It’s been a tumultuous year for New York City. Restaurants, stores, and museums have been closing in waves throughout the year, either temporarily or for good, due to the ongoing pandemic. Protests have filled the streets causing damages that are still being mended. Workers citywide still are relearning how to get the job done from home. NYCxDESIGN though, the annual, citywide design fair, sees these ongoing issues as opportunities in which design and craftsmanship can help solve problems. The organization has announced a new status as a not-for-profit organization, paving a road ahead for more educational and supportive programming measures in future fairs and summits that can address how design can better society.
Under the leadership of the fair’s program director, Valerie Hoffman, NYCxDESIGN will work closely with the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the steering committee to form educational events and programming for the year-round activations and annual design summit. Because of its newfound nonprofit status, NYCxDESIGN will also begin searching for candidates to form a board of directors.
The shift to a board of directors and away from the previous leadership under media conglomerate SANDOW comes after it was decided between SANDOW and the steering committee that a nonprofit organization could “best serve the community,” according to a press release. The design fair under SANDOW wasn’t without controversy either, as the 2020 shift from NYCEDC’s city-based handling of the fair to SANDOW, a company trading heavily in a certain kind of design aesthetic, brought on concerns of homogenizing the works included. The change even brought the then-steering committee member and founder of designer co-op COLONY, Jean Lin, to leave the committee and form her own inclusivity-minded design fair, “The Design Festival NYC”
“In this impossibly difficult time for small businesses in New York City,” Lin told AN, “I appreciate the gesture of NYCxDESIGN moving to a non-profit status. The reality of my small business and the small businesses that I champion, represent, and consider my closest friends is that we are fighting daily for survival, and NYCxDESIGN has not been a presence at all in the chilling reality that we face as small design businesses in NYC. I hope this step is an indication of a future where NYCxDESIGN works towards becoming a more representative, supportive and genuine member of New York’s independent design community, without whose work, NYCxDESIGN would not exist.”
Amid the pandemic, the festival is currently planning out upcoming Design Days and programming initiatives, which will largely be held as virtual events. Continued under its new nonprofit status are the various events and grants the organization is developing for small businesses and independent designers.
Hoffman provided the following statement:
“The transition to NYCxDESIGN as a not-for-profit organization is an exciting development. NYCxDESIGN originally grew from a community-based organization of passionate industry volunteers with support from NYC & Company and then NYCEDC. This new status will allow us to continue to work closely with the city, our Steering Committee, and our new board to broaden our support and explore important initiatives, especially those designed to rebuild and redirect attention to the city as a creative hub. In fact, I am thrilled to announce one of our first measures will be the launch of an entrepreneurial-focused grant that seeks to fund an independent designer/design business that is leading the charge in diversity, innovation, and sustainability—three of our core values.”
When asked in what capacity SANDOW would still be involved with NYCxDESIGN, Hoffman told AN that, “While NYCxDESIGN is now an independent nonprofit, SANDOW will continue to allocate resources and in-kind support for operations, marketing, development and content creation in order to help establish the nonprofit and foster its success.”