Transformation of ISB Continues

A little over a year after breaking ground, the renovation of the Illustration Studies Building is moving along on schedule, with the addition of a slender glass tower on the east face of the building and massive amounts of interior work continuing this summer.

“The project is coming along beautifully,” affirms Department Head Rob Brinkerhoff. While the building remained in use during the 13/14 academic year, construction work continued in the addition.

This summer workers are tearing out the old bathrooms and stairwell in the main building and installing ductwork for the new HVAC systems.

Fundraising continues to keep the project on track, but if all goes as planned, Brinkerhoff says that by next fall (2015) “we’ll have what amounts to a brand new building, more working space and – most importantly – an appropriate home for the 300 students and 43 faculty members who make up the largest departmental community at RISD.”

Providence-based jewelry maker Priya Himatsingka 00 JM has launched an updated website to promote her sizable collection of elegant, handmade pieces made of silver, high-karat gold and diamonds. Born in India to a family of textile designers, Hamatsingka studied at Parsons and NYU before coming to RISD. Her beautifully understated necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings are available online, through wholesale distribution and at scores of stores throughout the country.

Controlled Chaos Coming Soon

imageSunset Overdrive is all about fun in the end times and I wanted to reflect that in the art style,” notes art director Jacinda Chew 99 IL in a recent interview. She’s speaking about the latest computer game she has been developing with the team at Insomniac Games in California.

imageThe Insomniac team is in overdrive itself as artists and developers work to finalize a bazillion details before the game releases this fall. In this video (below), Chew talks about street fashion, the thinking behind the character development, questions of diversity and why she feels Sunset Overdrive will appeal to an international audience.

Chew also says that in developing the apocalyptic environments, she looked to some of Havana’s old buildings for inspiration, noting that she loves “how the peeling paint and plaster would often reveal other colors underneath. This eventually made it into our game as brushstrokes that are splashed onto the asphalt, buildings and even clothes. Not only did I want the world to be a happy place full of vibrant color, but a place where you didn’t have to follow any rules. This is why we didn’t bother to paint within the lines. It’s controlled chaos.”

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When asked which game character she’d most like to be, Chew doesn’t skip a beat before responding: “I’d be Bunny Girl all the way.” 

Rising Interest in RocketSkates

After dreaming about motorized skates for nearly a decade, Peter Treadway 96 ID is about to see his dream come true thanks to a phenomenally successful Kickstarter campaign. His California-based startup ACTON launched the campaign to raise $50K for the initial run of RocketSkates™, but has already brought in more than $445K in pledges. “I developed 50 or 60 prototypes,” the designer says, “and now we’ve finally got the product rolling, literally and figuratively.”

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The lightweight electric skates attach to shoes and propel the skater along at up to 12 mph. Three models will be available (with increasing range and run times before a battery recharge is needed) at prices ranging from $499 to $699. Skaters use their feet to kick off, tilt forward to accelerate and backward to slow down.

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RocketSkates have been generating a lot of buzz on tech-savvy media outlets such as the BBC Newsletter and engadget.com, and have been highlighted on a number of TV news shows. As Treadway explained to a Fox news reporter, the objective is to get people out of their cars for local errands and spins around town.

RISD Grads Contribute to Simpsons’ Wins

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Chuck Ragins 91 IL, a longtime layout artist for The Simpsonsrecently won an Emmy for his design work on last season’s Halloween episode. As America’s perennial favorite animated series celebrates 25 years on the air, Ragins points out that dozens of artists and animators he’s worked with over the past 18 years are fellow RISD grads. “We have had a lot of influence over the visual evolution of the show since the second season,” he says.

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Ragins won his first Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation in 2010 for his work on the episode Postcards from the Wedge. In a tip of the hat to his home state of Alaska, he also made a cameo appearance as a chairlift operator at a questionable ski resort in the 2000 episode Little Big Mom.

Happily Ever After

imageIn late July Los Angeles-based artist and steampunker Andrew Fogel 09 FAV surprised Kate Walsh 08 IL by getting down on one padded knee to propose on stage at the sixth annual Starburner Awards at the 2014 Comic Con convention in San Diego. Despite the fact that Walsh had previously told Fogel he was “not allowed to propose on stage,” it looks like she said yes as members of the couple’s tribe were being honored for outstanding contributions to the steampunk community.

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Cozzens Wins Recognition at Foo Fest

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When Providence arts collective AS220 celebrates independent music and arts at its annual Foo Fest tomorrow (August 9), it will also present Free Culture Awards to avant-garde performance artist Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and transgendered printmaker Ian Cozzens BArch 05 (above), who creates prints as “strategic solidarity maneuvers against the forced hetero-normativity of late capitalism.”

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The biennial awards recognize artists “whose work has made a significant contribution to grassroots, participatory culture and freedom of expression, and whose art and/or process embodies the organization’s unjuried, uncensored mission.” The prize itself is a glass (society-shaping) hammer designed by AS220 Artistic Director Umberto Crenca and artist Steve Easton.

