UO Product Design student in action. Photograph by Charlie Litchfield.
Lane Arts Council has been awarded a competitive Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to launch a new downtown initiative centered on product design. Utilizing apprenticeship and entrepreneurship opportunities, Product of Eugene is a project designed to support creative placemaking, arts engagement, and career/college readiness through arts apprenticeships, workshops and ArtTalks.
Working alongside instructors and alumni from the Department of Product Design in the School of Art + Design at the University of Oregon, middle and high school students will learn about the profession of product design, explore specific ways to approach the design process, and begin creating innovative products of their own. They will have the opportunity to explore how product designers create the tools, transportation, computers, clothes, sofas, and sports equipment to fit the changing needs of our lives and make the products in our world more energy-efficient, ergonomically appropriate, cost-effective, and more socially responsible.
In addition to learning a creative practice, students also explore the business aspects of a creative career, bolstering college and career readiness regardless of their chosen field.
“A recent report from the Oregon Arts Commission demonstrated the impact of similar arts apprenticeship programs in providing career readiness and preparation for college,” stated Liora Sponko, Executive Director of Lane Arts Council. “Roughly 7 out of 10 students agreed such programs expanded their awareness of and preparedness for future opportunities. The report showed that older students perceived the relevance of their training most strongly in apprenticeship-style settings with longer timelines and fewer students per artist.”
Mentors and students will utilize the technology available at the UO’s Department of Product Design Innovation Hub at 942 Olive Street in downtown Eugene. The 13,000 sq. ft. Innovation Hub features classrooms, studios, a digital design lab, plastics lab (with 3 types of 3D printers, laser cutter, analog shop tools), and exhibition spaces.
With a student-to-mentor ratio of 3:1, this program provides intensive, hands-on learning. Students work with mentors primarily during after-school hours, committing approximately 25 hours over a 10-week term. At the end of each term, exhibitions during the monthly ArtWalk provide participants the opportunity to share their experience with family, friends, and the community.
“Kate is a middle school student who has been very involved in our programs,” explains Sponko. “Through participation in our arts apprenticeship program, Kate’s mother shares that Kate is creating a sense of identity and self-awareness, which will impact her