Apr 18

Outstanding Young Landscape Architects


Landscape architect Cortney Kirk MLA 07 has been named to Building Design + Construction magazine’s Class of 2014 list of 40 Under 40 designers to watch. Honorees are selected “based on their career achievement, service to their professions and communities, and active participation in charitable work.” All 40 are featured in the April issue of the magazine.

Kirk is being recognized for her outstanding work as a project manager at the Copley Wolff Design Group in Boston, where she’s currently working on seven projects in four states (including work at UMass/Amherst, above), and for her distinctive vision as an educator. Using her background in film production, she created several unique landscape architecture courses at Boston Architectural College that explore the role of film in the design process.

“Each role in my career has allowed me to reach out, educate, and demystify what landscape architecture is,” says Kirk, “while providing an avenue for me to continue to push and explore my interest in blending film production and landscape architecture.” She and the other 39 honorees will be feted at an awards ceremony in September.


Kirk is providing landscape solutions for Temple Israel in Omaha, NE. 

Apr 17

Ciao Roma


Graphic Design Critic Rob Giampietro, a principal at the NYC design studio Project Projects, has been awarded a 2014–15 Katherine Edwards Gordon Rome Prize for Design by the American Academy in Rome. Starting in September he’ll spend six months in the Eternal City working on Walk with Me, a series of interactive audio guides to Rome.

“I hope to record conversations and interviews while walking as a starting point for the audio guides,” says Giampietro, “and then supplement those conversations with further observations about the city as a kind of interface for memory, the body, history and more.”


The project was inspired by an interview with the late translator William Weaver published in The Paris Review in which he spoke of using dialogue with friends to refine his translations and of uncovering a hidden Rome by wandering through its streets deep in conversation. 

“I have been interested in Weaver for some time, having delighted in his translations of Eco, Calvino and other Italian authors since I was in high school,” Giampietro explains. “But I’m also interested in the figure of the translator within the discourse of graphic design.”

Apr 15

Arnold Prince, 1925–2014


Artist, author and former RISD faculty member Arnold Prince died peacefully in his Connecticut home on April 5 at the age of 89. An assistant professor in the Sculpture department from 1972–80, he was best known for his large-scale carvings in wood and stone and for his internationally distributed textbook Carving Wood and Stone: An Illustrated Manual (Prentice Hall, 1981). Prince immigrated to New York City in the 1950s from the island of Saint Kitts in the British West Indies, studied sculpture at the Art Students League of New York and began his teaching career at a Harlem high school.


photos courtesy of RISD Archives

Although his tenure at RISD was short, his impact was lasting. “I had considered Ceramics as my major until I took a carving course with Arnold Prince,” writes alumna Betsy Weiss van Die 80 SC. “I was so taken with his Caribbean charm and teaching techniques that I changed my major to Sculpture. He was not only a great teacher and incredibly talented sculptor, but we became fast friends. I consider Arnold to be my most influential mentor at RISD.”

Prince went on to teach at North Adams State College in Massachusetts and earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Rhode Island (URI) in 2000. His bronze sculpture of Civil Rights leader Arthur Hardge is on permanent display in front of URI’s Multicultural Building.

A memorial celebration honoring Prince’s life will be held at Eastern Connecticut State University on Friday, June 6. 

Board Conducts Listening Tour


Last week RISD Board of Trustees Chair Michael Spalter (center in the photo above) joined students in the Tap Room for the monthly Student Alliance meeting, as one of several stops on a “listening tour” the Board is conducting to inform its developing plans for the search for RISD’s 17th president. Seated next to student leaders Rosa Glenn 14 TX, head of the undergraduate Student Alliance, and Diana Wagner MID 14, head of the Graduate Student Alliance, he gave students an overview of the Board’s work to date and then asked for their input.

To get the conversation rolling, Spalter pointed to a young man in the audience and asked, “What qualities would you like to see in RISD’s next president?” The student responded that the ideal president would be “radically honest” and “unafraid of expressing a unique vision.” A lively, extended conversation with students followed as the Board chair drew out a long list of desired qualities.


Spalter went on to explain that the Board has been engaging in similar conversations with all facets of the RISD community. In addition to seeking input from students, this month he met with members of RISD’s Staff Council, the Alumni Council, the Parents’ Council and the Part-Time Faculty Association. Earlier he had gathered input at a regular Faculty Meeting, as well as at a meeting of the Museum Board of Governors. The Board has also surveyed alumni and parents to receive additional feedback.

