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Our Founder, Ruth Lande Shuman

A dynamic and passionate innovator, Ruth Lande Shuman is an award-winning industrial designer deeply committed to using design to address two of the root causes of poverty: the under-education of our youth and their lack of job preparedness. Ms. Shuman received her B.A. in 1964 from the University of Pennsylvania and completed her M.S. in Industrial Design at Pratt Institute in 1989 with a thesis on “Modular Forms, Patterns, and Systems in Nature,” where she also completed a six-month post-graduate study on the psychological effects of color.

A pioneer in using design to engage disaffected youth in their education, Ms. Shuman set her sights on improving the lives of neglected NYC public school students, their teachers, families and communities. Alarmed by low test scores and high drop-out rates and appalled by the dreary and often prison-like facilities that operate as our middle and high schools, Ms. Shuman hit on the deceptively simple—yet incredibly successful—idea that one can fundamentally improve students’ attitudes and engagement by improving their learning environments.

In 1996, Ruth Lande Shuman founded the not-for-profit organization Publicolor to use color, collaboration, design, and the discipline of the commercial painting to engage at-risk students in their education, targeting the most underserved communities, most underperforming schools and most seriously disadvantaged middle and high school students. She quickly realized that lasting change requires an intensive and long-term commitment. As a result, she created COLOR Club, Next Steps, and Summer Design Studio to ensure that students are with us a minimum of 3 days a week for 4-6 years before college, and then all through college. She is very proud that out of a full and part-time staff of 41, 14 are Publicolor graduates.

Ruth firmly believes that every student is walking potential, and that it is our job to help them realize it. She is surrounded by a team who wholeheartedly shares this view.


Ms. Shuman has been deeply committed to community-based work for over 30 years, most notably as a founding trustee of the Big Apple Circus, where she served as an active board member for 17 years. She is a former trustee of the Rowena Reed Kostellow Fund at Pratt Institute, the Women’s Council at the University of Pennsylvania, the Mayor’s Voluntary Action Center, and The Kitchen, a preeminent presenter of contemporary performing arts. She was a member of the Union Free School Board of the Wiltwyck School, Ossining, NY. Ms. Shuman also served as the Mayor’s representative to the board of the Museum of Art & Design in New York City. Prior to founding Publicolor, Ms. Shuman assisted renowned designer, Gaetano Pesce, on projects in Japan and France. She also coordinated a large design exhibition and the accompanying award–winning Abrams book, “Mondo Materialis” for Steelcase Design Partnership. The exhibition traveled to major museums in the United States.



New York Landmarks Conservancy Living Landmark Honoree, 2018

Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Honorary Fellowship, 2018
National Arts and the Humanities Youth Program Award Winner, 2014
Rowena Reed Kostellow Award, 2014 (Pratt Institute)
TheWIFTS Foundation International Visionary Awards Honoree, 2014
Benjamin Moore HUE Award for Social Responsibility and Use of Design for Social Change, 2012
Purpose Prize Fellow, 2009
NY1 New Yorker of the Week, 2009 and 2002
New York Women’s Agenda’s Rising Star, 2002
President’s Service Award, 2000
Walt Disney VoluntEARS Award, 1998
Community Action Network Service Award, 1998
Donna Hanover Cool School Award, 1997

Elle Decor - April-May 95.jpeg
Elle Decor, April - May 1995
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