Designing a Better Chicago, a collaborative initiative organized by NeoCon, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), and the Design Museum of Chicago, has announced the winners of the 2021 Design Impact Grant Program.

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.

“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," said Emily Winter, director of The Weaving Mill.

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," said Cristina Ocon, Director of Grants and Operations at SGA Youth Services. "P2P is a model that bridges technical academy students to university design programs. 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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