In the meantime, a small working group of trustees has been reviewing potential search firms RISD may wish to engage and will make recommendations to the full Board for final approval. “[Board members] are taking these steps because we are committed to the principles of transparency of process, open communication and inclusivity in conducting the search,” Spalter told students. “We hope to make this search a true model for how presidential searches should be operated.” Next steps include hiring the search firm and appointing a search committee representative of all members of the RISD community. 

New Perspective on Cosmic Questions

If you want to put things in perspective, tune in to Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, the new science series Seth MacFarlane 95 FAV helped revive this spring. And maybe you already have.


Since it got off the ground with a ton of hype last month, MacFarlane’s new Cosmos seems to be hitting a chord with viewers in all 181 countries where it currently airs. While it’s a lot glitzier than its predecessor – the late Carl Sagan’s popular 13-part PBS series from 1980 – the show does a great job of reminding us of our relative insignificance living on this “small speck of dust” we call earth.

As executive producer and prime mover, MacFarlane (second from right above) got the blessing of Fox – home base for his animated sitcom Family Guy – and teamed up with Sagan’s original creative collaborators: his wife and writer/executive producer Ann Druyan and co-writer/astronomer Steven Soter, who invited astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to stand in for Sagan.

As Forbes points out in this video made prior to the launch of the new Cosmos, MacFarlane is known more for the raunchy humor of his TV shows and movies like Ted than for his true interest in science. But he says the motivation for co-producing this impressive new take on the Cosmos concept stems from his reverence for the series he loved as a kid. 


Carl Sagan hosting Cosmos in 1980

Cosmos addressed questions that every human being has, whether they think about them on a mathematical level or just as a layman,” MacFarlane said in an interview quoted in the New York Times. “It presented them in a wonderfully candy-coated way for those of us who are not scientists, and yet it didn’t dumb anything down.”


Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts the new version of Cosmos

“No matter what you think of everything else [MacFarlane has] done,” writes a critic for The Wrap, “I think you’d have to agree: He’s using his power for good. Cosmos appeals to all our best instincts. It invites us to dream our biggest dreams, set our intellect free and come lay out under the vast twinkling sky.”


Drawing Life


Boston-based illustrator Natalya Zahn 01 IL clearly has an eye for animals, building on her lifelong love of wildlife to specialize in visualizing all kinds of natural phenomena – from tapirs to the anatomical differences in the way various animals breathe to how salamanders hatch and grow.

In fact, “animals are my jam and I spend inordinate amounts of time seeking them out (live or not so alive) to study and draw,” the illustrator points out. 


Zahn is also a true dog lover, as the sketches and editorial work she shares on her site show. And her greatest love – her Rhodesian Ridgeback, Oscar – not only accompanies her to the studio every day, he’s the inspiration behind her wonderful blog Oscar Ate My Muffin. 


Last month Zahn posted this – capturing the pure bliss of a dog with his donut (aka Oscar after downing a decadent maple-glazed bacon delight on his birthday).

Apr 14


Out of the Box



Last weekend the Providence Ballet Theatre premiered The Magic Box, a new piece by choreographer Eva Marie Pacheco and composer Roger Seitz. RISD students created the set design and costumes in a Wintersession studio taught by Sculpture Critic Jane South and Interior Architecture Critic and Brown Theatre Arts and Performance Studies Lecturer Michael McGarty. Funding for the studio came from RISD’s newly launched Robert L. Turner Theatrical and Performance Design initiative, backed by NYC-based theater aficianado Robert Turner 74 IL.

Making Mass More Accessible


Does your latest find for the iPad come with the blessing of an archbishop? Mass Explained, a new app Daniel Gonzalez 93 GD created to explain the Roman Catholic Mass, is the first to receive a doctrinal imprimatur from Archbishop Thomas Wenski, along with approval from the US bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship.

Gonzalez has spent the better part of 20 years working to understand the most fundamental Catholic rituals in preparation for launching Mass Explained in January. Since then, the app has been downloaded in 30 countries and reviews are over-the-top ecstatic, from “knocked me off my feet” to “without question the most elegant, content-rich, beautiful app for the iPad that I have come across.”


“I was really stunned by how good the layout is along with all the graphic media found on every page,” writes Jeff Miller on The Curt Jester. “This is a very beautiful app…I am extremely impressed.”


Shaking Things Up


Experimental visual artist Janine Antoni MFA 89 SC – a MacArthur genius award winner and the 2003 recipient of RISD’s Alumni Award for Artistic Achievement – has been collaborating with dancer and choreographer Stephen Petronio in a very fruitful and mutually inspiring way.

