NYSID students break with tradition for charity event

New York, NY - April 2009 - Hundreds upon hundreds of pieces of broken glass and porcelain plates made it into "Pieces," a design project conceived by four NYSID students who were invited to represent our school in the prestigious DIFFA Dining by Design Gala this year. Well-known designers like David Rockwell and Campion Platt and major local institutions like The New York Times and Hewlett Packard donated their time and talents. A select number of local schools were also selected to participate—and this was NYSID's first shot. "Professor Veronica Whitlock and President Cyphers encouraged us, and thanks to them, we did it," says BFA student Alejandra Munizaga. "It was a great chance to show people in the industry what we can do." Student-team member Michael Harold called it, "a once in a lifetime thing. You don't necessarily get a booth at Dining by Design even as an established designer—and here, we were chosen! It makes me feel confident, like I'm going in the right direction."                                                                                               

However, the week before the Gala (at which donors would pay $1,000 to sit at our students' creatively conceived place settings), the direction Harold would first have to take was down—to NYSID's basement. There, with the help of Munizaga and other team members Sofia Enarsson and Holly Hayden, he'd spend "hundreds of hours" smashing plates and glasses in blankets, reassembling the pieces into place settings, and (this, the biggest time-eater of all) painstakingly affixing shards of glass to fishing wire with a hot glue gun. All concurred that the work was arduous, but worth it.

The concept for "Pieces" took shape after much brainstorming by the four students, who later met with their design mentors, Rick Shaver and Lee Melahn (of Shaver and Melahn Studio) to hone their project. The students felt they'd need to challenge themselves to come up with something "outside the box"; to implement a design that in terms of process was both meaningful and playful; and, last but not at all least, still stay on budget. DIFFA provided our team with $2,500 for materials and expected at every step of the way a clear accounting for their projected—and actual—expenditures. (Benjamin Moore, meanwhile, donated the paint.) Being held accountable monetarily clearly didn't stop our students from pursuing their vision. Says Enarsson, "The concept came from the fact that we wanted to do something that related specifically to DIFFA's event—not to just any kind of dining space. The idea of "Pieces" was that things are broken but can still be beautiful. It's about how fragile we are and how fragile life is." All the plates the students used were broken and reassembled, and the place cards at each dish were emblazoned with words like "HEAL" and "RE-BUILD." Says Munizaga, "AIDS is something that can break your spirit. But your hope can be put back together again."

Dining by Design raised $750,000 on behalf of DIFFA's fight against AIDS.