To many people outside of High Point, our city is known by our furniture industry. For many inside our city, we see our furniture industry as a part of our identity twice a year, and maybe don’t give it much thought the other 50 weeks of the year. But did you know that the same furniture industry makes it possible for our city to come together to encourage budding young designers to jumpstart their careers in High Point?
Thanks to the team at the historic Bienenstock Furniture Library, 50 design students from all over the country have the chance to learn directly from industry giants right here in High Point during the first annual Future Designers Summit. Since 1984, the Bienenstock Library has offered a scholarship to students pursuing a career in the industry, but this year, they’re going a step beyond providing resources; they’re providing experience.
“The Bienenstock Library is all about education,” says Karla Jones, Executive Director of the non-profit furniture resource library. The library, founded in 1970 by the Bienenstock family, houses a wealth of resources – from contemporary works to a collection of rare international books. With more than 5,000 volumes and 600 years of design history, the Bienenstock Library is known within the design community for its world-class research capabilities.
As a functioning non-profit, the Bienenstock’s board of directors decided several years ago they wanted to do even more to give back to the next generation of furniture industry leaders.
“We thought, ‘If we’re going to promote education, introducing students to the industry, High Point, and our resources, why not do it through a summit?” Karla says. The Future Designers Summit, which has been several years in the making, will provide educational, hands-on experiences through a wide array of High Point community partnerships.
“These students will be learning things they just couldn’t learn in a classroom,” Karla explains. Not only will the students be given access to a wide variety of breakout sessions, tours, and activities, they’ll also be networking with leaders and future mentors right here in High Point.
Thanks to their 37 years of offering the scholarship, the Bienenstock team has been able to recruit students from all over the country. The fields of study these students will be coming from include everything from furniture design, textiles, lighting design, interior design, architecture, and product design. The diversity of industries included in this design summit is intentional on the part of the summit creators, mimicking the collaboration and creative overlap in the design industry.
“Students from creative genres will come together at the summit to work to make one industry a success,” Karla notes. “They’ll all work together eventually in their careers in these various roles.”
The summit boasts an impressive agenda, one Karla and the Bienenstock team worked hard to curate. They wanted the two-day summit to hold as much as possible for the students so they could make the most of their time in High Point.
“The agenda was the hardest part!” Karla laughs. “There is just so much in High Point for them.”
The two days for the itinerary include everything from networking events to tours of furniture factories, to color trend discussions, to an insider look at the Congdon Yards’ Generator space. Keynotes will be given by world-renowned industry leaders like Young Huh, Patti Carpenter, and High Point’s own, Jane Dagmi, Editor-in-Chief at Designers Today.
But an agenda like this takes a whole village to pull off. And thankfully, that’s exactly the kind of support High Point businesses offered to the Bienenstock Library.
“As we began working on the agenda, it started growing and growing,” Karla says. “And no one we asked to be part of this said no.”
Bienenstock board members leveraged their relationships and connections across the city to ask businesses to partner in making this experience possible. Partners rose up all across the city to lend a hand to welcoming these young designers into our home. Phillips Collection, Davis Furniture, Congdon Yards, Verellen, Alderman Company, Thayer Coggin, AKZO, and COHAB.SPACE all joined in Bienestock’s efforts to offer tours, presentations, meals, and breakout sessions.
“It’s been amazing and humbling,’ Karla says, describing how it’s felt seeing the whole city rally together to make this event happen. Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bienenstock team and their community partners crafted action plans to make the event happen safely for all.
“We know in today’s world, you have to have a Plan B,” Karla notes, pointing to the flexibility of all involved. She adds the folks engaged in planning the Future Designers Summit recognize in this “virtual world,” the summit is more timely than they could have predicted.
“Student lives and school experience has been put on hold this past year,” she says. “The timing for this is good. This event offers that socialization with students of other creative mindsets. For students entering the workforce, this is a final boost for them.”
The dedication to making this first-ever summit safe and successful comes from the deeply held belief that this event is of great importance – not just for the industry or the students, but for the city of High Point itself. This design summit is a way to give these students incentive and motivation to return to High Point with their talents, contributing to our creative city and growing our city’s industry output.
“When we started this event, we knew it was important,” Karla says. “We’re not only supporting an industry and the students, but we’re supporting our town.”
“Art, creativity, and design are so much a part of High Point,” she continues. “When these students choose their careers in anything furniture, art, or design related, they’re going to know of High Point... They’re going to know we are a town of creative minds and resources that provides an opportunity you can’t say no to.”
In addition to the donations of time and expertise to make this event possible, the Future Designers Summit is offered to the students at no cost. Once they arrange transportation to and from the event, all of their expenses are covered by the generosity of High Point business partners. The reason? So finances wouldn’t stand in the way of any student partaking in the opportunity.
Not only will the students be getting the opportunity to practice hands-on learning, but they’ll also be eligible to win a $5,000 scholarship over the course of the summit.
“We’ll be selecting a student based on their portfolio, transcript, application essay, and teacher recommendation,” Karla says, listing the components needed for students to apply to be selected for the design summit. “Our final decision on the winner will be based on how that student interacts with their peers at the summit and stands out as a leader.”
At the end of this summit, Karla and the others at the Bienenstock Library hope that students leave with a new sense of excitement for their career calling and a newfound appreciation for High Point’s creative design community.
“We want them to leave encouraged by other students and professionals,” she says. “They’ll have made networking contacts and experienced something they never have in the classroom. That makes all the hard work worth it if the students go home, excited and renewed with a new creative energy to take what they learned back to their schools.”
And this professional launchpad can only happen in a city like High Point, where the support of the community sets future leaders in this industry up for success. We’re proud to be part of a city that takes the fabric of our historic past and uses it to build up the leaders of the future.
Note: If you know of a student who needs to apply for the Bienenstock Future Designers Summit, download the application here and email your application to Karla Jones, email@example.com, by March 15.
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