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Kent State's 'Making Our Own Space' program expanding ethnic diversity in design and architecture

Posted at 10:42 AM, Jan 30, 2023

KENT, Ohio — Kent State University recently received a grant to help support one of its programs that facilitates architecture, urban design and landscape architecture.

In an effort to expand racial and ethnic diversity in the design fields, the university’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative created Making Our Own Space (MOOS), a design/build program for middle and high school students. The program introduces youth to opportunities in architecture, urban design and landscape architecture.

The Urban Design Collaborative will receive a $30,000 grant to support MOOS. This grant is one of 1,251 Grants for Arts Projects awards totaling nearly $28.8 million that were announced by the NEA as part of its first round of Fiscal Year 2023 grants.

Since 2015, MOOS has been helping educate youth on design fundamentals, construction, urban systems and community engagement. MOOS serves as an incubator for design thinkers and problem-solvers.

“In one neighborhood that looked like making a bus stop, so the students at the bus stop that they usually use to go to school, they'd have shelter from rain whenever they're waiting for the bus to come and other places,” said program coordinator Clifford Benjamin. “It looks like having more park benches or places to sit.”

The project gives young people from an underserved community in Cleveland, the neighborhood surrounding Brighton Park, urban design principles and practice. Their design ideas will directly benefit their friends, families and neighbors.

“Not only are we building something, but we’re also designing with the cameras. And we're learning software to make the design,” said Madeline Suma, a 9th grader at Bard High School Early College.

MOOS students envision and implement projects that make their neighborhoods better, safer and more welcoming.

“At first, when I first got here, we were making things like tables and chairs,” said Crisaun Ware, another 9th grader at Bard.

The project also kickstarts a dialogue that encourages a mutual respect for diverse beliefs and values among Cleveland youth, professional designers and other community members of all ages.

“The students themselves, when they walk through their neighborhoods and they see what their neighborhoods see, they see things that we don't see, many of us drive to and from work, and we see our neighborhoods at the speed of traffic,” Herring said. “Students, however, oftentimes know their neighborhood as pedestrians.”

For more information about MOOS, visit www.wearemoos.org.

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