Earlier this month Petronio premiered the results of their latest collaboration – a solo piece called Stripped – at the Joyce Theater in New York City. Set to composer Philip Glass’ Etude No. 5, the dance relies on a “costumed intervention” by Antoni in the form of a collection of men’s ties sewn together as a kind of headpiece for Petronio. 


Last year the two artists collaborated on Like Lazarus Did, a dance in which Antoni lay suspended above the audience as a “living set.” They also pursued the evocation of birth suggested by that piece in a subsequent video called Honey Baby, which has been exhibited with her installations. 

In the video above – shot for Art21– the two artists talk about the advantages of blurring the roles of choreographer and visual artist, noting that they plan to continue to work together on other projects. As a recent story in The New York Times points out, they like that they “shake each other up.”

Apr 13

On Empathy and Making

In the TEDx talk Seung Chan (Slim) Lim MFA 11 GD recently delivered at Wellesley College, he speaks about how empathy fuels the creative process – a topic he began exploring while at RISD. He published a book on the subject, Realizing Empathy: An Inquiry Into the Meaning of Making, in 2013.

“As a designer I must find ways to harness the most complex of technologies into an experience that is not only pleasant, but also empowering and meaningful,” says Lim. “I have learned that making things is analogous to engaging in an empathic conversation with another person.” 

Apr 11

RISD Educators Earn Science Awards


This morning Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee visited the Fleet Library at RISD to present the 2014 RI Science & Technology Advisory Council (STAC) awards. The grants facilitate collaborative research among the state’s institutions of higher education and support STAC’s partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF). This year’s seven winning research teams were awarded a total of $806,000 to study how marine life in Narragansett Bay is responding to climate change. Nature Lab Director Neal Overstrom, Head of Landscape Architecture Scheri Fultineer and Sculpture  Lecturer Edythe Wright are all members of the winning research teams.


Neal Overstrom (left), director of the Nature Lab, represents his research team at today’s awards ceremony.

“RISD values creative problem solving, critical thinking and an openness to risk and uncertainty – fundamental and necessary skills in developing innovative approaches to the world’s most challenging problems,” noted interim President Rosanne Somerson 76 ID in the accompanying press release. “These STAC grant awards represent our belief that bringing art and design together with STEM disciplines can have a transformative effect on education, innovation and economic development.”

At the ceremony, Governor Chafee noted that the $9.3 million the state has invested in the program to date has yielded $36 million in matching grants and federal funding, thus boosting the local economy. Interim Provost Pradeep Sharma, who was on hand to welcome the crowd, noted that “diversity is at the core of creativity, and these awards are a testament to the power of diverse teams.”


Apr 10

Will Throw for Food


Ceramics students at Marshall University have crafted 1,200 bowls in preparation for tomorrow’s 11th annual Empty Bowls food bank fundraiser in Huntington, WV. Assistant Professor of Art Frederick Bartolovic MFA 06 CR is once again leading the students in their drive to feed the hungry. “It is a great honor to organize this production effort,” he said. “The problem of hunger in our own community is at times hard to believe. Empty Bowls is an opportunity for Marshall students to help the community, to see that art can make a difference!” Visitors at the event will purchase bowls for $15 each, and the food bank’s director of development estimates that the proceeds will provide more than 100,000 meals in the coming year. 

Polish Prose


On Monday night, celebrated Polish painter and writer Grzegorz Wróblewski recited some of his gripping prose poetry in the Chace Center’s Metcalf Auditorium. The multi-talented artist read from Kopenhaga, a comprehensive collection of work inspired by the joys and difficulties he experiences as an immigrant living in Denmark. Piotr Gwiazda, an English professor at the University of Maryland, attended the event to read aloud his own English translations of the text.

Some of Wróblewski’s more humorous literary vignettes poke fun at the absurdities of everyday life. Other pieces are introspective musings on humans’ capacity to commit atrocious acts. “What terrifies me in Denmark – the land of Bohr and Kierkegaard, a caring tolerate state with a high standard of living? What terrifies me is Homo sapiens,” he noted.

The author also gave some pointed advice for beginning writers. “If an editor doesn’t respond [to your work], you need to calmly drain two bottles of cheap wine and discuss the matter with local pigeons,” he quipped.

After the reading, a student asked how his painting process influences his writing. “I find that I go between both mediums fluently,” Wróblewski responded. “Art fuels my writing in interesting and unexpected ways.”