Dorchester Industries Experimental Design Lab is a three-year program launched in September 2021 by Dorchester Industries – founded by artist Theaster Gates - and Prada Group, in partnership with Theaster Gates Studio and Rebuild Foundation.

The program aims to support and amplify the work of designers of color across the creative industries, thanks to awards that guarantee financial support as well as creative opportunities to foster relationships with leading global companies interested in collaborating with heterogeneous talents.

“Prada has always been synonymous with striving for the pursuit of ground-breaking design and creativity, championing innovation, and developing extraordinary talent. This initiative gives these singular creatives, masters in their individual fields, the tools to achieve their full potential, and their work the platform it deserves.”  

Lorenzo Bertelli, Prada Group Marketing Director & Head of Corporate Social Responsibility

FIRST EDITION

On April 5, 2022, Theaster Gates and Prada Group announced the inaugural cohort of the Dorchester Industries Experimental Design Lab. Fourteen international talents have been selected by a committee of design industry leaders, including Prada S.p.A. Co-CEO and Prada Co-Creative Director Miuccia Prada, writer and director Ava DuVernay, the late designer Virgil Abloh, architect Sir David Adjaye, and other dignitaries.

The awardees were selected through an extensive review process, having demonstrated extraordinary creative potential in their respective practices.

THE FIRST COHORT

TOLU COKER
Fashion Design (London, UK)
OFF
TOLU COKER

Tolu Coker is a British-Nigerian Fashion and Textiles Designer, Multi-Disciplinary Artist and University Lecturer based in London. Flirting with the boundaries of contemporary art and fashion, Coker’s eponymous brand, TOLU COKER, explores the politics of identity, culture, social and environmental climates. With collections focused on championing sustainable practice and cultural exchange, her work is a marriage of innovative textile and print solutions, artisan craftsmanship and silhouettes which flatter the body. TOLU COKER boasts a global client base and roster of supporters including high-profile names such as Rihanna, Rita Ora, Emeli Sande and Lianne La Havas.

KYLE ABRAHAM
Dance (New York, NY)
OFF
KYLE ABRAHAM

Kyle Abraham is a dancer, choreographer, teacher and the Founder and Artistic Director of A.I.M. by Kyle Abraham, a NY-based dance company that creates work dance-based work that is galvanized by Black culture and history with a strong emphasis on music, text, video, and visual art. Recently featured in both Kinfolk and O, The Oprah Magazine, 2018 Princess Grace Statue Award recipient and Lincoln Center Education Artist in Residence, Kyle Abraham is a 2013 MacArthur Fellow and a 2016 Doris Duke Awardee who began his dance training in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania before receiving his BFA from Purchase College and his MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Abraham is in his fifth year as a Visiting Professor in Residence at UCLA.

MARIAM ISSOUFOU KAMARA
Architecture (Niamey, Niger)
OFF
MARIAM ISSOUFOU KAMARA

Mariam Issoufou Kamara is a Nigerien architect whose work is guided by the belief that architects have an important role to play in creating spaces that have the power to elevate, dignify, and provide a better quality of life. Through her practice, Mariam aims to discover innovative ways of doing so, while maintaining an intimate dialog between architecture, people, and context. Mariam obtained her Masters in Architecture from the University of Washington. In 2013, she became a founding member of united4design, a global collective of architects working on projects in the U.S., Afghanistan and Niger. This led to her founding atelier masōmī in 2014, an architecture and research firm through which she tackles a wide variety of public, cultural, residential, commercial and urban design projects.

GERMANE BARNES
Architecture (Miami, FL)
OFF
GERMANE BARNES

Germane Barnes is an architect and designer from Chicago whose award winning research and design practice investigates the connection between architecture and identity, examining architecture’s social and political agency through historical research and design speculation. Mining architecture’s social and political agency, he examines how the built environment influences Black domesticity. Barnes is an Assistant Professor and the Director of The Community Housing & Identity Lab (CHIL) at the University of Miami School of Architecture, a testing ground for the physical and theoretical investigations of architecture’s social and political resiliency. Barnes received a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Master of Architecture from Woodbury University where he was awarded the Thesis Prize for his project Symbiotic Territories: Architectural Investigations of Race, Identity, and Community. 

