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Spotlight on Advocacy and Community Engagement

The AWA+D Board is thrilled to announce the creation of a new advocacy committee, chaired jointly this year by Taryn Bone and Marisa Kurtzman. Taryn is an alumna of the University of Missouri and SCI-Arc, and previously worked at various hospitality design firms as well as for Johnston Marklee before starting her own practice, Bone Collective Studio, where she specializes in retail, tenant improvement, and residential interior renovations. Marisa is an alumna of Wesleyan and Yale Universities, with a background in art history and architecture. Marisa worked for Polshek Partnership (now Ennead Architects) in New York, and is now an associate at Frederick Fisher and Partners.  She specializes in visioning, programming, planning, and conceptual design for higher education, cultural, and civic institutions.

After meeting at an AWA+D Salon in November 2016, Marisa and Taryn sensed a common urgency to take action in defense of the values important to them, catalyzed by the results of the 2016 election. As Marisa points out, “It made me start to think about not just what my core values are, but how, as an architect, I wanted to represent them.”

What kind of change does the Advocacy Committee hope to affect?

TARYN: Being that we’re women in architecture and design, this group should take a stance on relevant issues and promote equity in design. For example, obtaining equal pay and paid maternity & paternity leave is relevant to all of us.

MARISA: Action is important, but so is the act of sharing knowledge. We all hear about certain issues in little ways every day, and want to share that knowledge with AWA+D, and for others to contribute ideas and passions to help shape our platform and activities. Two goals we are considering are to have a regular contribution to the AWA+D newsletter or a quarterly or semi-annual advocacy-related issues book club. The most critical things that we want to discuss at our first Advocacy Committee meeting on November 14th are: What should our platform be?  Let’s focus on one issue, maybe two, per quarter or year. Can that lead to engagement and collaboration with other community and organizational partners?

What can AWA+D members do to help support that effort?

MARISA: When it comes to advocacy, we can’t do it alone. We appreciate all the enthusiasm and energy that AWA+D can give to support us. Taryn and I are not experts on any of these issues, but there are probably AWA+D members out there who are, and we hope others will contribute.

TARYN: Marisa and I only have the initial ideas of what we hope for this group to achieve–we need members to volunteer and make change happen. One of the things that I love about AWA+D is how approachable and community-oriented it is. It feels like a place where we could really excite people to be involved and make that difference.

There have been discussions among membership equating “advocacy” to “activism.” What are your thoughts on whether or not AWA+D should maintain a non-partisan and neutral stance with regards to politics?

MARISA: Taryn and I, and the board, have talked a lot about wanting this group to be nonpartisan. However, as women and as architects and designers, we believe there are basic issues that we must consider as part of our work. Rather than being implicitly political, I think these issues have become politicized. In my opinion, many of these are more about good sense than politics. Certain aspects of architecture are somewhat inherently political: we are faced with issues of who has access to spaces in the public realm and why. Regardless of our personal beliefs, we want people to feel welcome, as well as to participate in whatever way they feel comfortable.  

TARYN: I’ve spent the majority of my life surrounded by people who don’t agree with me. I’ve been exposed to a good mixture of opinions, and I think it’s given me a more worldly view. AWA+D’s advocacy committee wants to create a platform for our organization to have thoughtful, respectful discussion that is inclusive of all opinions.

 

Join AWA+D in serving and supporting fellow women in our community on Saturday, November 4, for Volunteer Day at the Downtown Women’s Shelter in LA.

Those interested in getting involved in advocacy and community engagement are invited to the Advocacy Committee’s first meeting of the year on Tuesday, November 14th. Please contact advocacy@awaplusd.org to RSVP. Learn more on our Events page.

 

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