After spending more than 25 years as a residential interior designer, Amy Lynn Schwartzbard founded the non-profit Kaleidscope Project in January 2021. The project is a cultural and creative collaborative that supports the vibrant design and art community, elevates emerging and established design faces from all cultural corners, and provides educational and industry opportunities for talent Young creative.
Since its founding, the project has established a 501(c)3 organization under the direction of the Board of Directors; Create and launch an educational initiative to bring young talent into the industry; And created a training program. The organization partners with entities and individuals to provide professional business building opportunities for designers while connecting them with influential companies and vendors in the industry.
What led to the creation of the Kaleidoscope Project?
There is the long version and the short version. In the midst of the pandemic after the killing of George Floyd, I have had a lot of time to reflect. I realized that my colleagues of color were not included on the same platforms. I felt responsible, in the sense that when you look the other way, you are responsible.
I launched the Kaleidscope project to create different types of platforms for our diverse talent community with new voices to be heard and seen.
We work with students in high school and college who have no idea about the industry. It’s important for them to see people who look like them in the industry. These conversations don’t happen in their homes, so we have to expose them to them. There are so many beautiful options in this industry and there is no knowledge of it, even at the college level.
Does the organization succeed in amplifying the voices of marginalized groups?
We started in 2021 with our first showroom featuring 23 designers from diverse backgrounds and geographical diversity. Our first gallery was an inn built in 1776 and in need of major renovations. We made each one of our designers take up space. News about the final product spread in many publications, and we got a lot of media coverage. I think this woke up the industry in a good way. Follow us with a second showroom next year. Also, these homes last forever, and are not dismantled after a period of time. The second exhibit was a firehouse built in 1904 and was a massive undertaking. The building’s exterior and interior shell were essentially new construction. The building was demolished 30 years ago and has never been touched again. The result was four luxury residential apartments that were not offered at luxury prices.
Our third and current project is the former Red Lion Hotel in downtown High Point. We are transforming it into a unique boutique hotel with 162 rooms and 54 executive suites with kitchenettes. The goal is to open the new hotel in April 2024.
What is the role of the New Kaleidoscope Foundation?
We launched the foundation last January to integrate education as part of the Kaleidoscope project. That’s where I think real change can happen in our industry, under that umbrella. We have started a new internship program this fall which is a six-week program where interns participate in different areas of the industry. For example, they will spend one week with the Kitchen and Bath organization rather than working one-on-one with designers. One of our designers, Marilyn Lavergne, created a webinar called Designing Your Future.
The project has since shared this webinar with students at Alfred E. Smith Career and Technical High School in the Bronx (New York). They gave a presentation to the students about the Kaleidoscope project and the world of furniture and interior design. Lavergne then asked the students to redesign the school hall and the students got really engaged.
How does the focus on sustainability guide the work of the Kaleidoscope Project?
Sustainability is one of our core missions since we mainly work in spaces that are not new buildings. We are bringing life back to spaces that were dormant and of course social justice is very important. I now sit on the board of the Sustainable Furnishings Council to help with fundraising. We believe that sustainability should be at the forefront of everything we do.
How do you find designers to collaborate with on a project?
So far, we’ve mostly partnered with the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. There are two members of our board of directors, including Shannon Maher, who is one of the deans, and Nancy Steers, who is a guidance counselor. We don’t want to overwhelm the project by accepting too many students at once. We are slowly rolling out the training programme. The goal for the future is for trainees to participate from all over the country. In 2024, we will launch a new platform, holding an art and design exhibition at Bergdorf Goodman’s. We also have an eyeball form on the website and over 100 people have now submitted this information to participate in a future project.
What is your leadership style?
This is a forever changing learning experience for me. People communicate differently and what resonates with some people does not resonate with others. I also deal with many people with wide cultural backgrounds and differences. My motto is that there is a solution to every problem. So, I think it’s important to cut the drama and go straight to finding a solution.
These are all very stressful projects for designers, and many of them put a lot of pressure on themselves and think this is a “make or break” moment in their career, so emotions can be high. We are constantly learning, growing and discovering
What is the biggest challenge facing you now?
Certainly raising money and also dealing with developers and buildings and people that we have no control over. This is part of the daily life of this job. We have all these amazing companies that sponsor us and donate money to us and work with designers and we want to get them out there. Often, obtaining information about construction is frustrating and difficult.
What do you want people to know about the project?
We are still so new that we are still making our mark. When you do something that leads to change, it makes people uncomfortable. But we want everyone to feel welcome. I think design was a bit too vanilla, and we were missing such beautiful work, talent and stories from designers all over the world. I think that’s starting to shift now and moving in the other direction. I steal ideas from these designers all the time and tell them I do it. People always ask me what my favorite space is, and I don’t have one. I have favorite moments in all of the spaces.
just for fun:
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I knew I wanted to be in a creative field. I was born with a paintbrush in my hand. My parents are intellectuals, and we went to theatre, dance, museums and art shows. I loved every second. I designed my first piece of furniture when I was 10 years old.
What book are you reading now?
The art of possibilities Written by Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander. I read it in 2008 and will re-read it again. He talks about the ability to drive from any chair. The book is a great read with many little “aha” moments.
What is your least favorite housework?
I would say vacuuming, although I like Swiffering.
Where is your favorite vacation spot?
I live in the Berkshires, Massachusetts, and it’s my favorite vacation spot. But I also love traveling globally and want to experience the world of art, food and architecture.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I love 80s and 90s music, but I can’t sing a tune. I like driving around with loud music in the car.