NEA Grant Funds Sustainability STEAM Education

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has awarded FIT a $25,000 grant titled “Unconventional Innovation: New Design for a Sustainable Future” to support interconnected sustainability programming throughout 2021. FIT’s project is among 1,073 projects across America totaling nearly $25 million funded by the NEA’s Grants for Arts Design Program.

FIT’s grant is funding three related programs: the 15th Annual Sustainable Business and Design Conference, taking place April 13–16; a seminar about the interconnectivity of the global fashion industry to occur in the fall; and three workshops for high school students in partnership with the High School of Fashion Industries, also happening in the fall.

This grant is the third consecutive NEA award recently received by FIT.  Two of these have focused on building sustainability programming.

In the first NEA-supported sustainability project, “the work was very much focused on the FIT undergraduate student,” says Karen Pearson, professor and chair of Science and Math. This year’s initiative further broadens the diversity and depth of FIT efforts. “We’ve looked to expand to a broader audience. We want to show high school students that they can be both a creator and a scientist or engineer, that science can be art and art can be science.”

earthy-looking materials on a gray placemat
Materials like these, made from mango fiber, promise a sustainable solution to conventional textiles.

As global demand increases for innovations in sustainable materials and design, graduates with a STEAM background (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) will be ever more essential to the workforce of the future. FIT, a college of art and design, business and technology, is uniquely positioned to provide this education—and the NEA grant amounts to a vote of confidence from a high-profile federal funding source.

“The NEA has been a longtime partner of FIT, helping to make possible the accessible, innovative, forward-thinking public programming that is critical to fulfilling our mission,” says Lucia DeRespinis, executive director of the Office of Grants and Sponsored Programs. “We are deeply grateful for their commitment to FIT’s sustainability efforts.”

The project’s organizers are Pearson; Joanne Arbuckle, deputy to the president for Industry Partnerships and Collaborative Programs; Theanne Schiros, assistant professor of Science; Susanne Goetz, associate professor of Textile/Surface Design; Pamela Ellsworth, associate professor and associate chair of Global Fashion Management; and Colleen Hill, curator of Costume and Accessories at The Museum at FIT.

The NEA is an independent federal agency dedicated to funding, promoting, and strengthening the creative capacity of communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation.

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