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Rhode Island School of Design Announces Recipients of Inaugural Maharam STEAM Fellowships in Applied Art and Design


Artists and designers will have six funded internships at governmental and non-profit organizations, including NPR Science, Mayo Clinic, City of Providence, National Defense University and GlobeMed,
revealing the critical role of artists and designers in innovation.

PROVIDENCE, RI – Six students from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) have been awarded the Maharam STEAM Fellowship in Applied Art and Design. In recognition of RISD’s commitment to revealing the impact that artists and designers can have on a broad range of fields, the New York-based textile company Maharam has generously funded these fellowship opportunities for RISD students for the coming five years, beginning summer 2012.

The Maharam STEAM Fellowship in Applied Art and Design provides stipends of up to $5,000 each for select internships with a government agency or nonprofit organization. The accepted proposals, submitted in early 2012, 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 new fellowship program because, like RISD, they believe 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 long-term societal embrace of the arts and design will create a future that is both culturally and economically vibrant.

The 2012 recipients of the Maharam STEAM Fellowship in Applied Art and Design are:

  • Ayodhya Ouditt, RISD 2013 Industrial Design: NPR Science. Ayodhya will focus on the creation of visual storytelling techniques, which can take complex topics in science and health and make them understandable, engaging and accessible to the public.
  • Olivia Foss, RISD 2012 Masters’ Industrial Design: National Defense University, STAR-TIDES. Olivia’s project will focus on international and domestic development efforts, using strategic design thinking to effect sustainable, positive change in the way we make, produce and consume. STAR-TIDES (Sharing To Accelerate Research-Transformative Innovation for Development and Emergency Support) is a research effort that promotes sustainable support to stressed populations.
  • Giles Holt, RISD 2014 Architecture: City of Providence. Giles’ UrbanForm is a proposal to develop a partnership between Brown, RISD and the City of Providence to research issues of urban planning and public policy, with a goal to clearly and graphically convey city policy issues and academic research to determine synergies.
  • Joseph Escobar, RISD 2013 Industrial Design: City of Providence. Joe and his team at RISD’s 2nd Life (an art supply and materials recycling source) will meet with key leaders in the public and private sector to determine creative ways that upcycling (the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality / higher environmental value) can be integrated into the community, including the year-end move-out process, to empower youth and reduce landfill waste.
  • Samantha Dempsey, RISD 2013 Illustration: Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation. Samantha will use this unique opportunity with the world’s only embedded design group to function within a live clinical setting to participate in a learning process where designers and doctors work together to create ideas and products that are neither art nor medicine.
  • Andreas Nicholas, RISD 2013 Film, Animation and Video: GlobeMed. Andreas will collect and communicate the incredible stories that embody the change that the GlobeMed network promotes, developing new framework for communicating the GlobeMed work with USAID and Global Health Fellows Program-II to broader audiences and sharing more effectively with government funding agencies. GlobeMed is a network of university students that partner with grassroots organizations around the world to improve the health of people living in poverty. Through their involvement today, students commit to a life of leadership in global health and social justice.

These students are entering arenas rarely seen by 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 learned outcomes.

“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, thanks to Maharam,” 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.”

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 champion the role of artists and designers in global innovation.

“This Fellowship program provides students an opportunity to make an impact where our country needs it the most. 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 support of this program,” says Maeda.

Follow the students on their Maharam STEAM Fellowships in Applied Art and Design on the blog: 

About RISD 

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has earned an international reputation as the leading college of art and design in the United States. 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 or

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 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


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RISD has a long history of offering Saturday and after-school classes for children and teens, as this photo from c. 1910 confirms.