Humans of DASH: Stacey Mancuso

reblogged from Miami Design District NEIGHBORS/Ambassadors
23_stacey-mancuso-ed-d_0662Stacey Mancuso Ed. D is Principal of Design and Architecture Senior High (DASH), and her career is focused on developing the designers of today and tomorrow. Her leadership has led to great success – this year U.S. News and World Report  ranked DASH as the 19th best public high school in the nation (out of 31,242); 3rd best high school in the state of Florida (out of 687); and the 8th best American magnet high school (out of 269). Her tireless work, support of the Miami Design District’s transformation to a world-class design and fashion destination, and community leadership make her May’s Ambassador.

When did you realize you were interested in becoming an educator?
After art school, I moved to New York to set up a studio and continue working as an artist. I became an adjunct professor to survive, teaching art history and painting. As time progressed, I found that I could maintain a studio and teach which lead me to 40 years as an educator.

How did Design and Architecture High School come to be? Why in the Miami Design District?
Design and Architecture Senior High (DASH) came to be from a Request for Proposals (RFP) from the School Board. A team of educators, led by the first principal of DASH, Jackie Hinchey-Sipes, wrote the initial plan for the school. The school has evolved totally in 24 years. The School Board purchased the showroom complex on the corner of 39th Street and NE 2nd Avenue and contracted Arquitectonica to transform it into a school. The location is crucial as it is essential that the students be surrounded by the best design in the world. As the students work as interns in the surrounding showrooms, their future is visible to them.

23_stacey-mancuso-ed-d_3147What accomplishments as Principal of DASH are you proudest of?
As principal, I am only as good as the people who surround me. I am proudest of the hard work of the teachers, staff and students of DASH. The work that we do together provides every student at DASH with tremendous opportunities when they move out into the world.

What do you think of the transformation of the Miami Design District into a cultural and design destination?
I am an advocate for change, especially in the case where a “district” evolves into a world-class design environment. The transformation happening right before our eyes is an education in itself and, having been here for 25 years, the school is ready for it.

What’s inspiring you nowadays?
Nowadays is not a word I believe in. I am inspired by every day that I wake up, show up and look at what is happening. Inspiration is what DASH is all about and always being able to “ask the question”.

Do you have any favorite designers or architects? Who?
I went Cranbrook (Academy of Art) and Daniel Libeskind was the teaching architect when I was there. He was a friend and a mentor.  I have watched his work for decades. When I went to his Jewish Museum in Berlin, I was in awe.

What books would I find on your nightstand? What music are you listening to?
Breaking Ground by Daniel Libeskind, of course, Dear Life by Alice Munro and My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor. My music ranges from the Rolling Stones to Ella Fitzgerald to Mozart’s Don Giovanni to NPR, but that’s not music.

What is your favorite indulgence?
I favor food of the local land and sea—wherever I am, which means I must travel to find the food.

What career other than your own would you like to attempt?
I am very happy with this career and I am grateful to be where I am—leading the young designers at DASH. Next, I want to be a philanthropist–anonymous, of course.

What’s the most important thing people should know about you?
I mean well.

Humans of DASH: Sarah Moody



Sarah MoodyDD: Tell us about your relationship with DASH, how long you’ve been part of the school community, and what work you are involved with beyond the school.

SM: I joined the DASH community in 2004 when I was accepted into the Graphics program in 11th grade. I was previously attending Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Coconut Grove and could not keep myself out of the art studio and darkroom. I graduated in 2006 having learned an extensive amount about myself and my art practice. I am now a proud member (and the youngest!) of the DASH Advisory Board.

I started a company with some friends called Create Collect this past Art Basel. We are an art collective and online platform for the artists to sell their work. I am based out of Little Haiti, curating the website, events and pop-up exhibitions, creating content and recruiting artists. In addition, I freelance in both graphic design (hats off to Ms. Brooks!) and photography for companies and individuals in Miami.

