When the Department of Interior Architecture first started Festival of the Trees in 1987, it was a holiday-centered competition to promote and fundraise for interior architecture students. It's now grown to a signature event, with hundreds in attendance annually – raising funds for scholarships and study abroad grants.
"The event kicks off South Florida's holiday season," said Brian Schriner, dean of the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts. "The evening showcases our incredibly talented interior architecture students, furthering their relationships with design professionals and raising scholarship and study abroad grants.”
Throughout the years, South Florida’s architecture and design community has shown its support for quality education through its participation. Material companies and sponsors partner with designers to build unique holiday “trees.” The event reflects the creative energy of the community and is a true collaboration between designers, vendors and the public.
On the night of the gala, trees are put on display and auctioned off to the highest bidder or placed on sale at a set price. All net proceeds go directly toward providing scholarships and programs for interior architecture students and travel grants for study abroad trips. The “trees” that are not sold or auctioned are donated to the Cortxia Foundation – an education nonprofit.
Since its start, the event has raised more than $500,000 – benefiting many students who go on to work professionally in the interior design field.
This year’s 34th installment of the gala — held earlier this month —comes as the no. 16 nationally ranked School of Architecture continues to celebrate its 25th anniversary. More than 400 people attended and nearly $100,000 was raised this year alone.
Visiting Assistant Teaching Professor Esperanza Muino earned her master's in interior architecture at FIU. She also was a beneficiary of a scholarship raised at the event. Hear about her experience in the video below.