STEM to STEAM

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Maharam Fosters Creative Infusion

02/28/2012

Although RISD students won’t actually intern at Maharam, the NYC-based textile company is helping them to bring design thinking to nonprofits and government agencies.

In recognition of RISD’s commitment to broadening the reach of art and design thinking, the New York-based textile company Maharam will fund a new summer internship opportunity for up to 10 RISD students each year for the coming five years.

The Maharam STEAM Fellowship for the Advancement of the Arts and Design in Government will provide stipends of up to $5,000 each for internships with a government agency or nonprofit organization anywhere in the US. Both undergraduate and graduate students are eligible for the fellowship, with stipends awarded based on the strength of the internship proposals that students initiate themselves. While intentionally broad in scope, the focus is meant to be on the application of art and design thinking to public policy issues.

“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, and that, given the realities of available funding and the politics associated with it, private sector participation in fostering this infusion is vital,” says Michael Maharam, the company’s CEO.

“This is a fantastic and rare opportunity for art and design students to bring their creative talents to problem-solving on a broader scale as critical thinkers and makers,” notes Greg Victory, director of RISD’s Career Center. “By designing their own internships, students will be able to pursue the areas that interest them most as they explore the ways art and design thinking can impact real-world problems.”

Now that a call for proposals has been issued to all students, staff members in the Career Center are helping to advise applicants on potential placements and how to design meaningful experiences. Once the selection committee – comprised of two faculty members and representatives from Student Affairs and the Career Center – reviews all application materials, the first fellowship recipients will be announced on April 30. As part of the program, winners will blog about their experiences throughout the summer and will make a final report to Maharam about the value of their internships and how the program might be strengthened.

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 designed to bridge the research and creative disciplines and champion the role of artists and designers in global innovation.

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 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.

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tags: corporate, governmental, internships, nonprofits, partnerships + collaborations, public engagement, STEAM, students

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At RISD there's nothing unusual about suddenly finding a doorknob on a tree trunk, shown here across from Carr House,
the charming home of Student Life offices and the student-run Carr Haus Café.