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For more than 125 years, Van Alen Institute has been working to create equitable cities through inclusive design.

Offered in partnership with Dark Matter University (DMU), our Neighborhood Design Fellowship: Gowanus is a paid, six-month program for up to 12 Gowanus residents — designers and non-designers alike — to work toward the future they imagine for their community. Fellows will consider ways design and art can make Gowanus a more equitable, inclusive place, and share what they learn with local officials and the wider community.

Based on their learnings, fellows will also co-create a large-scale graphic display for Van Alen’s storefront window, and help Van Alen redesign our office at 303 Bond Street into a new public space for the neighborhood.

Applications are now closed.

My Essex Crossing, GrandLo Café, NYC. December 8, 2019. Photo: Gigi Nieson
Points of Convergence Roundtable, Long Island City, NYC. May 11, 2019.
Climate Design Lab, Miami, FL. 2019. Photo: Scott McIntyre
My Essex Crossing, GrandLo Café, NYC. December 8, 2019. Photo: Gigi Nieson
Climate Design Lab, Miami, FL. 2018. Photo: Scott McIntyre
Climate Design Lab, Miami, FL. 2018. Photo: Scott McIntyre

The Fellowship will offer experience and skills needed to use design and art as tools to support equity and inclusion in their neighborhood.

  • Up to 12 fellows will be selected through a competitive process
  • Fellows will receive a monthly stipend of $300 for each month of the program
  • The Fellowship will require up to 5 hours/week
  • All Fellowship activities are virtual and/or socially-distanced
  • Van Alen can provide fellows with laptops and internet access at our office

Applications are now closed.

Fellowship runs from May–October 2021

  • Join weekly evening two-hour video calls on Wednesdays, 68:30 pm (socially-distanced office space, including laptops and wifi will be made available)
  • Fellowship activities will include: participatory research work; neighborhood tours and site visits; roundtable discussions with local stakeholders and city officials; advisory sessions with design justice experts; design ideation, prototyping and field testing; community engagement workshops; and regular team building/bonding activities

Learn (May–June 2021)

  • Learn about local inclusion and equity challenges by talking to neighbors, business owners, community groups, and public officials, among others
  • Learn from DMU faculty about ways to support social justice through design
  • Study design projects that advance equity and inclusion in NYC and the US

Make a Plan (July–August 2021)

  • Using prototypes and community feedback sessions, create a list of design ideas and recommendations to support social justice in Gowanus

Put Ideas into Practice (September–October 2021)

  • Collaboratively bring design ideas to life with Van Alen and DMU faculty
  • Working with Van Alen and DMU, apply design recommendations toward the redesign of Van Alen’s office into public space that serves the community

Share Work (October 2021)

  • Share work with the wider neighborhood for more feedback, and engage community members in ways that can advance fellows’ efforts forward

Ideal Fellowship candidates meet the following criteria:

  • Gowanus residents active in local community groups.
  • No design or art experience needed! (But neighborhood creatives are encouraged to apply.)
  • Passionate about keeping Gowanus inclusive, diverse, and equitable into the future.

For more information, contact Andrew Brown, Director of Programs, at abrown@vanalen.org.


This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.