ROCK HILL, S.C. — One of Associate Professor of Interior Design Jennifer Belk's favorite things to do is to encourage her Winthrop University interior design students to “think outside of the box”—or the building, at least.
Charlotte is home to a growing Hispanic population, setting up a great opportunity for the students in her Interior Design 353 class and a future cultural event.
Belk created the concept of a hypothetical Latin Cultural Cooperative, which would be headed by real-life Charlotte-based performers/instructors Wendy and Rodrigo Jimenez to form the LCC. In the scenario, the non-profit cooperative would help promote local Latin dance and arts organizations and events related to the culture and offer enrichment opportunities.
Belk’s students were tasked with designing the residential and artists-in-residence spaces for the cooperative building, located in a 10,000-square foot facility on Old Pineville Road in Charlotte. They were required to space plan, specify materials, and produce lighting plans and presentation drawings for the project. The students are:
• Tammie Comer
• Courtney Guy
• Katie West
• Tung Nguyen
• Amy Schoch
• Courtney Clift
• Ellen Cobb
They were each assigned one of seven Latin countries and their dance styles including the Bachata from the Dominican Republic, the Merengue from Haiti and the Cumbia from Colombia. The research included traditional art styles and contemporary artists from the areas, all of which influenced the students’ designs.
“It’s been really interesting because one of reasons I try to do projects out of their comfort zones is to get out of stale ideas and start from scratch,” Belk said.
Junior Katie West was assigned Zouk, a Caribbean dance meaning “party.” She said she usually sticks with neutral colors, but the constant movement, color and rhythm from her research made her go with bolder, brighter colors and fabrics—creating a “funky, happy place.”
“The project was a success,” West said. “As far as going outside of my bubble, I think I did better than I thought.”
In early May, jurors from design companies studied the students’ proposals with positive results, Belk said.
Belk is planning a cultural event revolving around the project and the Latin culture for fall 2014. Details are still in the works, but the event will feature exposure to music and traditions from the cultures the students researched as well as the interior design students’ work from the project.