Jane Chu enjoyed a brief tour of selected highlights at RISD.
Yesterday, August 18, leaders of the RISD community welcomed several special guests to campus, including Jane Chu, recently appointed chair of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), US Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Randall Rosenbaum, executive director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts.
As Provost Pradeep Sharma greeted the group in the Chace Center, he talked about RISD’s STEAM initiative, explaining how it inextricably links innovation, collaboration and technology within a clear social context.
In providing Chu with historical background on the STEAM movement, Vice Provost Carol Strohecker noted that since 2010 the National Science Foundation (NSF) has been working with the NEA and an international community of researchers, educators and leaders to revitalize ailing economies.
Associate Vice President Greg Victory offered concrete examples of how current students make an impact well beyond the typical realms of art and design, citing the work being done by recipients of the Maharam Fellowship in Applied Art and Design. “They’re able to have a real impact because they’re not afraid to pose questions and take risks,” Victory noted.
Chu and Senator Reed were delighted to get an up-close demo of the Rigamajig building kit designed by Assistant Professor of Industrial Design Cas Holman. She explained that the role of designers in the STEAM movement is to “enrich and contextualize” the other disciplines. What’s important for educators working with her kit, she noted, is not so much the things that kids create with it, but the act of freeform making itself.
RISD Board Chair Michael Spalter listens intently as NEA Chair Jane Chu responds to what she’s seeing during her visit to campus.
Chu expressed interest in how the Rigamajig is used in classrooms and also in the notion of object-based inquiry introduced by Assistant Dean of Faculty Tracie Costantino.
After the informal gathering at the Chace Center, the group enjoyed a quick tour of the Nature Lab led by Director Neal Overstrom and a demonstration of RISD’s ever-inspiring electronic jacquard loom.
all photos by David O’Connor
Now that plans are in the works for the 2015 SXSWedu Conference, organizers are asking online voters to help pick the best proposals for panel discussions. Interim President Rosanne Somerson and several other RISD people have made proposals covering various aspects of art and design education, so please go to the SXSW PanelPicker to help get them on the agenda in Austin (the conference runs from March 9–12, 2015).
Somerson has proposed a talk on the impact of critical making, while Chief of Staff Mara Hermano and Assistant Dean of Faculty Tracie Costantino are working on an interactive panel called Visualizing Critique. If you’re attending the conference and would like to hear more about entrepreneurship, activism and education, vote for the panel proposed by Dean of Liberal Arts Dan Cavicchi, Industrial Design Critic Bill Foulkes, HPSS Department Head Damian White and Assistant Professor Jennifer Prewitt-Freilino. And finally, consider casting a vote for Industrial Design grad student Mariya Sitnova’s proposal on 3D technology in education.
(Anonymous) voting is open until September 5, and the public is also welcome to submit notes and comments on any of the more than 1,000 panel ideas that have been submitted. Community voting accounts for 30% of the final scheduling decisions (to be announced in October), so make your picks now!
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.”
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.
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.
Chuck Ragins 91 IL, a longtime layout artist for The Simpsons, recently 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.
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.
In 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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
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) Conference. The 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.
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.
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.”
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.”
All Is Dvash, a new show that just opened last weekend at Sienna Patti in North Adams, MA, presents over-the-top gold-plated jewelry by Israeli-born artist Ruta Reifen MFA 11 JM. Dvash is Hebrew for honey – perhaps a reference to nectar – the hope and potential abundance contained within each of Reifen’s finely hand-sculpted flowers.
Continuing through August 17, Reifen’s show is one of three RISD-related exhibitions at Sienna Patti this summer. The gallery is also displaying jewelry by recent alumna Mallory Weston MFA 13 JM and installations (pictured below) by Jewelry + Metalsmithing Critic Lauren Fensterstock.
Inspired by nature, Fensterstock’s work (on view through August 24) incorporates meticulously cut and curled paper, charcoal and Plexiglass. It makes reference to French and English garden design of the 1500s through the1700s, the 18th-century practice of quilling (sculpting paper by wrapping it around a quill) as well as 20th-century American artist Robert Smithson.