KENDALL REYNOLDS
Footwear (Chicago, IL)
OFF
KENDALL REYNOLDS

Kendall Reynolds, the Founder and Design Director of Kendall Miles, is a Chicago-based luxury footwear designer. After learning how to design footwear on her own, she immersed herself in her craft by receiving formal design training at the world-renowned accessories design university, Ars Sutoria in Milan, Italy. Kendall established Kendall Miles in 2015. As a luxury designer who designs for women in a male-dominated industry, building a team composed of all Black women was a high priority. Since 2015, Reynolds has remained faithful to only manufacturing and producing internationally in Florence, Italy. She is intentional about partnering with family-owned vendors to ensure her products are handcrafted using only the finest ethically sourced, sustainable materials.

NORMAN TEAGUE
Product Design (Chicago, IL)
OFF
NORMAN TEAGUE

Norman Teague is a Chicago based designer and educator focused on projects and pedagogy that address the systematic complexity of urbanism and the culture of communities.  Specializing in functional objects that deliver a personal narrative to a specific user topped with unique aesthetic details. Teague's past projects have included consumer products, public sculpture, performances, and specially designed retail spaces.  Teague served as lead craftsman and co-founder of the Design Apprenticeship Program at the University of Chicago's Arts Incubator. He managed teams and led workshops at Documenta 13, 12 Ballads for Huguenot House by lead artist Theaster Gates and co-founded with Fo Wilson blkHaUS studios. Today, Teague operates Norman Teague Design Studios in Chicago, Illinois. Teague is an Assistant Professor of industrial design at University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Design, and a graduate with a master of fine arts from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago focused on designed objects. 

YEMI AMU
Agriculture (New York, NY)
OFF
YEMI AMU

Yemi Amu is the founder and Director of Oko Farms, New York City’s largest and only publicly accessible aquaponics farm, where she manages the cultivation a variety of freshwater fish, vegetables, herbs and flowers in a closed loop aquatic ecosystem.

Yemi turned her sights to food production as a direct response to the limited availability of fresh food in the communities where her clients lived. She has since co-facilitated the creation and maintenance of over 20 edible spaces at schools and community organizations including a 400 square foot solar-powered aquaponics greenhouse farm at The Campaign Against Hunger (TCAH) and a demonstration garden at The Brooklyn Children’s Museum.

 

Yemi is passionate about Urban Farming because she grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, a densely populated city with a strong tradition of agriculture and abundant access to fresh fruits and vegetables. She has a Masters Degree in Health and Nutrition Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She was awarded Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center, Rising Star in NYC Food Policy (2016).

KENTURAH DAVIS
Visual Art (Los Angeles, CA)
OFF
KENTURAH DAVIS

Kenturah Davis is an artist working between Los Angeles and Accra, Ghana. Her work oscillates between various facets of portraiture and design. Using text as a point of departure, she explores the fundamental role that language plays in shaping how we understand ourselves and the world around us. This manifests in a variety of forms including drawings, textiles, sculpture and performances. Davis was commissioned by LA Metro to create large-scale, site-specific work that was permanently installed on the new Crenshaw/LAX rail line. Her work has been included in institutional exhibitions in Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe. Davis earned her BA from Occidental College and MFA Yale University School of Art. Davis was an inaugural artist fellow at NXTHVN in New Haven, CT.

SALOME ASEGA
Art, Technology & Design (New York, NY)
OFF
SALOME ASEGA

Salome Asega is an artist and researcher whose practice celebrates dissensus and multivocality. She is currently a Technology Fellow in the Ford Foundation's Creativity and Free Expression program area. Salome is also the co-host of speculative talk show Hyperorpia: 20/30 Vision on bel-air radio, and a director of POWRPLNT, a digital art collaboratory in Bushwick. Salome has participated in residencies and fellowships with Eyebeam, New Museum, The Laundromat Project, and Recess Art. She has exhibited and given presentations at the 11th Shanghai Biennale, Performa, EYEO, and the Brooklyn Museum. Salome received her MFA from Parsons at The New School in Design and Technology where she also teaches.

MAYA BIRD-MURPHY
Architecture (Chicago, IL)
OFF
MAYA BIRD-MURPHY

Maya Bird-Murphy is a designer, educator, and the founder and Executive Director of Chicago Mobile Makers, an award-winning nonprofit organization bringing design-focused skill-building workshops to underrepresented communities. Maya believes that the design field must expand to include more people and perspectives through teaching and community engagement. She is also a faculty member at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Boston Architectural College. Maya was recently featured in Dwell Magazine, was named in Newcity Magazine’s List if 50 people who shape Chicago, and was a recipient of the AIA Alan Madison Award.