DD: DASH benefits so much from the support of our PTSA, Advisory Board, Alumni Association, Internship mentors and Design District neighbors. What would you say makes DASH’s relationship with its community so special?

SM: DASH gives its students the confidence to feel as though they can achieve anything as well as giving them the tools to do so. The community around it responds because it recognizes that these kids are its future.

DD: Many different kinds of people from many walks of life make up our school. How would you describe the uniqueness of your own family? What are your family’s thoughts or feelings about your involvement with DASH?

SM: I’ve always felt unique in Miami because my family is British American. In a city where Spanish is often the first language, I’ve been very aware of my background. My family supports me and my passion to be an artist wholly which is why my parents encouraged me to apply to DASH so late in high school—they believed in me, my skill and my passion to succeed. For this, I am eternally grateful. DASH has impacted my life in so many ways since graduating—I continue to connect to the growing community of alumni both in Miami and around the world. I am inspired constantly by my peers and aim to collaborate with as many of them throughout my career.

DD: We’ve come a long way since DASH opened back in 1990. What growth have you witnessed in your history with DASH? How would you envision DASH ten years from now? Where do you see yourself 10 years down the road?

SM: DASH has grown since I attended the school in many ways—popularity, neighborhood, exposure, achievement. I remember the year I graduated was a record breaking scholarship year, over $5 million was given to our class… I know this has just escalated since. I envision more alum getting involved with DASH in the coming years and the community and students collaborating in a different capacity then now. Wouldn’t it be great if DASH’s graduates helped to advance the school?

In 10 years, I see myself working in a creative space where creators practice, share and collaborate on a daily basis. I also see myself as an art therapist and teacher. Maybe at DASH!

DD: Please share something unusual about yourself. What are your hidden talents, extraordinary accomplishments, big-dream ambitions, or upcoming adventures?

SM: I still shoot film and print my images in the darkroom! I am completely connected and curious about the photographic process and older techniques. The art is not lost!

Since launching Create Collect in December, I have assisted in curating and producing two pop-up exhibitions and amazing response in Miami. We’re constantly producing new content and finding new artists to join our community… including two DASH alumni! (More to come!) My dream is to create a scholarship program to showcase and promote graduating DASH seniors.

And lastly, my long-term dream and goal is to be surrounded by passionate, creative individuals with the desire to collaborate and succeed together in a space that I have brought to life.

Check out for some of my recent works for sale and feel free to get in touch for a studio visit by emailing

Humans of DASH: Franzella Guido


MV5BODA3ODMxNjM0NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzU2MDkzMQ@@._V1._SX450_SY563_[1]DD: Tell us about your relationship with DASH, how long you’ve been part of the school community, and what work you are involved with beyond the school.

FG: I am an alumna of DASH, part of the first full graduating class. My relationship began as a wide-eyed 15 year old. Attending DASH changed the course of my life. I was fortunate to be accepted and graduate from Pratt Institute and to have the experience of living in New York City. I am now a professional licensed Architect and Interior Designer. I have been a designer on two nationally televised hit shows: “In a Fix” on The Learning Channel and “My First Place” on HGTV. I am the current president and co-founder of the DASH Alumni Association. We volunteer our time fundraising to provide scholarships for graduating students.

DD: DASH benefits so much from the support of our PTSA, Advisory Board, Alumni Association, Internship mentors and Design District neighbors. What would you say makes DASH’s relationship with its community so special?

FG: I believe what is so special about the relationship I have with DASH is that it represents a life altering experience. The positive energy that is generated by 500 highly motivated students discovering what they love to do, creating and pursuing their dreams is contagious and inspiring. I cannot help feel drawn to it like a magnetic field. It transforms lives like it transformed the Design District neighborhood from the 90’s and I feel grateful to have been a part of it.

DD: Many different kinds of people from many walks of life make up our school. How would you describe the uniqueness of your own family? What are your family’s thoughts or feelings about your work with DASH?

