélange of stimuli!
Driving in Panvel is an art!

This constant struggle to defend ourselves from over-stimulation while having our life struggles in mind causes tension and affects our behavior towards our work and one another. This tension then has the potential to affect our health and wellbeing. This feels to be especially true in urban areas as crowded and stimulating as New Mumbai and Panvel. Consequently, the addition of all these hindrances in experiencing the city has led to indifferent experiences in the city we love and a negative impact on our personal and social lives. All this learning led me to build my hypothesis, which then became the basis for my next step, that is proving, disproving or modifying it through an extensive field study. My next blog will cover my findings of extensive field research in detail.


Hearing the Closet: Archival Interventions with Costume + Textiles Collections – Holly Gaboriault, MA Global Arts + Cultures 2021

Central to understanding identities of people, their behaviors, and lived experiences are the material objects created and consumed. Long after they are placed upon a hanger or shelf, objects, clothing, and textiles continue to operate as expressions and historical markers exploring the power of place through cultural production, civic actions, communities, and their landscapes. In the discourse of looking and making, the politics of accumulated differences, disjunctions and dislocations centralize objects in social, cultural, economic, nationalistic, and historical entanglements. 

In the past decade, the field of material history has emerged as one of the most urgent areas of research and pedagogy in the art and design world. Related to my previous studies and research of global history, culture, and design influence, the themes and subjects I examine are viewed through the lens of history, geography, and textural social integration seeking better practices for connecting concepts and critical thinking. My recent investigations surround methodology for object-based textile references used by both historical and contemporary textile and apparel designers exploring the boundaries of translation, cultural oversights, and historical misappropriation.

Material histories serve as dynamic vehicles to activate systems, values, cultural identities, and the dialectical relationship between the maker and the medium. During Winter 2020, I conducted a case study of the biennial juried exhibition projects Designing Traditions: Student Explorations in the Asian Textile Collection 2008-2018 within the Costume and Textiles Collections at the RISD Museum of Art. I hoped to continue this research working in the Rhode Island Historical Society’s Textile Collection putting aesthetic qualities of an object in dialogue with the colonial, racial, and environmental histories surrounding it.

Prior to COVID-19, my initial concept for this fellowship coincided with the women’s suffrage centennial, to work with the Rhode Island Historical Society researching their multimedia archive, including film, documents, and textiles to connect diverse stories of women who pioneered civic and cultural leadership in early Rhode Island history. This project extended that directive by composing a unique narrative using research and film to write and produce an original work for Rhode Islanders and beyond featuring the legacy of women who dedicated themselves to the fight for women’s equality and independence. Combined with scholarship and historical backstory, I intended to learn how people can better connect and engage with Rhode Island stories on a national and global level to produce a multi-phonic platform illustrating how people contribute to a place and how they shape it.

When I realized gaining access would be an unknown factor of proportions I could not have anticipated, I pivoted with a second idea to create a series of vignettes highlighting selections from RIHS collection of textiles, objects, and furniture exploring a profusion of multiple narratives existent within a singular object. By implementing an integrative framework for questioning interdisciplinary experts, scholars, and researchers, each theme is not intended to be exhaustive, but rather as capsules of curiosity providing opportunity for beginning future research and unpacking its history from different perspectives. Aligning with RIHS’s mission to teach people how to think historically, my intentions were for this project to give voice to objects, their hidden lives, and the lives of those who made them and used them. However, operating in and around this pandemic would NOT be easy.

The RIHS does not collect items, but rather “actively acquires” in a considered fashion. These collections include some 25,000 objects, 5,000 manuscripts, 100,000 books and printed items, 400,000 photographs and maps, and 9 million feet of motion-picture film. Approximately 7,800 objects reside in the RIHS Textiles collection, spanning the 1670’s through 2005, encapsulating domestic: including samplers, carpets, quilts; costumes worn on the human body and accessories: including fans, purses, hair combs, jewelry. Using material culture, object-based research provides opportunity to examine complex and shifting historical relationships with objects and how they transform over time, readdress exclusions, and allow a diversity of ethical perspectives to perform a reparative intervention. But what is evidence – or perhaps – what is a life lived for an object or textile? Frayed edges, the worn wood from human touch, a party stain from a drink spilled on a dress, sweat stains on the interior lining of a suit, the scent that lingers on fabric from a person or place, repeated mendings of the well-worn, and hasty repairs done by the novice hand – each ascribing social information to their individual narratives.

