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Junior Fashion Academy student's 'playhouse' encourages creativity and wonder

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Emma remembers the wait -- the long line that stretched outside the Bushwick warehouse last September. After many hours, it was finally her turn.

As she wandered through 29Rooms, the art and fashion funhouse presented by lifestyle media company Refinery29, she became entranced by the many installations, performances, interactive experiences, fashion and art featured throughout the rooms. Not that she had gone expecting to find it there, but, by the end, it had become the launching pad for her senior project.

"I originally was going to base my project on the fashion collection that I did last summer," says Emma, who is in the Junior Fashion Design Academy at New England Fashion+Design Association's White Plains, N.Y., location. "But, it was so exciting, and so interactive, that it became my inspiration."

She will only have three rooms to work with, but she intends to make the most of them. Although fashion is the common theme, there are many disciplines she is employing, including music, dance, body painting and photography. "I wanted to incorporate every art form that has been meaningful to me throughout my life," she says in a video she created that offers a glimpse of what one might expect in what she calls "her playground."

Emma's one-day installation, "Meraki," will take place May 19 at her high school, The Masters School, in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. She hopes to give visitors three different canvases to leave meaningful messages or document their own experience through digital pics and video. Fashion pieces will be on display to inspire, such as a dress that she made by knitting together multiple t-shirts. Another piece was created with fabric scraps held together by water soluble interfacing.

Without revealing too much of what she calls an "Instagram dreamland," she has made multiple trips to home improvement stores to get the supplies needed to create an interactive environment that utilizes her artwork to inspire creativity in others. It speaks to her enduring fascination with interactive art.

"It's full of artwork that I have created, but it invites you to contribute your own perspective," she says. " the end of the day, the exhibit is unique to the people who go through it."

The first two rooms will explore the themes of positive thinking and identity. "I really wanted to focus on who you are, rather than what you are," she says. Visitors, for instance, will have a unique map to do just that. The third room will be a nod to her love of nature.

"You can do anything you are passionate about that you can't do otherwise (in school), and share it with the community," she says of the the guidelines for her senior project.

It is an ambitious project, with an apt title. The Greek word meraki means to do something with love, creativity or soul -- to put something of yourself into your work, Emma says.

Although 29rooms was an inspiration, Emma said the work she does at the fashion academy has greatly influenced this particular project and the overall way she thinks creatively. "I have been encouraged to have an open mind and to take different approaches when it comes to being inspired."


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