I still remember the first time that I was aware of higher ed students affecting positive change in an urban neighborhood. It was when University at Buffalo professor Brad Wales (Brad Wales Architecture and Small Built Works Project) introduced his class to Allentown. The intention was to come up with a number of utilitarian design projects that would enhance city living – park benches, bus shelters, etc. Since first embarking upon this project, the city has benefitted from a number of architectural/design projects, including the latest one – Buffalo Benches Project.
This morning I learned of another higher ed initiative that will have positive impact on this city – this time on the East Side. Students from a SUNY Buffalo Interior Design class have been working with Fillmore Forward to analyze a commercial space at 1474 Fillmore Avenue. The intention is to reimagine the storefront in a way that will create a modern and up to date store that will benefit the owner and the district.
“Our department was approached by Fillmore Forward to have our students design a store and store front for a second hand store,” said Raelyn Woltz, instructor of Interior Design (IDE) at Buffalo State. “The students were given a budget of $1700 to design the entire space, which will then be implemented by student volunteers and the Junior League Buffalo.”
This is a commendable initiative that, like the Small Built Works Project, should be incorporated into permanent programming moving forward. These types of initiatives not only connect the students to the city, they also bridge a gap between the city and the higher ed institutions. The end result is priceless.
“At the sophomore level, this was the first interaction the students had presenting a client with ideas,” Woltz continued. “There were four groups of students and each group covered everything from interviewing the shop owner, measuring the space, creating floor plans and visual renderings to help convey their ideas. We presented the ideas to the store owner, Leslie, and the leader of Fillmore Forward, Jonathon Ling last week and they will choose their favorite design this upcoming week to be implemented.”
This project will have a rippling effect throughout the community. It will also be a life lesson for the students. This project is exciting and revolutionary on so many levels. At the same time, it’s a wonder why we don’t see these types of social enterprise engagements by higher ed institutions more often. There are countless ways that these critical relationships could be initiated, from public art to the environment. Just take a look at the course offerings and imagine the possibilities of connecting students with various communities that could use a helping hand.
As for the Buffalo State IDE project, Fillmore Avenue will be a real benefactor. The relationship and the bond created between the owner of the business and the students is indelible. Can you imagine the real world life lessons learned along the way?
“It was a very emotional presentation, as the store owner was more than thankful for the work that the students put together for her store.”
The student presentations were given last week. Implementation of the project will begin mid-December. We hope to keep you up to date with the progress as it unfolds.