“My task is to weave together these disparate histories,” Fensterstock says. “Making becomes my way of manifesting the ideas I read about, bringing my own logic, allowing me to touch – with my own hands – an interpretation of times and people past.”
Weston, whose jewelry is on view through August 3, leaves the past behind to explore graphic icons made popular in current “tween” culture: peace signs, hearts and smiley faces. “My recent work references and finds a home in the world of alternative DIY comic books, cartoons and illustrations,” she says. “I admire these publications because they are humorous, uninhibited, vulgar, sexual, dysfunctional, youthful and absurd” – all characteristics that she says she hopes to convey through her work.
Good news for artist and educator Kim Harty 06 GL, who has been named head of the glass program at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit, MI (originally the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts). “We are fortunate to have such an accomplished artist and up-and-coming scholar joining not only the CCS community, but the Detroit cultural community as well,” says CCS President Richard L. Rogers.
Human Factors examined the tension between personal expression and efficiency in the studio.
Harty has taught a wide range of art classes at Ox-Bow, the School of the Art Institute Chicago (where she earned her MFA), Penland School of Crafts and the Pilchuck Glass School. After serving as a resident artist in the Chicago Artists Coalition’s BOLT program, she exhibited the resulting work in Human Factors, a solo show that just closed last month. Harty also serves on the board of the Glass Art Society and edits the organization’s quarterly publication GASNews.
Harty performing in The One Best Way to Do Work (2013).
RISD students are keeping their fingers crossed as they wait for the results of LG Electronics’ Art of the Pixel competition, which runs through this Thursday, July 31. LG invited creatives from nine of the country’s top art schools to submit artworks that show off the capabilities of the company’s powerful, high-contrast monitors. Rising to the challenge, dozens of artists have entered whimsical animations and arresting images that make the most of these digital canvasses.
Click here to review the student submissions and vote for your favorite entries. But hurry. Voting ends this Thursday.
People participating in last month’s Renewable Energy Islands International Forum sponsored by UNESCO were invited to imagine a colorful forest of small-scale wind turbines that would create enough renewable energy to power thousands of homes. Dubbed The Whirlers, the project is the brainchild of Eduardo Benamor Duarte and Caterina Tiazzoldi, RISD faculty members in Interior Architecture. Their inventive idea would make use of 10,000 Darrieus turbines – each about 10 to 15 feet tall – creating an enhanced, human-friendly landscape.
Tiazzoldi traveled to the Canary Islands (off the coast of Spain) to present The Whirlers at UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve, where an international group of engineers, politicians and landscape preservation experts gathered to explore renewable energy sources that would mitigate climate change.
“It’s a fun project,” says Duarte. “The idea is to construct a new environment that wouldn’t detract from the human experience – to make a clear cultural connection with the production of energy.”
This summer Blake Hiltunen MFA 14 SC is as busy as the southern honeybees he’s raising in northern Maine. After discovering that two of his colonies had lost their precious queen, the sculptor turned to Erin MacGregor-Forbes, a founder of the all-natural beekeeping operation Overland Apiaries, where he’s interning as a 2014 Maharam STEAM Fellow in Applied Art and Design.
Heeding her advice on how best to intervene, Hiltunen introduced hearty Vermont-raised insects to the hive.“The new queens will be able to handle the drastic temperature changes that occur up here,” he explains. “They’re now laying new generations of larvae with genes suited for our geographical location.”
The environmentally-minded graduate student is tending to the honey-makers as part of an “observational hive” that encourages visitors to Overland to peer into their carefully constructed combs. But before creating the new educational exhibit, Hiltunen needed to eradicate unwanted larvae that might jeopardize the colonies’ health.
“Removing these cells – which contain incubating larvae – is quite intense,” he explains. “They burst and ooze white liquid when scraped from the frame [of the hive]. Killing infant bees is messy.”
Keep up-to-date on all the STEAM-related internships going on this summer by perusing the 2014 Maharam Fellows’ blog!