If interim President Rosanne Somerson 76 ID could go back in time and give her 21-year-old self a valuable piece of advice, she’d urge: Plan way ahead.
“Think of yourselves as an institution,” she told students at the first session of RISD Leads on Monday night. “Where do you want to be in 20 years? Every skill you acquire here is crucial to your development and instrumental in building your future. Leaders are always looking to the future.”
Now in its second year, the RISD Leads series is organized by the Center for Student Involvement (CSI) as a means of helping students build leadership abilities, develop critical thinking skills and learn how to be catalysts for social change.
Seated in front of approximately 100 artists and designers, Somerson shed light on how her own experiences as a RISD student, furniture maker and successful entrepreneur have helped her develop effective leadership skills. At one point during the discussion, a student asked the president to share what she learned through launching her acclaimed furniture studio.
“It’s important to retain an unwavering commitment to the vision of your practice,” Somerson responded. “If you remain focused on your ideas – and can act resourcefully – it’s possible to make something wildly innovative.”
This RISD Leads series continues this year with a line-up of great guest speakers. For example, Umberto Crenca – founder and director of the arts nonprofit AS220 – will come to campus on October 17 to discuss how his artist-run organization has helped revitalize downtown Providence. On November 3, students will also get the chance to hear from Bobby Gondola, operations director at Year Up, an organization that empowers underserved young adults to pursue rewarding careers.
With a particular interest in entrepreneurship, Kevin Cadena 16 GD is attending the workshop series to get inspiration for Sushi Time Co., his budding clothing company. The graphic designer looks forward to meeting with Bill Foulkes, a faculty member who is hosting a RISD Leads lecture on “creative intelligence” on November 17. “This is all good food for thought,” Cadena noted with a smile.
Jack Dickerson 69 GD says that he paints “things not as they are” but based on how he feels about them. As the owner of Dickerson Gallery on Cape Cod, he paints first and foremost to please himself, showing work that also appeals to the people who drop by his gallery in Brewster, MA. His boats, sunsets, marshes and shellfish are especially popular.
Dickerson recently shared a telling but very basic story about how he got from there to here:
“I ran my own very successful graphic design firm in Boston for 27 years believing that we had a huge responsibility to truly and meaningfully help our clients,” he explains. But when he was in his mid-50s he felt there was something more he had left undone.
“I had never painted before age 53, and started drawing on vacations, and then started painting with some of my wife’s 30-year-old oils,” Dickerson explains. “Things progressed and I scaled back my design biz to one person (myself), did some superb work with very large clients and then took the full jump” to making art full time.
“So here I am on Cape Cod, years later, selling my paintings in my own gallery. I paint in many different styles…”
The graphic designer-turned-painter has this to say about Jump for Joy: “gestures and movement! I love working in this style.”
As for “the take-away” from Dickerson’s decision to forego a career in graphic design in favor of fine art: “We never really know what we are fully capable of,” he says. “With determination, self-motivation and longing for meaningfulness, we can find that at any time in our lives. There are a lot of people who simply need to believe in themselves.”
Sebago, the classic New England footwear company, is turning to RISD students, faculty and staff with interesting studio and workspaces in order to shoot an ad campaign they’re calling Life Well Crafted.
Interested artists and designers should show up at Market House this Thursday, September 18, between 6 and 10 pm with a photo of their studio or workspace in hand.
Anyone chosen for the shoot on October 4 and 5 will pocket $500 and get to see their feet (and gorgeous selves in studio) in a campaign to promote Sebago’s high-quality leather boat shoes and loafers.
When US News & World Report recently released its new rankings for the 2015 Best Graduate Schools in the country, RISD earned second place for its fine arts programs overall (just behind Yale).
The rankings are based on a variety of data, including assessment by administrators at peer institutions, retention of students, faculty resources, alumni giving and graduation rates.
As terrifying Ebola news continues to stream out of West Africa, recently appointed executive director of the GAIA Vaccine Foundation Eliza Squibb 13 TX (above, left) reports that the organization is making strides in Mali in the fight against HPV and cervical cancer, with plans to help publicize the risk of the Ebola virus as well.
Given that GAIA’s clinic in Bamako, Mali is having great success with the educational textile Squibb designed in 2012 to encourage HPV vaccinations, it plans to take a similar approach to educating villagers about Ebola. Fortunately, no cases of the deadly disease have been reported yet in Mali.
“Crowded into a small room with over 30 women,” Squibb writes, “it was overwhelming to hear such positive responses to the pattern I designed while I was still a student. The (94-year-old) village chief even came up with a slogan in Bambara that we can add to the design: “It’s better to prevent than cure.”
Jacqueline Siefert 12 AP is more than just a pretty face. When she competes in the Miss Rhode Island USA Pageant this weekend at the RI Convention Center, she’ll be wearing her own designs – from swimsuit to evening gown to jewelry. “I’m definitely going to play up the RISD connection,” she says, “and the fact that I made my own wardrobe!”
Siefert was a finalist in the Supima Cotton Competition at New York Fashion Week in 2012, where she showed five stunning eveningwear looks (above). The winner of the Miss Rhode Island Pageant will go on to compete in the Miss USA pageant in 2015.