BRANDON BREAUX
Fine Art & Design (Chicago, IL)
OFF
BRANDON BREAUX

Brandon Breaux is a fine artist and designer working out of Chicago. His creative experience consists of painting, sculpture, web, video, print, and interactive projects. Widely known as the artist behind all 3 of Chance the Rapper's iconic album covers, Brandon continues to meet the demands of the evolving market by understanding what inspires audiences and moves the culture. His primary goal is to produce creative solutions with authentic sensibility and aesthetic.

CATHERINE SARR
Fine Jewelry Design (Chicago, IL)
OFF
CATHERINE SARR

Paris-born, Chicago-based jeweller Catherine Sarr celebrates the symbols, stories and forms that unite people across cultures and generations, through fine jewellery that combines art, design and storytelling. After a decade in London working in the highest echelons of the luxury diamond industry, in 2014 Catherine founded Almasika with the aim of creating jewellery that is not only beautiful, but meaningful. She has long been inspired by the power of art to spark dialogue and tell stories. Having lived on three continents, she is fascinated by the universal significance of shapes and symbols. Almasika jewellery has been worn by luminaries including Michelle Obama, Reese Witherspoon, Alicia Keys and Lizzo. Each piece of Almasika jewellery is crafted using responsibly sourced or recycled 18kt gold with natural, sustainably sourced diamonds.

SUMMER COLEMAN
Graphic Design (Chicago, IL)
OFF
SUMMER COLEMAN

Summer Coleman is an award-winning graphic designer from Riverdale, Illinois dedicated to building branding for all, with clean, crisp and consistent graphic designs. Summer began her career as an artist and designer for the City of Chicago, its organizations and artists. Summer has designed for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), University of Chicago, the Tracers Book Club, South Shore Chamber of Commerce, and The Silver Room, to name a few. Summer has also exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago with Kerry James Marshall’s “Mastry” exhibition, in collaboration with the Tracers Book Club. Summer received her BFA in fine arts from the University of Illinois of Chicago.

DAMARR BROWN
Culinary Arts (Chicago, IL)
OFF
DAMARR BROWN

Chef Damarr Brown is Chef de Cuisine at Virtue Restaurant based in Chicago. His culinary focus at Virtue draws from familiar flavors he grew up with, pairing them with his learnings and takeaways from past kitchens. Brown spent two years at Roister, the Alinea Group's hearth-focused concept, before further honing his craft as sous chef under the tutelage of Michelin-starred Chef Andrew Brochu. Chef Brown reunited with Chef Erick Williams to open Virtue in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood with the mentality that food connects people from a variety of backgrounds.

“For too long, there has been an evident pipeline and visibility barrier for designers of color working across the creative industries, and the Dorchester Industries Experimental Design Lab not only challenges the notion that Black talent is hard to identify, but also serves as an inescapable answer to it. I’m so proud of this cohort, and it is a tremendous honor to be able to celebrate, support, and amplify the work of these designers working to enrich our collective understanding of and interactions with design. I’m grateful for Prada’s belief and investment in this program, and I’m thankful for the nominators and selection committee for helping us identify this impressive group.”  

Theaster Gates, artist and Chairman of Prada Group’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council

Theaster Gates on the Dorchester Industries Experimental Design Lab experience

OFF

In early March, the awardees gathered on Chicago’s South Side to get to know one another, share reflections on their work, discuss the current challenges within the design industries, and explore opportunities for collaboration. This gathering marked the first of three retreats that will take place during the three years’ program.

THE FIRST RETREAT IN CHICAGO

OFF

THE INAUGURAL COHORT EVENT

The inaugural cohort was presented during a public conversation at the presence Pamela Culpepper - newly elected to the Prada S.p.A. Board of Directors and member of the Prada S.p.A. Sustainability Committee - between Theaster Gates, writer, curator, and activist Kimberly Drew, Professor Sarah Lewis and Dr. Louise Bernard, founding director of the Obama Presidential Center’s museum, at the Rebuild Foundation’s Stony Island Arts Bank on Chicago’s South Side.

Thank you for signing up