Rhode Island School of Design Announces Recipients of 2nd Annual Maharam STEAM Fellowships in Applied Art and Design

This summer RISD students are underscoring the value of art and design through 10 funded internships at governmental and nonprofit organizations ranging from the World Economic Forum and the Marine Biological Laboratory to the Rhode Island Board of Elections and Plan International.

PROVIDENCE, R.I.--()--Ten students from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) have been awarded the Maharam STEAM Fellowship in Applied Art and Design. In recognition of the ongoing evidence from RISD that artists and designers make a huge impact on a broad range of fields, the NY-based textiles company Maharam has generously funded these fellowship opportunities for RISD students for five consecutive years. This is the second year of the program and will build on a successful first year that saw students contributing their creative thinking and art and design talents to NPR Science, the Mayo Clinic, the City of Providence, the National Defense University and GlobeMed.

The Maharam STEAM Fellowship in Applied Art and Design provides stipends of up to $5,000 each for selected internships with a government agency or nonprofit organization. The accepted proposals, submitted in early 2013, were each uniquely designed by students to focus on highlighting and strengthening the role of visually acute critical thinkers and problem solvers in helping to improve public policy and tackle large social issues.

Maharam is supporting this fellowship program because, like RISD, the company believes in the economic progress and breakthrough innovation that comes from the combination of art and design with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) – that STEM + Art = STEAM. Both believe that a strong societal embrace of the arts and design will create a more vibrant and promising future, both culturally and economically.

The 2013 recipients of the Maharam STEAM Fellowship in Applied Art and Design are:

  • Ryan Murphy / BFA 2015 / Industrial Design: World Economic Forum (WEF) With the WEF, an international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas, Murphy will provide a unique perspective on how major global issues can be questioned and analyzed working under the head of the Forum’s Telecommunications Industry Group. By approaching these topics through the lens of art and design, he will apply the skills learned thus far at RISD to policy, business, and development issues.
  • Keela Potter / BFA 2014 / Graphic Design + Kelsey Lim / BFA 2014 / Textiles: Rhode Island Board of Elections Having cofounded RISD Votes to galvanize political engagement and interest in the 2012 elections on campus, Potter and Lim will continue their interest in politics by working with the local Board of Elections and the Secretary of State’s Elections Division to analyze existing voting systems and processes. They plan to propose design solutions to improve the efficiency and efficacy of communication between the state government and its citizens.
  • Elizabeth “Lizzie” Kripke / RISD/Brown Dual Degree 2014 / Painting/Neuroscience: Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) Kripke will continue work she began last summer with MBL Senior Scientist Roger Hanlon in Woods Hole, MA to develop digital, 3D visualizations of the biological mechanisms underlying dynamic camouflage in cephalopods. Kripke is interested in new methods of science communication and education – in particular, in fostering mutually beneficial relationships between artists and scientists.
  • Leah Erica Chung / BFA 2014 / Industrial Design: Plan International Chung is passionate about applying a user-centered design approach to the often top-down, Western-dominated field of international development. This summer she intends to address the severe communication gap between Africa and the West by focusing on “poverty porn” – the obsession with using high shock-value words or images to portray women and children in developing countries.
  • Eliza Squibb / BFA 2013 / Textiles: Grupo Interdisciplinario Amazonia Intrigued by the intersection of textile arts and cultural identity, Squibb will document the textile production of the Shipibo-Conibo people in Peru, an indigenous Amazonian group that uses traditional methods of production for economic gain and cultural visibility.
  • Nupur Mathur and Bathsheba Okwenje / MFA 2014 / Digital + Media: Integrated Development Education Association (IDEA) Mathur and Okwenje will work on a collaborative project in India to support the necessary political, cultural and individual changes needed to address the treatment of women in Indian society. They will work with IDEA to create an online platform designed to stimulate dialogue about sexual violence and gender politics.
  • Michael Jacobs / MArch 2014 / Architecture: Lower East Side Action Plan (LEAP) Jacobs will be working with LEAP, a community-driven project created to address Detroit’s vacant land crisis. Working with local residents, he will develop ideas and projects to transform vacant lots into safe, useful and aesthetically appealing spaces.
  • Bianca Diaz / BFA 2014 / Illustration: Project NIA Working with this grassroots crime-prevention organization in Chicago, Diaz will write, illustrate and disseminate a children’s book that addresses the impact of incarceration on families. She hopes it will serve as a valuable tool and resource for supporting relationship-building between mothers, fathers and their children.

