Skateboard decks. Screen printing ink. Racks and racks of T-shirts featuring an upside-down “A.” These items have one thing in common: The artist Kariuki.
Inside a shop at the Midtown Mall, Curtis Kariuki is designing apparel that strengthens the bond between Clark and the Worcester community. Kariuki is the second city artist highlighted through CLARKxCOLLAB, a passion project launched by Joseph Corazzini, vice president for government and community affairs. Each year, a city artist creates a limited series streetwear line specifically for Clark. The effort helps bridge Clark and the young people driving the Worcester arts scene. Kariuki’s downtown Worcester shop is the first brick-and-mortar location for his brand, Denied Approval.
“Students often ask how to build community and feel connected to Worcester,” says Corazzini. “I started thinking about having local artists bring urban flair to Clark gear, but in a way that’s about more than the clothes. It’s really about facilitation and invitation to the culture.”
Corazzini hopes each collaboration creates something that will be an enduring piece of the Clark University legacy.
“I want somebody to have the 2025 hoodie 20 years from now,” he says. “That’s the piece that they keep and that means something to them.”
Corazzini also aims to help Worcester artists gain a bigger audience and sell their work. “This is for the artists to have more commerce,” he says, “and when they sell their gear here, one hundred percent of the profits will go to them.”
Corazzini and Kariuki are both Worcester natives.
“I would say this collaboration between Clark and Denied Approval really represents Worcester,” Kariuki says. “I grew up skateboarding around Clark.”
Kariuki prepared sample CLARKxCOLLAB designs and showed them at a booth during the Community Engagement and Volunteering Fair in September. Students voted for their favorite design. The finished apparel will be for sale during Family and Friends Weekend Oct. 13-15, an event Kariuki believes will bring people together to support local art and culture.
“I feel like this project is going to get a lot of support from the city,” says Kariuki. Most of Kariuki’s designs feature Worcester and Clark-based imagery: a skateboarder backed by the city skyline, flags of all of the global communities in Worcester and at Clark, and the University logo with the artist’s trademark upside-down “A.”
The project began last year when Joel Stanley Dunbar Jr., professionally known as MAYD in America, approached Clark about selling his work on campus. He was launching a new streetwear line and had created some Clark-inspired designs. With Corazzini’s input, an even better idea, CLARKxCOLLAB, was born.
The 2023 project is bigger than last year’s — there will be more promotion, more shirts, and more community engagement.
“Streetwear and the subtlety of Kariuki’s brand is something that I think will appeal to Clark students,” says Domenica Perrone, the director of Community Engagement and Volunteering. “His perspective as somebody who grew up in Worcester, has traveled the country, and has been influenced by the hip hop music scene nationwide, will resonate well.”
Kariuki’s designs will likely retail from $5 to $80, and he estimates he’ll print around 300 shirts. He hopes that his work represents the Worcester arts scene as he knows it.
“It’s inspirational that someone from the community is doing this project with Clark,” Kariuki says. “It makes everything feel a little bit more possible.”