FG: My being the first to graduate with a professional degree in my family is the reason they value my experience with DASH. I continue my alumni volunteer work today to ensure DASH’s capacity to provide scholarship opportunities to deserving young people, like myself, so that they can reach their full potential.

DD: We’ve come a long way since DASH opened back in 1990. What growth have you witnessed in your history with DASH? How would you envision DASH ten years from now? Where do you see yourself 10 years down the road?

FG: DASH opened its doors in a desolate Design District. As a student, I recall the riots of the 90’s blocks from the school. Today thanks in part to the rising star of DASH and the Dacra master plan, the Miami Design District is once again the top destination in our city for leading designer showrooms. Ten years from now I see DASH benefiting from the prosperity of its alumni as we become established in our professions. I see my studio growing and striving to provide internships and job opportunities for DASH students.

DD: What are your hidden talents, extraordinary accomplishments, big-dream ambitions, or upcoming adventures that might inspire others?

FG: My goal with the alumni association is to sell enough Legacy Bricks to continue to provide and increase our scholarship contributions. I also see the need to enhance the school facility. It would be great to be able to remodel the student bathrooms. I have committed my time and design services, and am in the process of recruiting contributors in the community to donate tiles, plumbing fixtures, paint, installation, labor etc. to assist me in the remodeling while planning DASH’s inaugural 20th Year Reunion next spring and juggling motherhood duties of raising a precious, joyous child.

Humans of DASH: Teresa Grafton

humansofdash-03GraftonI am DASH’s French teacher and World Language/Social Studies department chair. Life before DASH included 5 years at Berlitz School of Languages after graduating from college — FSU and La Sorbonne. I then taught 16 years at Coral Park Sr High before working 3 years with a mentoring and scholarship program called Take Stock in Children.

During my time with TSIC, I had the opportunity to visit DASH. I had already been a fan of the concept of a design-themed high school. My husband is an architect and we had heard of DASH before. Seeing the students and staff firsthand was what really made me fall in love with the school.

My husband is a third generation architect and native Miamian. He has many interesting stories about the history of Miami. We have two grown children – one is a pet adoption counselor and the other is studying environmental law. They all appreciate the stories I tell about my amazing DASH students and how much I love them.

Looking back thoughout my 8 years at DASH, I’ve seen our students and our school win numerous awards. Looking forward, I will probably be retired a decade down the road since this is my 30th year teaching French. But I am sure DASH will continue its relentless pursuit of excellence.

Readers might be suprised to learn that I got my private pilot’s license when I was 20 years old and that I have been up in a hot-air balloon! Last year my husband and I travelled to Japan, a fascinating country and culture. My ultimate dream is to be able to live part of the year in Miami and part of the year in another interesting world city — Paris?  Provence?  Pisa? I plan to learn Italian when I retire. Pourquoi pas?

Humans of DASH: Katie Flood

Tell us your name, grade, DASH design program, and a bit about your background.

KF: I’m Katie Flood, a senior in the Fashion program. I attended the Ada Merritt K-8 Portuguese program before DASH. Without much formal art training, I feel that winning a Scholastic art award for sculpture was truly the catalyst that brought me to DASH. My art teacher at Ada Merritt, Lourdes Fuller, encouraged me to apply for Scholastics and for DASH. I was awarded a Gold Key and American Visions nomination for my “Bird Nest Shoe” sculpture and got to travel to Carnegie Hall with the other winners.

DD: What stands out in your memory about becoming a DASH student?

KF:  I was intimidated by the other students’ artwork, the amazing teachers, and the school’s high standards. I thought going to DASH would mean endless sleepless nights and grueling schoolwork. The reality turned out so different, as most seniors would agree. We’ve found if you love what you’re doing and strive to improve to the highest level, you work differently. You really listen in class and push yourself in new directions. You work hard but it really doesn’t feel like work because it’s your passion. I am proud and grateful to be a DASH student.

DD: DASH is one big diverse family. Tell us about the uniqueness of your own family.

