2021 Design
Impact Grants

The 2021 Grantees

Grant Recipient: The Weaving Mill

The Weaving Mill is an artist-run industrial weaving operation located in Humboldt Park. Founded in 2015, their ethos remains steadfastly fixed on bringing the larger network of Chicago’s textile studios together to significantly reduce fiber waste. Through this grant, The Weaving Mill, in collaboration with Westtown Education for Textiles (W.E.F.T.), a textile education program for adults with developmental disabilities that the Mill has run since 2015, plans to build a bicycle-powered fiber shredding machine that will take fabric scraps and turn them into a disaggregated fluff that can be repurposed and made into shoppable, usable products. The plans for this machine will be free and accessible, allowing textile plants across the city to participate and repurpose their waste in-house. Emily Winter, Director of The Weaving Mill, comments, “Through working with W.E.F.T. participants in the collecting, sorting and processing aspects of this recycling program, we can expand educational and professional opportunities available for those with developmental disabilities, while simultaneously building community partnership within the broader Chicago textile community through a shared long-term goal of reducing waste in the city.”

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Grant Recipient: SGA Youth Services

SGA Youth Services is a leader in Chicago in coordinating and developing opportunities for BIPOC students to receive professional mentorship, training, and direct access to the design industry. In partnership with Norman Teague Design Studios & Tilden Career Academy High School, SGA Youth Services aims to use this grant to found The Tilden After School Student Pilot to Permanent Design Incubator (P2P). “This program will be used as the catalyst for a permanent product design workforce development program at Tilden. P2P is a model that bridges technical academy students to university design programs,” notes Cristina Ocon, Director of Grants and Operations at SGA Youth Services. “Receiving this grant will allow us to create a stable pipeline to guide students through high school into university and eventually into the greater design industry, with the aim of introducing more Black/Brown youth to design.” The 11-week course will teach students to build scale models, construction sequencing and assembly strategies, the use of Adobe and Photoshop, finishing, measurement usage, and design principles, all with the aim to offer exposure and develop the tools they will need to enter the professional design world.

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Special Recognition: AFRORACK

AFRORACK is an audio arts organization that aims to help Chicago communities develop and thrive through technology resources. Soundsketch by AFRORACK is a synthesizer with a radically progressive interface that removes many fundamental barriers to access in STEM learning and promotes self-guided exploration and education. This project is inspired by AFRORACK’s background in bringing synthesizers to Black and Brown communities through workshops, and the experiences they have had with differently abled students as well as students with low literacy or low English-language proficiency.

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Special Recognition: Good City Group

Good City Group is a collective of professionals from practice areas—including architecture, design, urban planning, education, community organizing, and environmental strategy— that addresses complex issues which shape our everyday experiences in Chicago. Centered on exploring inventive, equitable approaches to placemaking, urban design, and environmental justice at the hyper-local scale, Good City Group aims to create big impact for residents. Good City Group's proposed Devon Neighborhood Props project will create vibrant community spaces, stronger community bonds, reduce feelings of isolation, and reconnect people to their community. One prop can be set up individually for recording and collecting stories, or a few could be arranged for eating or artmaking together. The flexibility of the Devon Neighborhood Props project allows for multiple configurations to respond to a variety of needs. Props can be integrated with permanent streetscape furniture, or installed as part of the recent CDOT Devon Avenue improvements.

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Special Recognition: Daniel Walden

Chicago artist Daniel Walden's Plastic Grocery Bag Project (PGB Project) began in 2012 to address the plastic pollution crisis and homelessness. The PGB Project addresses the global issue of plastic pollution, specifically, pollution created by the use of plastic grocery bags. Project elements will include the collection and recycling of plastic grocery bags, manufacturing and assembly of multipurpose cushioning devices and programing for participating individuals that strengthen their sense of social, physical, and financial well-being.

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Special Recognition: Chicago Fashion Lyceum

The Chicago Fashion Lyceum (CFL) is a community of fashion scholars, practitioners, and other engaged individuals who create spaces to advance the practices of thinking, making, and research in the field of fashion studies. CFL’s proposed Chicago Digital Fashion Museum (CDFM) is an online mapping and directory project intended to unify those pockets of fashion objects and visual representations of fashion into one vibrant, living record of Chicago’s fashion identity. The CDFM online map and directory will serve as a guide to exploring Chicago through a fashion lens and will be accessible to all communities.

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Special Recognition: Greater Chatham Initiative

The Greater Chatham Initiative (GCI) is a catalytic, place-based organization utilizing lean prototyping, focusing on workforce, business, public safety, youth support services, and branding. The 75th Street Boardwalk launched on Labor Day weekend on September 5, 2020, and was open through November 30, 2020. The award-winning project was noted as being a spectacular peacekeeping initiative that creates an outdoor space where people can eat, lounge, play, and exercise all within 359 feet. GCI is now expanding the Boardwalk to Mobile Boardwalk 2.0 which will be available in more neighborhoods and reach more Chicago residents.

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Special Recognition: Lawndale Pop-Up Spot

The Lawndale Pop-Up Spot (LPUS) is Chicago’s first community museum in a refurbished shipping container. LPUS began in 2016 as a museum studies graduate school project for Chelsea Ridley and Jonathan Kelley, with community direction at every step of a process. LPUS opened its doors in August 2019 with the exhibit “A Safe Place,” curated by teens from After School Matters. The exhibit addressed root causes of violence, safety resources, and artifacts representing safety in the teens’ lives. The project is dedicated to creating accessible, educational exhibits that incorporate high-quality design and produce research and data that assist residents of North Lawndale and Little Village in their community goals.

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Special Recognition: WIND: Women Initiating New Directions

WIND’s mission is to inspire and support women with a history of incarceration to design a thriving life utilizing newly learned tools and strategies for success. WIND's proposal is to design a “Bridge” program that supports the transition between incarceration and community life by training formerly incarcerated women to be coaches and facilitators for women in their programs. Key elements include a paid facilitation training program for participants, human-centered design methods such as rapid prototyping and testing in creating curricula, structure, and materials to be used in the training program, and expanding their personnel to include paid facilitators with re-entry experience to allow them to serve women in additional sites with a more equitable and informed perspective.

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Special Recognition: Grocery Run Club

Grocery Run Club (GRC) is a community driven initiative that partners with organizations to supply fresh produce and everyday necessities to underserved neighborhoods in Chicago. GCI's proposed Garden Community Development Project will breathe new life into a vacant Chicago city plot. With intentional design, a focus on sustainability, and attention to functionality, this project will provide community members access to fresh produce, food education, and a beautiful community gathering spot.

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See the 2020 grantees