Publicolor – Nonprofit Partner Spotlight – Mar. 2012


Who is Publicolor?

Alarmed by the ramifications of our nation’s rising high school dropout rate, industrial designer Ruth Lande Shuman founded Publicolor in 1996. Following her studies at Pratt Institute (MSID, Industrial Design) and realizing that too many of our schools look and feel like prisons—a condition contributing to our all-too-high dropout rate—Ruth founded Publicolor to use the power of color, collaboration, design, and the discipline of commercial painting to engage high-risk students in their education and create a better trained and educated workforce for our future.

Publicolor’s mission:
Publicolor combats the under-education and lack of job preparedness that fuel poverty by empowering students to reach their full potential in college and career. Publicolor engages high-risk students, ages 12-21, in their education through a continuum of design-based programs and academic support that counter the dropout rate.

What is your organization up to at the moment?
Publicolor is getting ready for another fun, engaging, colorful Stir, Splatter + Roll! SS+R, Publicolor’s biggest fundraiser of the year, will take place at Martin Luther King, Jr. High School (122 Amsterdam Avenue, just behind Lincoln Center), on April 11, 6-9pm. This year, we are honoring fashion designer Nicole Miller, design icons Lella and Massimo Vignelli, and design visionary Murray Moss. Each year, SS+R engages 500 luminaries from the worlds of education, business, philanthropy, and design in a unique event that always takes place in a school that Publicolor transformed from drab and depressing to vibrant and welcoming.

In addition, we’re excited to share that Publicolor received a competitive strategic planning grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Developed by the DeVos Institute and led by Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the strategic planning workshops started in September 2011 and will culminate in early Summer 2013. By the end of this process, Publicolor will have created clear strategies for development and formulated a plan for how the organization will grow in the next 3-5 years.

What makes your organization so unique in the non-profit space?

Uniquely, Publicolor embeds design thinking in all of our programs. From day one, we emphasize the importance of finishing high school and going to college and we support our students’ commitment to education by offering them the tools to succeed in school, life, and their careers. Across all programs, we teach students the importance of education, the marketable skill of commercial painting and white-coating, and job-readiness skills (like time and project management skills, leadership skills, strong work habits, the value of working collaboratively, and the importance of taking initiative). 100% of our students are involved in service initiatives and 100% of our students' work impacts 100% of the school community.

How can CUP Members be involved?
We would love to welcome CUP Members into the Publicolor family! Join us on site and paint alongside our students—and informally mentor them by talking about your education and what contributes to your success. Tutor or mentor one of our students and be the concerned adult who will help them deal with the anxiety that comes with test-taking and college applications.
Come to Stir, Splatter + Roll this year! We promise that SS+R is not the usual staid gala: you’ll paint with caring New Yorkers like, among others, Michele Oka-Doner, Carlton DeWoody, Maira Kalman, and Michelle Smith, get to know our students, and be part of an event that supports Publicolor students’ commitment to personal development. You will have fun—it’s a Publicolorful promise!