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“Shared, self-made graphics hold power for creating our lives and realities,” says Cozzens – “for piecing our stories together based on memory, delight, the irrational, the impossible, the failed and the beautiful.”

Standing in the center of Woods-Gerry Gallery, David Harrison took a quiet moment to size up What’s Left Behind, a rust-stained garment adorned with large metal nails. Pre-College student Gillian Yerington made the piece during the intensive intro to college-level studio work she has been experiencing this summer at RISD.

“It would be completely impractical to wear this,” notes Harrison. “There’s a real possibility you could get slightly impaled if you bumped against the hardware. But it’s totally inspiring to see how the artist went about making it. It’s really powerful.”

The sharply designed textile is on view through tomorrow, August 8, in the Pre-College Exhibition, a collection of engaging works made by teenage artists enrolled in the six-week program. On Wednesday evening, hundreds of students celebrated the show of their final projects at a bustling opening reception.

Harrison (pictured above) also debuted his own textile imprinted with a grid of graphics based on US license plates. “The owners of a diner in my hometown strung up funny vanity plates to a wall,” explains the native of Exeter, NH. “That image has always stayed with me. I thought it would be an interesting visual pattern to silkscreen.”

While taking a break from welding in RISD’s metal shop to visit the show, Amy Lubinstein 17 SC was immediately taken with Letters, a statuesque mannequin made of delicate paper (to the left in the second row above). Cyrus Glanzer made the arresting piece while studying Sculpture this summer with faculty member Lu Heintz 01 SC.

“I’m drawn to the sheer size of this paper doll,” explains Lubinstein. “And the texture of the layered paper is just elegantly beautiful.”

If you’re on campus, act fast! The exhibition at Woods-Gerry closes on Friday, August 8.

Joyful Anarchy Rewarded!

New graduate Josh Sehnert 14 FAV has won the grand prize in Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Festival with his film Mr. Piggy Dies in 25 Dimensions (see below). It’s as over-the-top as the “cartoons intended for human consumption” he features on Farkey, his Vimeo site.

In explaining why Sehnert’s unusually long film (16-minutes pushes the limit for this format) stands out, Cartoon Brew notes that it’s:

…an increasingly manic 25-chapter saga of a pig, Mr. Piggy, who dies. If you ever wanted a definition – or a parody – of the New Aesthetic art movement, this is the film you’d show. Sehnert understands that animation and technology are inseparable nowadays, and he makes you aware of the technology behind his images every single step of the way.

The film represents what every student film should aspire to: joyful anarchy that revels in the fact that as a student, you can do anything. You can try everything. Doesn’t matter if it works or fails. Surely, every idea in Mr. Piggy Dies doesn’t succeed. That’s hardly the point. Sehnert experiments. 

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“As a character, I wanted Mr. Piggy to be a sympathetic narcissist,” Sehnert explains. “Given the title and repetition of his death as a constant joke, the inevitability of his demise mixed with his misguided optimism set up the perfect atmosphere for Mr. Piggy’s comedic tragedy to constantly reinvent itself.”

To hear more from Sehnert about how and why he developed Mr. Piggy Dies, check out the full story on Cartoon Brew.

New Documentary Looks at Trans Issues

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TransJourney, a new documentary by Literary Arts + Studies faculty member Alexia Kosmider, will premiere this weekend as part of the Rhode Island International Film FestivalThe film – which Kosmider began with her late partner, director Deb Monuteaux – follows the interwoven paths of three women whose lives are changed by the realities of transitioning from one gender to another. It explores new ways of understanding identity, family and belonging.  

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“Young people are glad we’re making these films,” says Kosmider. “They can see role models [and realize] that they’re not alone – that their decisions are important. These stories are about courage, affirmation and acceptance. They allow viewers to see transgendered people in a different way.”

Kosmider has also made documentaries called Not Your Mama’s Roller Derby (2009) and Sappho’s Fire (2011), a film about 10 aging lesbians. At RISD she teaches courses on queer cinema and LGBTQ literature and culture.

TransJourney will be screened in the Chace Center’s Metcalf Auditorium this Saturday, August 9, at 7 pm. 

Bradley Promotes Accessibility

When arts administrators from across the country gathered in Chicago over the weekend, they recognized Rebecca Bradley MA 10 with a 2014 Emerging Leader Award at the Kennedy Center’s Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD) ConferenceThe goal of honoring selected leaders in the field is to increase awareness and focus on the importance of accessibility at artistic venues and cultural institutions across the country.

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Bradley coordinates accessibility for Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which includes the de Young Museum and the Palace of the Legion of Honor in Golden Gate Park. Since joining the organization in 2012, she has introduced Artful Discoveries, an interactive program for museum visitors living with early-stage dementia. 

 

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RISD will have an unusually strong presence at next month’s Ottawa International Animation Festival, which runs from September 17–21 in Canada’s capital city. One of the leading festivals in the world, OIAF received 2,033 entries from 70 countries, with judges selecting 101 short films, five features and 71 showcase films to be screened. 

Among the five features chosen for the competition is Truth Has Fallen, a one-hour animated documentary by Sheila Sofian 83 FAV on James McCloskey’s work to free prisoners who have been wrongly convicted of murder.

