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SU design students present simple solutions for sprucing up Syracuse's Near Westside

May 18, 2010

Jemeli Tanui
(315) 443-5172

From painting Skiddy Park’s chain link fences in lime green to installing dozens of strategically placed eco-friendly trash bins, 21 designers from Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts “Communications Design” class offer a colorful, cost-effective, community-based simple approach to enhancing Syracuse’s Near Westside.

freshcoatThe designers presented their fresh innovative ideas with dramatic flair to local community and University leaders, including SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor, as well as the Near Westside Initiative board, in April at The Warehouse. The students also presented their plans to the SU Board of Trustees on May 15.

The ideas proposed by the students included: simplifying the SALT District logo—which represents the neighborhood; putting up large colorful posters serving various purposes—from branding to helping push campaigns such as house painting; installing solar trash compactors; painting the chain-link fence around Skiddy Park and installing art in sections of the mesh; building community gardens; and starting a “fresh-coat” campaign encouraging businesses to donate unused paints, which can then spruce up buildings.

“When you see what these students have come up with and how wonderfully interactive and practical their solutions are it makes you understand the Scholarship in Action vision,” says Marilyn Higgins, SU vice president for community engagement and economic development, and chair of the Near Westside Initiative Board (NWSI), who requested the branding help from the class. “We are so grateful to have these young people in our community. Because of their work, the Near Westside neighborhood may end up as a showcase for simple, innovative green ways of tackling neighborhood issues while bringing people together.”

“This class is a milestone in the students’ leg of civic duty—this is the kind of thing they’ll put in their life portfolio,” says Roderick Martinez, one of the two professors who taught the class. “It’s an exciting way of serving your community—and their reward will be coming back five or 10 years from now and seeing some of their ideas in place.”

Both Martinez and fellow professor William Padgett have worked previously with the Near Westside through a class project—first helping create a website for the NWSI as well as a book chronicling the historical aspect of the neighborhood. This time, the students took on a more practical hands-on project: branding the neighborhood.

“These kids are good at this—when they get into it, it isn’t just a school project anymore,” Padgett says. The students worked night and day for 12 weeks and presented their work in a comical live performance involving the entire class of 21 designers. The students will also produce a book with all their work and images.

An immediate result of their efforts is an internship opportunity for one of the design students, who will spend the summer overseeing some of the implementation of their ideas in the neighborhood. “I want to get involved in the community more during the summer, learning more about the practical, local aspects of the entire revitalization effort so I’m really excited about this internship,” says Stephanie Hart, the student intern.

“I’m from Syracuse, and yet I didn’t really know a lot about the Near Westside—this class has really opened up things for me, how to see everything around me and find the good in everything,” agrees fellow student Stephanie Appleby, one of the main presenters.

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