KF: My family is pretty far flung, from cosmopolitan Miami all the way to the bayous of Louisiana and Arkansas. I have vacationed with them horseback riding through swamps, scuba diving in the Florida Keys, and hiking in Germany and Ireland. These experiences have opened my eyes to all kinds of people and perspectives from around the globe.

DD: What special challenges do you face at DASH and how do you manage them?

KF: Catching up with work I’ve missed while competing in Olympic level sailing regattas is my biggest challenge. Although art and sailing might seem incompatible, I’ve gotten good at scheduling my time so that I can do both and keep up my grades. With the intense pressure we put on ourselves at DASH, my sailing is a great outlet to release all that tension. When my boat leaves the beach, I am in a totally different environment and in total control of what happens – except for the wind! DASH is not a school for procrastinators. It’s crucial to communicate with teachers in advance so they don’t think you’re just goofing off. Being proactive is the key.

DD: What are your hidden talents, extraordinary accomplishments, big-dream ambitions, or upcoming adventures?

KF: Sailing. How weird is that for an art student?! Actually, it really isn’t. I’ve met many sailors who are artists. There’s something about going against the wind and analyzing how to achieve momentum. There is no giving up on a sailboat. You MUST guide the boat to go where you want by using only the wind. You’re entirely at the mercy of the elements. Life will trouble you like a rough sea troubles a captain, but the ones who pull through are the ones who can execute a new plan quickly and keep moving forward.

I began sailing at the age of six with Andrea Livingston. Now, at 17, I compete with Olympians and am a hopeful to go to the Rio Olympics in 2016. I have worked hard this year on learning to skipper the new Nacra 17 catamarans that will be used in Rio and, along with DASH alumni Sarah Newberry, I am one of very few female multihull skippers in the entire sport right now. Since the teams that compete must be mixed (female/male), I find myself in prime position. We’ll see what happens!

Humans of DASH: John Germain

John GermainMy name is John Germain and I teach grade 9 painting and drawing at DASH. This is my 5th year of teaching at the best school in the entire universe. I became certified to teach in the Miami-Dade Public School System in 1998, and taught elementary/middle school art for 11 years before becoming a member of the DASH faculty. I had always known about DASH as being one of the top magnet schools in the nation and indeed, for a long time I had hoped to teach there one day.

My first year of teaching at DASH was very exciting, and each year only gets better for me. With high school students, I am finally able to introduce lessons and aim my instruction at a higher conceptual level than at my previous elementary/middle level, and I can now teach from my life experience as a working artist more freely. Teaching at DASH is demanding but very fulfilling work. I genuinely feel like I make a difference to my students, and they in turn enrich and energize my life without fail on a daily basis.

I was born and raised in Buffalo, NY, and attended Ithaca College and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. I lived in New York City in my formative years as a young artist (1977-1988), and later for 5 years in Los Angeles (1988-1993) before settling in Miami.

I come from a very close knit Italian-American family. My father was actually a fairly accomplished amateur painter who later became a doctor to support his family, so I guess you could say he passed down the “art gene” to me. Several family members are involved with the arts. One nephew is a screenwriter in Los Angeles, another a novelist in Colorado, my sister is a museum employee at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, and my niece is a professional photographer in Brooklyn. When they have visited me, I’ve made sure they learn all about DASH, and they are thrilled (and actually a little jealous) that I’m so fortunate to work in such a stimulating environment among such dedicated teachers and talented students.

Between Earth and SkySwampspace Gallery presents John Germain
Between Earth and Sky
Opening Saturday, October 12, 2013, 7-11pm
150 NE 42nd Street, Miami Design District

Using anatomical references and mazes as metaphor, Germain’s work explores the relationship of individual psyche to Cosmos, ego self to Universal Self, human brain to Consciousness, personal soul to Spirit. Also on display will be the artist’s working journals, which he calls the “compost heap” for the gestation of ideas and visions in the development of the work.