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Theaster Gates and Prada Group Announce Inaugural Dorchester Industries Experimental Design Lab Cohort

Theaster Gates and Prada Group Announce Inaugural Dorchester Industries Experimental Design Lab Cohort

  • Dorchester Industries Experimental Design Lab Inaugural Cohort
  • To support greater visibility for rising designers of color

At Stony Island Arts Bank, Rebuild Foundation’s base on Chicago’s South Side, founder Theaster Gates fêted the inaugural cohort awardees of Dorchester Industries Experimental Design Lab. This program, a three-year design incubator, is a collaboration of Rebuild Foundation, Theaster Gates Studio and Prada Group SpA. The city of Chicago South Side will serve as base for these creators from different design and social impact related industries including art, fashion, agriculture, architecture, dance, though they will also travel to Los Angeles and New York City for publicly accessible events that will also increase their visibility. Prada’s involvement came about as Theaster, who’s the co-chair of the Italian fashion house’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council,  pitched the fashion brand on the idea of amplifying opportunities for rising designers of color.

“Some of this is about representation, and some of this is like, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize there were so many dope-ass Black people doing dope-ass Black things.”


Of the 14 awardees several (7) hail from Chicago including: Kendall Miles footwear brand founder and head designer Kendall Reynolds (daughter of Jim and Sandy Reynolds), artist Brendan Breaux, Virtue’s Chef de cuisine who is also currently competing on Top Chef Damarr Brown, ALMASIKA Jewelry brand designer Catherine Sarr, Graphic designer Summer Coleman, Product designer Norman Teague, and Maya Bird-Murphy. Other Experimental Design Lab cohort members are: fashion designer Tolu Coker (London); Architect Germane Barnes (Miami), Architecht Mariam Issoufou Kamara (niger); dance company led by Kyle Abraham (New York); visual artist Kenturah Davis (Los Angeles); art/tech/design Salome Asega New York); and Yemi Amu (New York).The inaugural cohort of awardees were nominated by leaders, such as the late Virgil Abloh whom Theaster spoke highly of at the dinner, director Ava DuVernay, star architech Sir David Adjaye, OBE, across the artistic industries “ushering in a new era of design intelligence and cultivating a nucleus of creative energy on the South Side.”The designers will receive financing (about $250,000) as well mentoring and networking opportunities over the course of the program that will allow them to develop, and scale existing work, innovate new pathways.

This project,Experimental Design Lab, the vision of artist and founder Theaster Gates is a first-of-its-kind initiative aimed at empowering emerging and established designers of color. Through design awards and public programming, the Experimental Design Lab will act as a think tank that will amplify the work of promising young designers of color in the areas of fashion, furniture, industrial and graphic design, and the arts while providing a platform for exhibitions, performances and public dialogue. The Experimental Design Lab is an answer of sorts to the question posed by Gates “how do we create more opportunities for inclusivity and what I call friendship between talented people of color and the fashion houses and designers?”

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The Experimental Design Lab is the beginning of the creation of a platform that tries to move a person from curiosity to leadership.

Additional sources: BlockClub Chicago; Dezeen

featured image via NSSMag

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