AIGA Portland partnered with The Right Brain Initiative and The Museum of Contemporary Craft to create ProtoTown, a hands-on exhibit designed to inspire children to imagine and create their own city. The project asked “Brain Food Lab” visitors to think of new forms of business, housing, transportation and recreation and to use recycled materials and art supplies to invent their own city prototype.

Over the duration of the lab, from December 2011- February 2012, ProtoTown evolved from a simple craft paper landscape on a few folding tables to five tables densely filled with projects. One completed structure, “Adventure Hot Tubs” was composed of two hot tubs in a garden with a zipline. Another, “Free People’s Ferry” was an amalgam of carefully folded paper and straw masts offering free transportation for everyone.

“It was a booming metropolis of weirdness,” said Melissa Delzio, Design For Good chair from 2011-2014 and a key collaborator on this project. “Every week it would grow exponentially.” By the end of the project, there were even creations hanging from the ceiling and walls.

The project brought awareness to Brain Food, a children’s activity inspiration deck that was also a collaborative project between Right Brain Initiative and AIGA Portland, and helped inspire some of the activities in the final product. The project also had a very minimal environmental impact as the majority of the materials were recycled supplies purchased at SCRAP PDX. The primary success of the activity however, was the excitement and high level of participation of children and their families in imagining and exploring the new frontiers of what could be possible.

“Encouraging creativity in kids was one of our objectives and this was a project that lent itself toward that goal,” Delazio said.