Design for the Common Good International Exhibition Opening Weekend Review

From Blue Star Integrative Studio published 1/20/2022

On Friday, January 14, 2022, the Design for the Common Good International Exhibition opened in the Center for Visual Art on the campus of Metropolitan State University of Denver. And all of us at Blue Star Integrative Studio are honored to be represented as part of a collaborative community-led design project in partnership with the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. This powerful exhibition brings together 30 amazing projects from around the world that “create opportunity and solutions from within” the places and people the projects come from. This design approach is considered “Public Interest Design,” a term promulgated by Design Corps, and its Executive Director, Bryan Bell, an Associate Professor of Architecture at NC State University. Design Corps seeks to create positive change in traditionally underserved communities by helping them shape their environment and address their social, economic, and environmental challenges through design, advocacy, and education.

Opening Night – A Community Centric Design Focus

Starting with an aboriginal land acknowledgement, honoring the continued impact and importance of past and current Indigenous inhabitants, including the Cheyenne and Arapaho, Lisa M. Abendroth, set the tone for the evening, focusing on the importance of designers working with a community in an inclusive manner. Her body of work with the Design Corps and SEED Network made her the perfect curator to set the tone for an evening of celebrating remarkable design. She then introduced keynote speaker Sergio Palleroni, Professor and Director, Center for Public Interest Design at Portland State University and Executive Committee Chair, Design for the Common Good Network. Mr. Palleroni underscored the importance of designers and stakeholders working together to share resources and knowledge that aim to improve quality of life for all people, and told the compelling story of the Chamanga Cultural Center, and the fisherpeople town of Esmeraldas, Ecuador that was severely impacted by a 2016 earthquake. He also shared the insightful journey of the POD Initiative: Micro-Dwelling & Village-Making with Portland’s Houseless Community, which re-imagined dwellings and community spaces in modern times for an American population that is facing increasing wealth inequality and houselessness.

A One-Of-A-Kind Network Is Forged

The exhibition opening also marked the unveiling of the Design for the Common Good website’s global showcase of the combined network of international organizations seeking to strengthen the confluence of forces needed to create truly healthy, resilient, and sustainable design projects to positively change the world. The site is the definitive index for those interested in the practice of Public Interest Design. Network organizations include:

Healing for the People of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes

Selection of the George Hawkins Memorial Treatment Center and its “Medicine Mural” for the Exhibition was fueled by its involvement with a Native Nation and its connection to the state of Colorado. It is an important project for the Cheyenne and Arapaho people. It represents hope, regaining of cultural pride, and recovery from pain and addiction. Blue Star asked for the involvement of community and cultural leaders on the expansion and improvement of the facility. Central to this effort was the vision and artistic guidance of Gordon Yellowman, Sr., one of the traditional Chiefs of the Cheyenne Nation with family ties to the Arapaho. Gordon collaborated with Blue Star Founder and Lead Designer Scott Moore y Medina and the wider A/E team to take a sketch with deep cultural symbolism and colors and turn it into a “paint by numbers” construction drawing that could be understood and painted by professional painters. Thus, the “Medicine Mural” at the George Hawkins Memorial Treatment Center was born.

The mural is more than a piece of art, it is a roadmap to cultural understandings and teaching that is used every day in the Center’s healing and recovery programs. The Design for the Common Good exhibition uses project images, sketches, photographs, and video to tell this story, including their Native traditions and world views, the importance of Native art and colors in architectural design, the meanings behind the “medicine mural” and the general message they wanted the citizens of modern-day Colorado and the World to hear from the Cheyenne and Arapaho perspective. To learn more about this Blue Star Integrative Studio project, as well as view images and video, go to the Project Profile here.