“STEAM STUDIO is a pop-up design studio where youth apply design: skills, techniques, and thinking to solve real-world challenges. STEAM STUDIO is inspired by innovation, design, and pop culture, our focus is influenced by Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math.” – from STEAMStudio.net
Kennedy Center Jazz, Jason Moran, and ArtsEdge gave young people attending STEAM Studio’s Re-Imagine Jazz project the challenge of designing t-shirts, jewelry, merchandise, and photography books that interpreted Jazz for a new generation.
Over the course of three weeks in July 2015, young people were exposed to photography, fashion, styling, video, graphic design, and 3D modeling. Each day presented new challenges throughout the city of Chicago. There was research at Buddy Guy’s Blues Club, a photo and styling challenge at a local boutique, and a downtown video challenge.
“I want to be an industrial designer,” said one participant. “From t-shirts to shoes to silverware, tupperware, I want to design it.”
When it came time to design and produce prototypes, STEAM Studio moved to the Chicago Cultural Center and created a pop-up studio where the public could see connected learning in action. During that week, the young designers collaborated with one another, worked with mentors, and met with professional fashion and jewelry designers and retailers who critiqued and helped develop their projects. Their work culminated in a Trunk Show at the Chicago Cultural Center, where participants shared their work with the public. In the end winners of the various design challenges earned internships at the Kennedy Center, Burberry in Chicago, and had their jewelry produced by Christopher Duquette Jewelry.
STEAM Studio is a model of connected learning. It is driven by the interests of its young people while exposing them to technology, design, and collaboration. Partnerships among academic (DePaul University), civic (Chicago Cultural Center, Kennedy Center), out-of-school programs (FUSE), and local business (Burberry, Sir&Madame, Christopher Duquette Jewerly) provided a learning experience anchored in real-world challenges. Young people didn’t just learn design as an academic subject. They took on the identity and life of a working designer. In the end, for some of the participants it led to work experiences they could use to build their futures.