Middle of Broad, also known as mOb, is holding their First Friday February Fundraiser to add to the festivities this weekend. From 7-10 p.m. Feb. 6, food, drink and live music from Satellite Syndicate will be provided at 205 E. Broad St. for $10. The money will sponsor the designer’s haven directly between VCU’s Monroe Park and MCV campuses.
A collaboration between the VCUarts departments of graphic design, interior design and fashion design, mOb is both a storefront and a class offered to design students. According to Kristin Caskey, an associate professor for the fashion design department and the mOb studio class, the mission for mOb is to “operate an innovative design lab that realizes the potential of design to shape the city.”
Abbie Winters, a senior graphic design student who has worked with mOb the past four semesters, says the interdisciplinary course provides semester-long projects for students to work with local clients.
“In the beginning of the semester we get split up into groups based on our interests,” Winters said. “And then we get assigned to different clients around the city who need help with their businesses or have a good cause that we can help them through design (to) get their business going.”
Some of their past projects include designing for the Massey Cancer Center Patient Care, and designing the space for Theatre Lab, a Richmond theater ensemble. According to Caskey, these projects are all community-based, and the mOb lab is intended to help members of the community who would not usually have access to such design services.
While some of mOb’s funding comes from VCU, any projects they take on are paid for by the client, which Winters says can be an exercise in creativity for the designers trying to keep within budget.
“It’s based on the client, and what they can spend,” Winters said. “So we’ll just help them, direct them, but it depends on what the client can pay in order to fund the project, which usually is not very much at all.”
In order to stay open in its own studio space, mOb applies for grants and scholarships through the school, but the First Friday February Fundraiser will be the first of its kind for mOb. A team of student designers has been planning the event since last semester, and hope to both raise money and introduce people to their lab.
John Malinoski, a graphic design professor for VCU and professor at mOb, wrote in an email` that the event would be “a night in Richmond where designers of many stripes (and dots) come together and celebrate who we are.”
Aside from the fundraiser, mOb’s upcoming projects include designing for the Richmond Bicycle Urbanism Symposium and the “Massey Mile” of the Ukrops Monument 10K. Caskey said in fall 2015 mOb will offer the first university-wide service-learning honors course, and she hopes from there the studio will continue growing.
“My personal dream is to build the mOb Fellows program, where our graduates have the opportunity to stay in Richmond after graduation, in a design space next to mOb where they can build their design careers with an active role in the community and as mentors to the next generation of students,” Caskey wrote in an email.
As for the students, Winters feels she and her colleagues have gained experience that can’t be found in other classroom settings.
“You get such real-world experience, and it’s incomparable to anything else you can learn in another class,” Winters said. “And it’s kind of weird making that transition from doing hypothetical projects and not having to deal with clients and then being pushed into like, three projects a semester and they’re each a semester long and you have to deal with all these people and it’s really crazy, but at the end it’s so beneficial.”