Dreaming Spaces

A design sprint to bring artists and builders together to dream big with cultural spaces

Dreaming Spaces is an initiative created by the Community Arts Stabilization Trust with the goal of “bringing together artists and designers of spaces and communities to envision what can be done presently to create and share art in safe environments, free from disease, discrimination, and violence.”

I facilitated a day-long community design charette for the EastSide Arts Alliance — an organization of Third World artists, cultural workers, and community organizers of color. I led a cross-functional team of artists, architects, engineers, city planners, and public health experts through design thinking exercises to help EastSide re-imagine their theater space.

Role: Design lead, design sprint facilitator

Tools: Miro, Zoom

Impact

I crafted a design thinking process that led to our design team to factor a more expanded concept of “openness” and “safety” into our designs.

Keeping EastSide’s priority of “feasibility” in mind, I led the design team in creating an implementation plan that prioritized projects by cost and impact.

I participated as one of the first UX designers in this pilot program, providing a template for how Dreaming Spaces can use design thinking to bring artists and builders to dream big with cultural spaces across the city and region!

Deep dive

Discover

Reviewing “dreaming” exercise

Prior to the design charette, community leaders from the EastSide community met to envision the future of the organization. I took notes on each person’s vision as well as the visual diagram they created. I transcribed all of these data points to Post-Its in Miro to prepare for the group design thinking exercises I would lead during the charette.

Define

Affinity mapping

To kick off the design charette with my team, I led an affinity mapping exercise to help the team establish priorities and a shared vocabulary for ideating sessions later in the day. We prioritized our groupings with dot voting to determine that we would focus our design efforts on the theater, public space, and the environment around the theater.

Affinity map for Dreaming Spaces

Naming assumptions

I led the group in naming our assumptions to further increase our alignment. We named and adopted the following assumptions:

  • To design safety as sanctuary, not safety as policing
  • To keep in mind how changes to the theater/sidewalk space impacts all other EastSide spaces and its neighbors
  • To change the tone of the space through lighting, sound, and wayfinding — and keep in mind the need to provide a similar experience to patrons joining programming remotely
  • To balance lighting and sound pollution's impact on EastSide’s neighbors
  • To prioritize flexible uses of the space

Target users

I led a conversation with EastSide leaders to define the following target user groups and user needs:

  • Artists need opportunities to make innovative work.
  • Patrons (in-person) need safe ways to come together and enjoy art and community.
  • Patrons (streaming) need the same things, but from the comfort of their home.
  • Community members need a space to host their events.
  • Community organizations need a place to gather safely.

Subject matter expert interviews

I interviewed four subject matter experts to help us factor these additional logistical restraints into our designs:

  • Mitigating outdoor light and noise pollution
  • Complying with the fire code and securing accessible parking and loading/unloading
  • Ensuring public safety and crowd control with reopening the theater during COVID
  • Making cost-effective upgrades to the theater’s HVAC system and effectively communicating risk and safety to patrons

Iterate

“How might we…?” exercise

To start shifting the group to ideation, I led an exercise to synthesize all of the work we had done into a clear design challenge. We did this by coming up with the following “how might we…?” questions:

  • How might we bring patrons into the theater space through an innovative use of sound?
  • How might we reduce light pollution and create soundproofing to protect our neighbors from noise pollution?
  • How might we make the staging of work inside the theater more flexible?
  • How might we add flexibility of all of the spaces to provide more opportunities for community members and community organizations to use them?
  • How might we improve our internet access to accommodate the 6K streaming?
  • How might we create an atmosphere that provides “aliveness” and “sanctuary” in a changing world full of stress?

Design studio

Giving each team member 15 minutes to generate as many ideas as possible, we quickly compiled a massive list of solutions ranging from putting as many things on castors as possible to building a modular stage.

Solution prioritization

Finally, I led the group in organizing the design solutions on a matrix so that we could help EastSide prioritize projects that would have the highest impact for the lowest cost.

Solution prioritization for Dreaming Spaces

Next steps

The EastSide Arts Alliance will incorporate our work from the design charette into cost estimates for each solution and fundraising for priority projects.