In 2018, FIT was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts ArtWorks grant for “NEW SUSTAINABLE DESIGN: How Materials Advance Innovation,” a three-part seminar series and two-day public conference. The project co-directors are Dr. Karen Pearson, professor of Science and Math, and Joanne Arbuckle, deputy to the president for Industry Partnerships and Collaborative Programs.
The events, held on the FIT campus, explored the dynamic intersections between materials development, cutting-edge design, environmental stewardship, economics, and society. Leading designers, artists, students, and scientists discussed, debated, and shared work with peers and members of the general public.
Three outreach seminars were held in fall 2018. The Science and Design Luncheon Seminar Series (supported in part by the FIT President’s Sustainability Council) featured practicing designers, artists, and industry professionals who explored new frontiers. Audience members included FIT students, faculty, and staff, as well as students from the New York City High School of Fashion Industries and High School of Art and Design.
In October 2018, Dr. Nalini Nadkarni presented an interactive workshop, Utilizing Nature to Shape Design, that focused on the creation of fashion and art inspired and informed by nature.
The second seminar in November 2018 featured AlgiKnit, a biomaterials company integrating science and design into textile production. AlgiKnit is creating durable yet rapidly biodegradable yarns in an effort to provide an alternative to the ecological damage caused by the fashion industry.
The final seminar, in December 2018, featured Biofabrication: A New Era of Growing Our Own Materials and Products, which explored how biomaterials are inspiring us to challenge and change our concept of what goods are made from, how they’re made and ultimately where they will end up. Biodesigner Danielle Trofe discussed her experience in creating and commercializing a line of lampshades grown from mushroom mycelium and the deeper lessons learned from nature and all living organisms.
On April 3 and 4, 2019, nearly 1,000 students, faculty, staff, alumni, and members of the general public attended FIT’s 13th Annual Sustainable Business and Design Conference which convened thought leaders across the creative industries for lectures and panel discussions about recent and upcoming breakthroughs for preserving our planet. This year’s conference theme was Innovation in Sustainability, and programming focused on cutting-edge research and technology for reducing our environmental impact and taking steps toward healing the earth. Conference lectures supported by the NEA ArtWorks grant included Christina Agapakis, a biologist, writer, and artist who discussed how genetically modified microbes can help grow crops without fertilizer, dye garments without toxicity, and produce animal proteins from yeast, and biodesigner Danielle Trofe, who presented a biomaterials and biomimicry session.
Professionals and students are increasingly aware of why design sustainability matters. With this initiative's focus on innovative materials science, and its programmatic integration of design, science, and technology, participants have gained a more complete and holistic understanding of design systems and new, exciting sustainable options.