Design Entrepreneurship Class Renovates Inner City Youth Center

Offered within LMU’s Department of Art and Art History, Design Entrepreneurship is a class that has taken on many forms in recent years. Last summer, students in the class collaborated with the Al Wooten Jr. Center, a nonprofit youth center in Los Angeles that provides free afterschool and low-cost summer programs for boys and girls in grades 3-12. The project the LMU studio arts students tackled involved renovating communal spaces within the center, and was the product of a collaboration between LMU’s Center for Service and Action, William H. Hannon Library staff, and HKS Architects.

The LMU students visited the center frequently, to conduct in depth field observations, interview staff and students and create design plans and renderings, selecting colors, furniture and educational/recreational materials. The Wooten Center served as an incubator space throughout the course, where students developed their ideations with the after-school students and center staff members.

“We wanted to provide an efficient work space that serves multiple purposes,” said studio arts multimedia major Kelly Sidney ’21, of the driving force behind the class’s design concepts. “Most importantly, we want to provide a space that is inspired by community and culture. Having the opportunity to interact with the students was pivotal in our process. Understanding what these kids’ ambitions and dreams are helped shape the resources we wanted to provide them. The success of the center is dependent upon the success of its students so we needed to provide a design that would enable them to reach their full potential. They were very involved in the process and their passions was truly infectious!”

Three collaborative student groups spent the six-week summer course learning the foundational skills of “Human Centered Design,” which promotes innovative project development in context and in collaboration with a proposed client/ community.

“The partnership with the Wooten Center was a source of inspiration and ideations for product development,” said studio arts professor Saeri Cho Dobson. “The project proposals have been designed with the possibility of reaching the consumer market and can also be produced using sustainable materials with accessible fabrication methods, addressing the social aspect of entrepreneurship.”

The students’ designs were accepted to the center’s remodeling project, which was sponsored by the Ahmanson foundation.

Special thanks to LMU librarian Jamie Hazlitt, associate director of Fred Kiesner Center for Entrepreneurship, Darlene Fukuji, executive director at Al Wooten Jr. Youth Center, Naomi McSwain, and principal and director of design for healthcare interiors at HKS architecture, Leslie Fishburn.

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