Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

The New Children’s Museum Works with Art + Design Students

Art + Design students get first-hand experience working with a local community client

The New Children’s Museum Works with Art + Design Students

Art + Design students in Art 596, Community Partnership in Applied Design

By Angelena Lufrano

The New Children’s Museum, located in Downtown San Diego, aims to instill imagination, creativity and critical thinking in children and families through engaging experiences with contemporary art. The museum experiences more than 250,000 youth and family visitors each year, from tourists to local San Diegans. It holds a history of engaging community members, including local artists, scientists, engineers, and San Diego State University students.

David Fobes, a professor in the PSFA School of Art + Design, started the relationship between SDSU students and the New Children’s Museum about five years ago. Today, students of Adam Manley in Art 596, titled Community Partnership in Applied Design, are currently working on the design of new furniture for the museum.

“We’ve been talking with Adam about this project for over a year,” said Lani Bautista, the Manager of Visitor Programs at the New Children’s Museum. “In the spring of this year, his Intermediate Design students designed the prototype set of tables and stools for our art studio, which we were able to test over the summer. The space is where our visitors can create sculptures and paintings, so it’s susceptible to a lot of wear and tear. In the trial run, we tested for durability, maintenance, and safety. This semester, we could give Adam and his students all of our feedback and observations, which they’re now able to take and revise their design.”

Some of the feedback Manley’s students received included making the tables slightly taller to accommodate adults, as well as using studier wheels that will allow the museum staff to easily move the tables around. This semester’s students will be working on creating nine tables and more than 40 stools based on the feedback.

“After testing the prototype this past summer, we’ve been able to alter our original design,” said Adam Manley. “The tables and stools are our main project this semester, however the museum had enough funds to also ask us to design new outside benches. So, as the Spring 2018 students were able to design the tables and stools, the students this semester were able to each design their own benches based on the needs and limitations from the client.”

This semester is the first time Community Partnership in Applied Design has been taught, a class that Manley proposed earlier this year.

“I really wanted to teach a class like this because there’s rarely limitations for art students in creative thinking,” said Manley. “However, when you’re working with a client, like the New Children’s Museum, you have to adhere to the client’s needs and requests. You can’t just make any random thing. In a class like this, students are able to use the same skills they’ve been learning and turn it into creative work for a community client.”

For Lisa Nguyen, a current student in Art 596 who recently designed her own benches for the museum, the hands-on experience of working with a real-world client has been the most rewarding part of the class.

“Being able to work with the New Children’s Museum gave me a glimpse of what it’s like to work and design a product for a client,” said Nguyen. “It’s taught me how to carefully and fully think about my ideas and the many perspectives that need to be considered. When I was designing my benches, I had to think about the children who would be using them and playing around near them. I had to make sure it was safe and durable, while still remembering that the museum is a creative space.”

For the New Children’s Museum, employing the ideas of SDSU art students falls directly in line with their mission of instilling creativity, critical thinking, and imagination.

“We’re able to tap into a group of young creatives with this project,” said Bautista. “We’re proud to know that we’re able to give them real-life experience while also getting a really awesome final product. We hope to see this turn into annual partnership with SDSU.”

The brand-new tables and stools will be finished by start of 2019 and Manley hopes the benches will also be complete around the same time. A community reception will be held at the museum once the furniture is complete in order to celebrate the collaboration and the students’ accomplishments.

To learn more about the New Children’s Museum, visit For more information on the School of Art + Design, visit

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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