The RISD School Reel, a 38-minute curated collection of animated films made by 10 juniors and seniors, has been selected for inclusion in the official school category.

The Divide (3:50) by Brent Sievers 14 FAV is among the films that will be screened as part of the RISD School Reel, while also competing in the Undergraduate category. 

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Superjail!, a boisterous series co-created by Christy Karacas 97 FAV, will compete in the Television Series category, while Hockey Dream, an ad for Oreos by Dan Abdo 00 FAV and Jason Patterson 99 FAV, competes in the promotional category.

Other great films by RISD people to look for next month in Ottawa include:

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Toro by Lynn Kim 14 FAV in the Undergraduate competition, along with Lesley the Pony Has an A+ Day! by Christian Larrave 15 FAV and The Divide by Brent Siever 14 FAV.

Jiro Visits the Dentist by Gina Kamentsky (FAV faculty) and Totem and Yield by Caleb Wood 11 FAVwill compete in the Experimental category.


Hundred Waters ‘Cavity’ by Michael Langan 07 FAV will be screened as part of the Music Video competition.

And the following films will also part of the festival’s non-competitive showcase:
Ladies’ Night by Simeon Kondev 14 FAV

Happy Holidays! by Leah Shore 09 FAV

Happy and Gay byLorelei Pepi 87 IL (former FAV faculty) 

Goodbye Rabbit, Hop Hop by Caleb Wood 11 FAV

All in all, RISD-related films comprise roughly 10% of the work selected for OIAF worldwide – a great showcase for some of the finest films to emerge this year.

The newly minted Industrial Design grads who run Plust, a small firm based in Providence, go to tremendous lengths to test their prototypes. In March  Toshi Sakagushi 14 ID and Lukas Scheurer 14 ID hopped in a car and drove south to Key West, FL to test the durability of Linkmount, a multifunctional device they’re developing for smart phones that offers a magnetic dock and wrist leash while also functioning as a tripod.

“It’s a smart phone gadget that helps you create better content and keeps you in control of your phone,” Sakagushi explains. “Plus, it’s reusable so you don’t have to throw it out when you upgrade your phone.” 

After hammering out the initial design, the Plust team built a short-run injection mold to make their prototype. They then tested the device in shooting video of themselves snowboarding down a mountain, canoeing in a river and soaring through the sky in a two-person plane.

The designers are now running a Kickstarter campaign to offset some of the costs of manufacturing the Linkmount, hoping to raise $35,000 by the end of September. 

In the process of testing their prototype, they’ve “met all types of people on the road,” Sakagushi says. “As designers, it’s so satisfying to hear that this little device makes their lives better.”

Best Job in DC?

As creative director in the White House Office of Digital Strategy (ODS), Ashleigh Axios 08 GD admits to having one of the most “fun” high-stress jobs in DC.

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ODS is engaged on a range of key issues for the Obama Administration, from WhiteHouse.gov and the We the People petitions platform to all White House social media presence,” she says in a new interview posted on the AIGA site. Having joined what was initially a two-person design team, she’s involved in producing everything from infographics to videos to everything else needed to communicate complex information digitally.

“Everyone on the team wears multiple hats, contributes big and small ideas to the digital strategy behind the Obama Administration, executes in hyper speed and has a lot of fun,” Axios explains in the AIGA interview, adding: “And for the record, Healthcare.gov wasn’t us.”

The designer (who’s also vice president of the AIGA DC chapter) points out that while she’s aware that a lot of people still think of “government sites as dry and ineffective,” she’s been working hard to change that perception. “I’m excited to see government designers, developers and strategists going beyond mediocre design and performance to meet the rising expectation from the public on how government ought to look, serve and engage with them,” Axios says.

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And when asked about what it’s really like to work in the West Wing every day, Axios doesn’t hesitate. “Are you kidding? It’s fantastic!,” she says. “I get to work with talented and fun people – including the president – and walk onto the complex looking at that beautiful and historic building most mornings…. It’s a truly amazing experience.”

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The official photo of the day posted on Whitehouse.gov for July 30, 2014 (photo by Pete Souza).

Braving the Elements

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Putting the A in STEAM, a recent story in the New York Times, features a piece by sculptor Rebecca Kamen MFA 78 SC, who continues to bridge the perceived divide between art and science while advocating for reintroducing the arts to the reigning educational emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math.

Times writer Susan Hodara describes Kamen’s piece Divining Nature: An Elemental Garden – which was inspired by the periodic table – as “an assembly of 83 delicate sculptural forms made of shapes cut from white Mylar and stacked on fiberglass rods. Each of the shapes represents a naturally occurring element; they sprawl across the floor like spinning ballerinas and climb the wall in a spiral based on the Fibonacci sequence.”

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Kamen is currently working on a new installation inspired by gravitational wave physics, which will be exhibited at the National Academy of Sciences in 2015. “It will combine sculptural elements and a soundscape composed of sounds emitting from black holes,” the artist explains. “The installation will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s discovery of general relativity.”