Thanks to support from a Sundance Institute Production Grant, recent graduate RaMell Ross MFA 14 PH was able to hop on a plane to Iceland over the summer to meet with Alex Somers and fellow Photography MFA grad Scott Alario MFA 13 PH (above). He has commissioned the music duo (who used to be bandmates in the group Parachutes) to create an original soundtrack for Hale County, his feature-length documentary about the lives of two young African-American men growing up in Alabama.
“I wanted the compositions to be sparse and atmospheric,” Ross says – “a perfect backdrop to the textured visuals in the film that amplify injustice, ambition and the impact of social stratification.”
Somers and Alario certainly have the repertoire to make audio magic. The creative team has been known to collaborate with international sensations Sigur Ros and other famous acts in Somers’ Reykjavík recording studio. “Our music is sort of naive and fragile and gentle,” notes Somers. “We’ll use old, crusty cassettes to record mixes so the sound [quality] is really low-fi and blown out.”
Somers admits they were initially surprised when Ross expressed interest in their delicate compositions. “At first I thought it was a really odd pairing: our type of music and this story about urban street kids,” he says. “But then I understood RaMell’s vision. When these two forms of art come together, it creates an intensely emotional experience for the viewer.”
After digging out a huge chest stocked with a vibraphone, harmonica, drums, bells and toy microphones, the musicians spent a week in July working practically nonstop on the beautiful recordings. Ross will later edit down his final footage to fit the flow of the music.
“We did play with some percussive sequences – but we shied away from including too much rhythm,” notes Somers. “We didn’t want to distract viewers away from the action on screen.”
Find out more about the film in progress in this story on risd.edu.
Last Saturday campus was crawling with Orientation Leaders and other upperclass students ready to help new students move in to their temporary digs at RISD. The day was as wonderfully welcoming and joyfully chaotic as ever.
Resident Assistants helped the 451 freshmen who moved into the Quad begin to get oriented, if not quite “settled” in these first exciting days.
Bold new signage throughout campus helped direct incoming students and their families to where they needed to be.
And The Met – RISD’s main dining hall – looked better than ever, with a newly refurbished interior and new seating for outdoors, too.
photos by Antonio Peters 04 IL
President Rosanne Somerson 76 ID was among the many RISD administrators and staff members on hand to welcome new students, who – as always – come from close to campus and the far reaches of the world.
As part of getting the year off to a good start, students who arrived early to participate in last week’s Pre-Orientation Service Experience volunteered in the community as a way of getting to know RISD, its environment and most importantly, each other.
Last week New York Times reporter Jim Dwyer wrote an interesting behind-the-scenes piece about Stoll New York that largely focused on Edun knitwear designer Emily Thornton 10 AP. In the midst of preparing Edun’s line for New York Fashion Week, she popped into Stoll’s 39th Street shop to create a few last-minute pieces for the runway show.
"The things that I am making here this week will be on the runway Sunday at 6 pm,” Thornton told the Times. “It’s like instant gratification. You can run across the street and change things. You can give them new things. Or if one yarn doesn’t work, you give them another yarn.”
Thornton worked for Calvin Klein’s Women’s Collection for almost five years before her spring move to Edun, a brand founded by rock superstar Bono and his wife Ali Hewson to promote manufacturing and trade in Africa.
“I love the industry because it is so tactile; it doesn’t exist in the ether,” Thornton told Dwyer for his NYT story.
To mark the official beginning of the academic year today, Provost Pradeep Sharma welcomed new faculty and RISD students from 38 countries and 41 states at the 2014 Convocation ceremony in the RISD Auditorium. Professors and department heads in full robed regalia attended the annual event, with a livestream broadcast sent to the overflow crowd in the Chace Center’s Metcalf Auditorium.
Sharma introduced RISD Museum Director John W. Smith, who told new students about the museum’s great assets, along with department heads and graduate program directors – with a still photo from each highlighting their summer travels and explorations. The provost also delivered the core message of the day – a wonderfully provocative talk about tickling and revolution and the inherent contradictions of life in the 21st century. “Creativity exists,” he said, “in the uncanny spaces between the familiar and the unfamiliar.”
In offering her own warm and inspiring words of welcome, President Rosanne Somerson 76 ID recalled the many jobs she held when she was a student at RISD, including working in a local restaurant where she rubbed shoulders with a number of alumni who have gone on to make indelible marks on the world. Among them was a dishwasher who stood out from the crowd: musical and artistic maverick David Byrne (class of 1974), the Talking Heads founder who has continued to stand out for his incredible contributions to the art world. Somerson described RISD as the “official beginning of a lifelong dream” and urged students to “turn impossible challenges into tangible results.”
Film critics are describing Sunshine Superman, a heart-racing 96-minute documentary about BASE jumping directed by Marah Strauch 00 GL, as “jubilant and evocative.” The film was screened last week at the Toronto Film Festival, is appearing as part of the New York Film Fest in Lincoln Center in early October and was just picked up by Universal Pictures.
Filmed in the US, Norway and the UK, Sunshine Superman tells the story of the late skydiver Carl Boenish (who died in 1984) and his wife Jean, who were the first to parachute off of skyscrapers, mountains and bridges, shooting breathtaking “freefall cinematography” on the way down.
“The film isn’t this year’s Man on Wire,” notes The Hollywood Reporter in its review of last week’s screening in Toronto, “and not only because this eccentric hero died while practicing his passion. But it’s a thrill, and one that seriously rewards big-screen viewing.”