Around a small round table, an emerging graphic designer works with a community organizer from Richmond's oldest public housing project, Gilpin Court. They're developing a communication strategy to amplify residents' voices and cultivate community pride. They arrive at a design that is combination of a megaphone and a lily.
A few feet away around a big conference table, skilled facilitators, urban designers, city employees, and councilpeople work with members of the Maymont neighborhood to discuss achievable neighborhood improvements — better bike and pedestrian access to the James River, traffic calming measures, and blight reduction.
On the other side of the room, clients from the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority sit at rows of desks, and under the guidance of a guest designer, create posters around the theme of destigmatizing substance use and mental health disorders. These posters appear at bus stops, hospitals, and schools through a citywide campaign.
Storefront thinks of its programs as tables — each a unique relationship with one of our neighbors. Our process adapts to a variety of scales and design needs. From the front door to the front porch; from the sidewalk to the city block; from the park to the neighborhood.
Through a network of 120 volunteers, Storefront links professional planners and designers with design need. Anyone may apply for design assistance; the Design Session program provides guidance to clients on community initiated projects ranging from navigating city processes to redesigning a park entrance. During the session, the applicant and the designer work to devise a strategy to bring projects to a point of initiation. Applicants may have their design session with Storefront staff, and — on a pay-what-you-can terms — work with a professional designer or a group of VCUarts students from the mOb studio.
Adele Ball, Program Director
Storefront’s engagement efforts amplify community voices. Community engagement programs include public workshops, community organizing, and streetscape improvement events. Storefront works with neighborhood groups, merchant associations, and Richmond City Council representatives to organize workshops on local issues ranging from visioning, to understanding zoning laws, or improving the quality of life in a neighborhood. The outcomes of the sessions, usually in the form of reports, equip community members to be better advocates for their neighbors and neighborhoods.
City of Richmond
Local Initiatives Support Corporation
HandsOn Greater Richmond
Ryan Rinn, Executive Director
The three tracks of the Design Education program include partnerships, advocacy, and practice. Through partnerships, Storefront works with nonprofits to expose design thinking to clients of the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, Groundwork RVA, and mOb studio. Advocacy efforts aim to educate the public about the outcomes of Design Session and Community Engagement programs. Storefront also hosts a number of lectures and participates in and hosts national conferences to reflect on community design practice. We invite the community to use our space for events.