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Church of Refuge 

Stories from Our Lady of Lourdes

The goal of the Church of Refuge project was to connect, preserve, create, and share stories from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church on Auburn. The first black Catholic church in Atlanta. We designed artifacts in two forms—physical and digital—with the goal that they can reach a wider audience and encourage more individuals to learn about the history and influence of the church in Atlanta.

Lab: Design and Social Justice Studio 

Collaborator: Stephen Song

Duration: 2 months, completed May 2017 

Key Contributions/Role: User Research, and Content Creator 


Tools: field research, archival, content writing, user testing, web design, Sketch, Adobe Illustrator

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Problem Space and Concept Development 

The goal of the project was to engage and tell stories of the history on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta, GA. Auburn Avenue was once coined as the richest African American street in the United States during the civil rights movement due to a large number of black-owned business and companies. 


This area has a personal significance for me. During, segregation the area played a significance for my maternal grandparents that lived in Atlanta. Auburn Avenue is where they played, went to school, where their church was located, and home of family/friends. In approaching the project, we were interested in how we could use my family history to create a project that discusses the history in an engaging way. We decided to focus on my family church Our Lady of Lourdes the first black Catholic church in Atlanta. 




Comparative Analysis

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The projects focused on using photographs, and family stories as a way to present historical information. We chose to use these projects as groundings because we found the images as important tools in starting conversations on the topics. 




Justice Diagram & Topic Map

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The main goal of the project was to do justice to the story being told. We created a justice diagram which is a  four-quadrant area that covers: 


1. Spiritual & Cultural Ideals

2. Power & Control 

3. Material Condition 

4. Characteristics 


Each topic listed under the area are various perspectives or concepts that we could use to engage individuals with the history of the church. Framing the project was the most difficult. 






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The topic mapping helped identify potential angles to take our project, we created a topic map of each of the possible entities that existed and are related to our subject. After recording all the entities that appeared in our research, we made links between each of them and clustered related topics to produce potential stories that can be told through the project. 

Framing Story 

Upon the completion of the topic map and justice diagram, the four main topics on the church were created. These components were used to develop a digital and physical artifact. 

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Physical Artifact 

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We designed 3 pamphlets:

1. Music-the importance of gospel music in the Catholic church. 

2. Community- the church's role in the Auburn Avenue community. 

3. People- the founders of Our Lady of Lourdes and the church. 


 The pamphlet is inspired by church programs given to members on Sunday. The goal was that these pamphlets could be placed inside the church program and allow members to answer the questions behind the program. At the end of the service, the pamphlet would be placed on the back of a board or wall allowing people to see others responses. 

Digital Artifact 

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Developed a website that showed how to replicate the project in their communities. The site also would provide pdf files of the layout, so people can make those changes easily. 

User Testing

In testing the project, participants found the project engaging and the start of conversations. People used the pamphlets to draw images, write paragraphs, and personal stories on their experiences in relation to the topic. 


This process showed us that these design tools were effective in engaging people in history through asking questions and creating meaningful conversations. 



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