Designers, Industry Members Create FIT Jewelry Design Endowment for Black Students

TrendsJun 12, 2020

Designers, Industry Members Create FIT Jewelry Design Endowment for Black Students

With an initial $50,000 endowment, it’s named for Art Smith, the leading midcentury black jewelry designer.

A combination of 50 jewelry designers, stores, and publicity and sales firms have partnered with FIT to provide scholarships for black students.
New York—Nationwide protests around inequality for black Americans sparked by the death of George Floyd in police custody have inspired one group of jewelry industry members to take action in their own industry.

Spearheaded by jewelry sales and public relations firm For Future Reference and designer Brent Neale, a group of 50 brands have partnered with New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology on the Art Smith Memorial Scholarship Foundation.

The endowment will create scholarships and mentorship opportunities for black students in the university’s esteemed jewelry design program.

The 50 companies involved so far have contibuted an initial $50,000. The endowment is accepting additional donations and will continue to do so in the future to provide ongoing support to black students.

The fund is named for Arthur “Art” Smith, one of jewelry’s most important midcentury modern designers.

Born to Jamaican parents in Cuba in 1917, Smith moved to Brooklyn, New York in 1920 and was one of only a few black students in his class at Cooper Union, where he studied sculpture.

He went on to work under black jewelry designer Winifred Mason, who served as a mentor, before opening his own downtown shop and studio.

During Smith’s career, he was featured in publications like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and was commissioned to design pieces for the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt.

He gathered in circles of New York’s most important black artists of the time, from various creative pursuits, like author James Baldwin, dancer and choreographer Tally Beatty, singer Lena Horne and painter Charles Sebree.

His work was the feature of several museum and gallery exhibitions, both during his lifetime and after his death in 1982.

Contributions to the endowment may be sent by check or wire. Contact Randi Molofsky for information on how to donate at 

The brands and companies that contributed the founding $50,000 endowment are: Alex Sepkus, Andrea Fohrman, Andy Lif, Anita Ko, Anna Sheffield, Brent Neale, Briony Raymond, Buddha Mama, Cathy Waterman, Dana Rebecca Designs, Danielle Gadi PR + CNW Group, EF Collection, Emily P. Wheeler, Eriness, ETC…, For Future Reference, Harwell Godfrey, IHPR, Jacquie Aiche, Jamie Wolf, Jemma Wynne, Jennie Kwon, JewelsByMoksh, June Simmons Jewelry, Lauren K, Lizzie Mandler, M. Spalten Jewelry, Margo Siegel PR, Marissa Collections, Marla Aaron, Marlo Laz, Mateo, Maya Brenner, Melissa Kaye, Michelle Orman, Muse, Nak Armstrong, Nancy Newberg, Pamela Huizenga, Prounis, Retrouvai, Sarah Hendler, Sidney Garber, Sorellina, Spinelli Kilcollin, Stacked x Reservoir, Stephanie Gottlieb, Twist, Walters Faith and Zoe Chicco.

Ashley Davisis the senior editor, fashion at National Jeweler, covering all things related to design, style and trends.

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