These students are entering arenas not typically associated with art and design students and have the opportunity to effect real change in policy and practice in local and global organizations and communities. As part of the program, fellows will blog about their experiences throughout the summer and will make a final report to Maharam about the value of their internships and what they learned along the way.

“Maharam believes that creativity demonstrated through the arts and design will play an increasingly critical role in America’s ongoing efforts to remain a dominant global force through both culture and commerce,” says Michael Maharam, the company’s CEO. “Given the realities of available funding and the politics associated with it, private sector participation in fostering this infusion is vital.”

“The RISD students who participated as Maharam Fellows last year achieved exactly what we intended with this program,” notes Greg Victory, director of RISD’s Career Center. “Thanks to Maharam, we’re able to offer a unique opportunity for art and design students to bring their creative talents to problem solving on a broader scale as critical thinkers and makers. The experiences RISD students are designing are thoughtful and complex, allowing them to pursue areas of specific interest as they explore the many ways art and design thinking can impact real-world problems.”

The RISD/Maharam partnership supports the college’s broader STEM to STEAM initiative, which emphasizes the importance of adding Art to a national agenda focused on STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). Under the leadership of President John Maeda, RISD has launched a series of partnerships and collaborations to champion the role of artists and designers in global innovation.

“Artists and designers will be the leaders and innovators of the 21st century. Michael Maharam is a visionary of textiles but also of the transformation of our culture. His unusual ability to not just spot trends but create them is exemplified by his generous support to allow students to make the broadest possible impact. The first-year fellows showed us the boundless possibilities that creative thinking can bring to bear on medicine, sustainability, journalism, and global development. We look forward to what this group will do,” says Maeda.

Follow the Maharam STEAM Fellows as they blog about their progress this summer: risd.edu/maharamsteamfellows.

About Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has earned an international reputation as the leading college of art and design in the United States. Recently ranked #1 in Business Insider’s survey of The World’s 25 Best Design Schools, approximately 2,400 students from around the world study at RISD, pursuing full-time bachelor’s or master’s degree programs in a choice of 19 studio majors. RISD is known for its phenomenal faculty of artists and designers, the breadth of its specialized facilities and its hands-on, studio-based approach to learning – one in which critical thinking informs making works by hand. Required courses in the liberal arts provide an essential complement to studio work, enabling graduates to become critical and informed individuals eager to engage with the world. Through the accomplishments of its 26,000 alumni, the college champions the vital role artists and designers play in satisfying the global demand for innovation. Founded in 1877, RISD (pronounced “RIZ-dee”) and the RISD Museum of Art help make Providence, RI among the most culturally active and creative cities in the region. For more information, visit risd.edu or our.risd.edu.

About Maharam

Maharam is a fourth-generation family business and the leading textiles resource for architects and interior designers. The Maharam Design Studio, where six RISD alumni work as designers, takes an in-depth approach to the exploration of pattern, material and technique. In addition, long-term collaborations with creative leaders such as Dutch industrial designer Hella Jongerius, British fashion designer Paul Smith, and American illustrator Maira Kalman introduce fresh perspectives to the world of textile design. Maharam embraces a rigorous and holistic commitment to design, and is the recipient of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum’s Design Patron Award (2007) for its longstanding support of educational and cultural initiatives in the world of design. For more, visit maharam.com.


Jaime Marland, 401-427-6954


Jaime Marland, 401-427-6954