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design
The design team behind the Shield Our Heroes face shields effort stand in front of 10 Lackawanna Plaza, future home to Montclair Innovation Lab. The space was previously used as Montclair Design Week’s pop-up HUB during MDW2019, which held about 25 community-driven events in the space. From left: Iain Kerr, co-director of MIXLab at Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Alex McDonald, designer, MIXLab; Altarik Banks, production coordinator, MIXLab; and Petia Morozov, executive director of DesignShed. COURTESY NATALIE CHITWOOD

DesignShed
Information about Project PIVOT, the initiatives of DesignShed, are on Montclairdesignweek.org.

To register for a Montclair Mondays call, visit montclairdesignweek.org/post/montclair-mondays.

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

Like many organizations in town, Montclair Design Week has had to pivot its programming

to work in a world under lockdown.

The week had been scheduled for Oct. 16-25.

It’s possible it will still happen. But it’s equally possible that it might not.

“Like so many other organizations, when we saw things starting to nosedive — I think our first reality check was when we saw the Montclair Film Festival canceling — that set things

PETIA MOROZOV

straight for me that we will have to figure this out,” said founder Petia Morozov. “Even if we have it in October, when we always have it, our capacity to do planning is interrupted right now. At the very least people are very distracted. At the worst they are losing loved ones.”

So Montclair Design Week launched DesignShed, focusing on year-round projects. And they called the projects in operation right now Project PIVOT.

DesignShed is now the parent organization of Montclair Design Week, just as Montclair Film is the parent organization of the Montclair Film Festival.

It has six initiatives: Montclair Mondays; Sew Good; Shield Our Heroes; Phone Booth Stories; PPE Protection Drive, and Masks on a Mission.

In addition, MDW is part of a chapter of Awesome Montclair, which itself is part of the Awesome Foundation, which grants $1,000 to intriguing projects to help make them happen.

MDW gave a grant last year to a project that came out of an “ideas competition”: a proposal to spruce up Watchung Plaza. Morozov’s goal is to give out six grants per year.

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READ: COVID-19: COMPANY DONATES TEST KITS TO MONTCLAIR AMBULANCE UNIT

READ: COVID-19: MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY LAB STARTS 3-D PRINTING FACE SHIELDS FOR HOSPITALS

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Morozov, born and raised in Montclair, said the original mission of Montclair Design Week when she founded it in 2018 was “to celebrate and mobilize our community as a design force for good. Find your inner designer, find a sense of purpose through action. All of our programming was designed to uphold that mission. It was very participatory and outcome-oriented.”

Last year MDW had between 60 and 70 events, with about 11,000 people attending. It was jam-packed, Morozov said. But some of the undertakings were already year-round. 

Project PIVOT includes, Morozov said, “the things we can do now to help leverage the creative capacity we already have in our community, whether in the fields of design, or how entrepreneurs in town also have boots on the ground ready to go, to be responsible at a moment’s notice.”

They started with a PPE donation drive, because it was simple. Then they worked with the MIX Lab from Montclair State University to print 3-D face shields, for Help Shield Our Heroes.

Phonebooth Stories collects stories from people who are longing to share, Morozov said.

Sew Good invites the community to learn to sew hospital-approved PPE. 

“Our goal is to make 1,000 sewn masks that go to outpatient clinics in underserved communities like Paterson, Elizabeth, and Newark,” Morozov said. 

PPE Donation Drive and Masks on a Mission both invite the community to donate and source needed PPE.

Montclair Mondays brings together Montclair business people on a Zoom call to discuss ways to collaborate, in partnership with Montclair BID (Business Improvement District) and MSU’s Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Every project in the initiative is partnered with another organization. “This stitching together of resources has really been the mantra I’m seeing all over town. Nobody can do something on their own, nor should they,” Morozov said.

SEW YOUR OWN WAY

Dr. Jaimee Shand, a Montclair resident and a physician at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in Paterson, has been spearheading the Sew Good project, and helping create kits

DR. JAIMEE SHAND

for people to make masks. 

“My Mom just donated about 20,” Shand said with a laugh.

This initiative partnered with Planned Parenthood and several outpatient clinics.

“When this all started, there were so many issues at play,” she said. “I think it’s really important to help get some of these supplies to local hospitals. There are nationwide movements to help donate PPE, but I think that community hospitals would be the last to get those supplies. Montclair Design Week’s project is a great way to help our surrounding hospitals.

“We couldn’t wait for a national movement to trickle down whatever was left after bigger hospitals received larger portions.”

By using the cloth masks, hospitals can reserve the N95 masks for those people coming in direct contact with COVID-19 patients, and some hospitals had been asking for them, Shand said.

In addition to supplying hospitals, Shand wants to expand the project to supply the masks to outpatient clinics.

“We all have to use masks when social distancing can’t be maintained,” she said. “It’s unknown how long things stay in the air, or how infective droplets are in the air.”

design
Business owners talk on a Zoom call during Montclair Mondays. COURTESY MONTCLAIR DESIGN WEEK

‘A FLURRY OF INFORMATION’

Jason Gleason, executive director of BID, said that one of the best things about Montclair Mondays is just sharing information.

He and Carley Graham Garcia, executive director of the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, run the Montclair Mondays sessions.

JASON GLEASON

At first information was coming so fast — what had to close and when, what was required by state, county, municipality — that people were confused; landlords didn’t know how to broach the topic of rent with their tenants, he said. 

“I noticed a flurry of information,” Gleason said. “Everyone is isolated at the moment. There is fear and chaos. I thought, ‘Let’s give space to broach some of the harder topics in communal form.”

Some of the topics discussed on those Monday Zoom calls are “Marketing and Outreach Through the Pandemic,” “The New Face of Main Street,” and “Rent and Overhead Relief During the Pandemic.” Conversations are archived on the MDW website, montclairdesignweek.org.

Between 55 and 90 people have been attending, Gleason said. They have started to use the “breakout room” feature in Zoom, so several discussions can take place simultaneously. 

One topic of conversation has been, what will storefronts look like when stores reopen? It’s likely that the commercial landscape will look very different.

People discussed having inspirational messages in storefronts, or putting paintings in windows, and now a whole project is getting off the ground, Gleason said.

Naturally he is hearing from worried business owners. “‘Worried’ is an understatement. I can’t say I know anybody who’s not in general freak-out mode,” he said. “Events are essentially canceled for the foreseeable future. Even when gatherings are available, will people want to come back?”

Instead, Montclair businesses are thinking about how to change what they offer.  Curbside and takeout will be a big component of the restaurant business moving forward, Gleason thinks. “I am encouraged by how hard everybody is trying and learning to change their business models and grow them,” he added.

Montclair Mondays is helping. “There’s something about being able to share and hear that you’re not the only one going through it. I’ve found it helpful to say, ‘Let’s take a breath,’ and break it down simply.”

Will business come back? Well, that’s the million-dollar question, Gleason said.

“The beautiful thing about Montclair is there’s such an entrepreneurial spirit in this town,” he said. “There are so many great minds living here. We are equipped to be able to think about what this means, and pivot.”

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