From Trash to Treasure: Cleveland Youth to Design, Fabricate Public Space Installation in Former Landfill Through Kent State Program
In an effort to expand racial and ethnic diversity in the design fields, Kent State 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.
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.
Building on the MOOS initiative, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced Kent State’s Cleveland 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.
“The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support arts projects in communities nationwide,” said NEA Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, Ph.D. “Projects such as this one with Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative strengthen arts and cultural ecosystems, provide equitable opportunities for arts participation and practice, and contribute to the health of our communities and our economy.”
The new NEA grant will support the work of middle and high school students as they design and fabricate a public space installation in Cleveland’s Brighton Park. Brighton Park is a new public space that Cleveland Metroparks, the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and the Old Brooklyn Community Development Corp. created in 2021 from a former landfill in the heart of the neighborhood.
The broader benefits of this project include new ways of seeing and designing public spaces through the eyes of teenagers who navigate and inhabit these spaces. This project celebrates America’s creativity and cultural heritage by encouraging youth to engage in their local community, combining their embodied knowledge of this place with the conversations they have and the discoveries they make through MOOS.
This project will immerse young people from an underserved community in Cleveland, the neighborhood surrounding Brighton Park, in urban design principles and practice. Their design ideas will directly benefit their friends, families and neighbors.
MOOS students envision and implement projects that make their neighborhoods better, safer and more welcoming. A visiting nationally recognized designer, who will be selected by the students, will bring new ideas for creative inspiration. The project will also invite an intergenerational dialogue that fosters a mutual respect for diverse beliefs and values among Cleveland youth, professional designers and other community members of all ages.
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Students in the Making Our Own Space (MOOS) program use power tools to fabricate both temporary and permanent improvements for local parks and vacant spaces. (Photo credit: Helen Liggett)