Many, if not all, of the subjects and items I searched for on the RIHS NETworked Online Public catalog (its NETOP database) did not have photographs – an obstacle I first encountered researching the RIHS material histories in attempts to select items to film for the project. As a design researcher, you HAVE to be able to see objects to find visual clues. I proceeded to initiate concurrent dialogues with C. Morgan Grefe, Executive Director, and Dana Signe K. Munroe, Registrar and residing digital overseer for the RI COVID-19 Archive. Her knowledge of the RIHS costume and textiles collection was unparalleled as a result of her long tenure at RIHS, coupled by her knowledge of textile conservation and passion for making. Dana and I set out on a journey to try to explore what we could within extremely tight time and COVID-19 restrictions. I was unable to enter RIHS property and continued to conduct extensive research through books and databases, including the Guide to Manuscripts at the Rhode Island Historical Society Relating to People of Color and possible inter-institutional knowledge from the RISD Museum online collection.

ABSENCE motivates my research. Reframing concepts of inclusion and absence, diversity and the tangible manifestations of the presence of women, especially within diverse communities and public life, sharpen my curiosity for such interdisciplinary connections. The mission of the RIHS is to tell compelling stories about the events and people of Rhode Island within their museums, programming, and archives. And the importance for featuring the stories of women from migrant and marginalized communities will testify to moments that resonate today. Aligning with RIHS’s desire to create tools aligned with their mission and ongoing dialogical interpretation, I was focused on a different way of viewing Rhode Island history and teasing out potential narrative ‘threads’ hidden within a textile or object, primarily examining the people and moments that shaped these items and their context.

Through a mixture of Zoom meetings and emails with Dana and Morgan from mid to late summer, my list narrowed to a selection of possibilities to explore: independent dressmakers and female entrepreneurship through tailoring; black seamstresses, tailors, millinery, haberdashery businesses; industrial objects designed by women; objects belonging to female athletes and/or athletic objects/garments made by women; objects / garments attributed to female writers/journalists; and items displaying cultural appropriation and/or cultural attribution from global trade (such as the Orientalist influence from the late 19th and items obtained from the China Trade). Eventually, with health safety regulations permitting, I was finally able to schedule a handful of visits over the course of late-July and August to see these items housed at the John Brown House Museum. Once I curated a small selection of objects and textiles, I could then begin to craft individualized narratives and plan filming.

For those unfamiliar with Rhode Island, its prosperity and commerce comprised of waterways and ports which proliferated the Industrial Revolution, global trade, and transatlantic slavery. Wealth and privilege was predominantly white, as were ideals and Westernized concepts of preservation and historical importance. This becomes a tricky proposition in the historical paradox of which objects and stories get saved, and those that do not. Located at 52 Power Street, on the edges of Brown University, just a few blocks from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the John Brown House Museum is noted as the first mansion constructed in Providence, Rhode Island circa 1786-88. John Brown, its original owner, was an early benefactor of Brown University, a merchant, statesman, and slave trader. Consequences such as these tangle the fibers of what manufactured America into a leading world figure and expansive agent of power. And yet aside from these truths of affluence families of industry, the RIHS staff works continuously to tell the stories of those who overcame enslavement, prejudice, exploitation, including women who exceeded the limitations of their gender and predetermined expectations. My hope was to find more of these women’s stories and interconnect them.

On a staff-guided walk-through, I make note of objects that seem both domestic and curiously designed. When I walk into the textile storage, the rooms are darkened by dark-colored shutters and the light cast shadows from two mannequins dressed in widow’s mourning outfits. Stacked on one side are flat file drawers, garments peak out from tightly packed closets and archival boxes tower up to the ceiling. Not sure of what era or even what I am looking at, I catch glimpses of faded, the tattered hems, ruffles of brown velvet, slices of bright purple satin, tassels, white feathers, woolen weaves, printed cotton patterns, and yes – more ruffles. It is a balance of asking to see what immediately catches my eye and viewing what Dana produces from our research conversations. Some items have little information attached to them; some are a complete mystery. Several items will come as a surprise; most will be just the beginning of a much larger story to tell.