Imagine strolling through a yard sale where the hodgepodge of items on offer were made by both emerging and iconic designers, such as Virgil Abloh, Sam Jacob, and Jerome Byron.
That’s the idea behind the Design Yard Sale for Racial Justice, a monthlong project created by students and alumni of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD). On the project’s website, a range of design objects are for sale, including out-of-print books, prints, clothing, and furniture. All the proceeds from the sales will go to organizations fighting systemic anti-Black racism, including The Bail Project and Colloqate, a design-oriented nonprofit. “I wanted to find a way to contribute to the cause through design,” says Yaxuan Liu, who is a current GSD student pursuing a degree in architecture, and who spearheaded the project.
This yard sale is one of many ways that students are combatting systemic racism. In June, African American students at the GSD wrote a letter to the school’s administration with a list of 13 demands for how to institutionalize anti-racism, which included offering training to understand the racial context of America and hiring more Black faculty. The dean of the GSD, Sarah Whiting, offered an apology and a commitment to improve.
Liu got the idea for the yard sale after protests erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of the police. He and his classmates realized they could raise money by auctioning off objects they had made during their time at the GSD (many end-of-year projects involve sculptures or models that are beautiful but often get thrown out). Then Liu sent an email to the entire school, along with alumni networks, and was surprised by how much people wanted to help. “Alumni who have gone on to become architects, designers, and founders of design firms, all wanted to contribute,” he says.
Liu and his friends quickly created the Design Yard Sale website, which launched on Juneteenth and will run till the end of July. People can buy the items, which start at $20. There is also a weekly auction, featuring the work of more established artists and designers like Abloh, Daisy Ames, and Jeffrey Halstead. New lots are listed every week. So far, the project has raised $50,000 and the team expects to continue raising money through the end of the month.
Here are some of the most intriguing objects on display.
The Miranda: Bag as Art Object
This bag was designed by the brand Welcome Companions and named for the writer and director Miranda July. Only 100 were made, and it retails for $1,500. It comes equipped with everything a modern woman needs to survive in the world, including a piece of July’s security blanket and an almond.
This futuristic acrylic lamp was designed by Christina Moushoul, an architecture and urban design student. Each lamp, which costs $200, is made to order.