Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: Tulane City Center

This month has been exciting; we officially launched our summer program on June 1st which is our 2015 Public Interest Design Fellowship. I will be managing 5 interns over the next 8 weeks and we will be working on 4 small projects that pilot a few project types outlined in our Strategic Plan.
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We kicked off the program by attending the Design Futures Conference as a staff and brought the Fellows along so they could learn about Public Interest Design (PID) and connect with other student leaders. This was the third year of the conference, which is intentionally small to promote partnerships and collaborations among the attendees.  Many of the workshops were particularly effective in allowing us to consider what it means to be effective at engaging the community we serve, and gave us a lot of ideas about how to do a better job moving forward.

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Our PID Fellowship provides a laboratory to experiment with and refine these methods of engagement, while educating the next generation of designers to be thoughtful citizens. We are in the middle of a project collaborating with New Orleans City Park to develop an island in the park into a camping facility. Our goal is for our schematic design to influence the park to develop an equitable space where those who have not had access to camping can afford to.

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We got some feedback from students at the NET Charter High School and kids at camp at the Ashe’ Cultural Arts Center’s Kuumba Institute about the designs and about what kind of activities they would want to do if they went camping.  This was a really valuable and important part of the design process because this is the target audience and user and the design should be informed by their needs.

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We went camping on the island to get a better understanding of the site.  A tent was set up inside the studio at Tulane City Center prior to the camping trip to get inspired. TCC summer camp is in session.
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Additionally, I have been taking the Fellows on trips each week to see past TCC projects and allow time to sketch and reflect, encouraging them to ask critical questions about the process and outcomes. They have been assigned to do case studies of our projects and other PID programs or community design centers. Each week they are assigned a reading on issues relating to Public Interest Design and we have discussions with TCC staff and guests.


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Service projects are also integrated in the curriculum: Here the Fellows are installing a chalkboard to the back of the bleachers at APEX, for the kids to draw or keep scores for their basketball games.  This was an idea we had on the initial design, based on input from the kids at APEX, but never got a chance to implement until now!

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This entry was posted on June 23, 2015 by in VISTA Field Reports.

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