The past year has been a time of change for everyone, and NYCxDesign, the organization that runs New York’s Design Week, is no exception. A quick rundown of what has been a hectic 12 months: The organization was forced to postpone its events and pivot to a virtual format; it became an independent nonprofit for the first time; it launched a podcast and prepped a print magazine; and, as if that wasn’t enough, last month, it appointed a new executive director, arts administration veteran Elissa Black.
Not so long ago, NYCxDesign made headlines for a partnership with Sandow, which was slated to consolidate the weekslong flurry of events (previously managed by the New York City Economic Development Corporation) under the media company’s purview starting with the 2020 edition. Sandow still has a formal commitment in place to provide operational support, strategic expertise, and media exposure through its various publications. But in concert with the NYCxDesign steering committee, it was decided that the organization would operate more efficiently as an independent nonprofit.
After a period of dramatic transition, NYCxDesign is looking ahead to its next chapter. Business of Home chatted with Black and Hoffman to hear what’s on the horizon.
While the residential design industry has experienced a pandemic-fueled surge, the hospitality and commercial side of design has been gutted by COVID. Add to that the fact that New York was impacted across the board (even with the renewed focus on home, the suburban exodus has somewhat tamped down business for Manhattan designers). One of NYCxDesign’s key priorities, says Black, is to rebuild.
“I want this organization there at the forefront as we’re growing back equitable opportunity in the city,” she says. The newly minted nonprofit has already made some moves there, with the formation of Design Corps, a volunteer squad of 60 designers who give pro bono design advice to restaurants seeking to reopen safely. A new program, ImpactXDesign, also looks to help heal a wounded city, with two $10,000 grants awarded to designers to create public spaces in downtown Manhattan and the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn. The program, sponsored by Caesarstone, looks to develop projects that foster “ideal places for congregation”—surely a need in the post-social-distancing era.
Another program, the Breakout Grant, will award one $15,000 grant and two $5,000 grants to support independent design entrepreneurs both as a lifeline during COVID and as a means to help bring a product or project to life. “The eligibility criteria for this new program was crafted to focus on smaller studios of talented designers, many of whom are particularly hard-hit during the current pandemic,” says Hoffman.
One of the key goals of NYCxDesign in its next incarnation, says Black, is to support education and up-and-coming design talent. “I’m very interested in educating younger emerging designers and the youth of the city about the potential of design,” she says. To that end, the nonprofit has launched a residency in partnership with Hudson Yards, in which four recent graduates from the Fashion Institute of Technology, Parsons School of Design, and the School of Visual Arts will create a storefront pop-up gallery in the shopping area of the residential complex on Manhattan’s west side.
In 2021, NYCxDesign’s November programming will be very much anchored around Design Week events like ICFF and WantedDesign. However, a new initiative for the organization is to promote events all year round, say Black and Hoffman. This May, NYCxDesign will host Design Days, a series of events—both virtual and live (though “safely organized,” an announcement is careful to emphasize)—that emphasize various disciplines: product design, interior design, digital design and more. It’s part of an effort, says Black, to forge a course ahead for the nonprofit that is deeply engaged in the New York design scene as it emerges from the devastation of the pandemic. “Seeing designers in New York’s design community come together around COVID and make huge transformational change in the city only represents the beginning of what this community can do,” she says.
Homepage photo: SOLLOS Lighting from ICFF | Courtesy of NYCxDesign