This past weekend’s This American Life was all about fresh takes on the hackneyed debate about climate change – and new ways to spur action. The segment that aired on National Public Radio featured this year’s honorary degree recipient Bill McKibben, whose 350.org is leading a grassroots movement on this critical issue.
Divest RISD, our own student-run environmental group, was included in the national media coverage. Senior Emma Beede 13 IA, its leader, was interviewed as part of the story. Also this weekend, at the RISD’s Board of Trustees meeting, an official Study Group was appointed to examine the Divestment issue.
Amanda Thackray MFA 12 PR will soon be spending her summer solstice suited up in a cold weather gear. The RISD alum is among a small crew of artists and scientists chosen to participate in a two-week residency program that takes place on Barquentine tall ship bound for the Arctic Circle.
“I am extremely excited to be a part of this voyage,” notes Thackray. “I’m intrigued by the Arctic’s landscape.”
While aboard the wooden vessel, the printmaker anticipates that the ship’s nautical line will deeply inspire her sketches. “I will learn to tie knots with traditional rope and my own paper rope. These structures will form the foundations of my still life drawings.”
To help fund the icy expedition that departs in June, the printmaker launched a Kickstarter campaign to partially fund her flight to Longyearbyen, Norway. Donors will receive tokens of Thackray’s appreciation in the form of graphite drawings inspired by the ship’s rigging.
“Your thoughtful contributions to this project will help to further my research and allow me explore the Arctic through collaborative artistic experimentation,” writes Thackray. “I can’t wait to embark on this journey.”
Standing upon sheets splattered with dots of multi-colored ink, Katie Buchanan 15 TX slowly lowered a white piece of cotton fabric into a vat filled with indigo. As she plunged the soft textile into the dye mixture, soapy bubbles popped to the surface – a visible indicator that the pigment was tinting the material a deep shade of blue.
“The color is so pretty,” said Buchanan. “I’m using this fabric for my silkscreen final.”
Pictured above: Katie Buchanan 15 TX dips pieces of cloth into a vat of indigo.
The dye job was a part of Indigo Girls, a performance piece orchestrated by Travis Boyer. Throughout Wednesday afternoon, students colored chunky sweaters, dish towels and even old band t-shirts. “I made the batch extra strong,” Boyer explained. “You never know when someone will come in with a load of clothes to dye.”
A group of RISD textile majors took advantage of the available resources to dye non-conventional materials: pieces of their own hair. “Some of the girls dipped the end of their pigtails in the vat,” said Boyer with a laugh. “It was a fun time.”
Indigo Girls was sponsored by the Textiles department and the Queer Student Alliance.
President John Maeda’s talk at last month’s TEDMED2013 conference in Washington, DC just went live today. It’s called How can design principles lead to more discovery and better treatment? and you can watch it right here.
For more on RISD’s involvement with the national conference, check out Illustrating for TEDMED on risd.edu.
In a panel discussion held on Thursday night, RISD students examined the lightning speed evolution of video game art and the unique challenges curators face as the medium transitions into the museum environment.
Jian Shen 14 FD, Lauren Martin 14 PT, Koji Yamamoto 14 FAV, David Tompkins 14 PT and Brown student Zachary Salmon were speakers on the engaging panel. Chris Romero – a writer from New York City who researches the history of video games – served as the panel’s moderator.
“The average player accepts video games as art,” explains Romero. “But not everyone involved in the art world has the same feeling.”
Pictured above: The developer of Killing Buddha challenges players to ponder the meaning of existence.
However, Romano argues that there are plenty of examples of great video games that should be placed in the pantheons of art and design. Some programs, he says, could be considered conceptual art as existentialism, personal identity and gender studies – topics often discussed in philosophy classes – are inspiring some of today’s most inventive developers.
For instance, the action game Killing Buddha encourages its players to virtually destroy large statues of the religious leader with automatic weapons. The player reaches “nirvana” (the final level) once all the Buddhas are blown up. According to the panelists, the game challenges players to ponder the meaning of their own existence.
“The definition of a ‘game’ is blurred as people continue to experiment with the medium,” notes Romero.
Martin also decided to push the boundaries of virtual art by creating her own character in The Sims, a life simulation video game that allows users to create their own avatars. “I wanted to mirror my own life as much as possible so my avatar paints as much as possible,” Martin explains. “I wanted to see what I could discover about my own artistic process through this virtual reality.”
The panel discussion was sponsored by the Painting department.
On Sunday night, more 70 students packed into the top floor of RISD’s Ewing Multicultural House to socialize, eat pizza and discuss their visions of entrepreneurial grandeur. The lively mixer was hosted by members of Brown’s Entrepreneurship Program and E’Ship, a new student club founded by Winston Cuevas 15 ID, Amrit Mazumder 15 GD and Ryan Murphy 15 ID.
The trio of enterprising sophomores founded E’Ship to help RISD students find resources – financial and social – to support their own ambitious business ventures. “We want people to bounce ideas off each other,” Murphy explains. “With some encouragement, I think students will be able to get their plans off the ground.”
According to Murphy, cross-campus collaborations have been set in motion thanks to the informal mixer. “Brown students are looking at design as a vehicle to drive entrepreneurship instead of seeing it as a way to make something pretty,” Murphy notes. “The projects that will come out of these collaborations are really exciting.”
Hoping to make some pro-business connections on campus? The next E’Ship meeting will be held on the second floor of 204 Westminster Street in Providence this Sunday, May 5 at 4 pm. And you can sign up for updates from the new RISD org!
As some may be aware, there has been activity on campus to support the Divest RISD movement, including a rally and a sit-in. Decisions regarding RISD’s endowment investments are made by the Board of Trustees, upon recommendation of the Investment Committee of the Board, and are not within the purview of the President or the Administration.
Members of the administration and I met at length with a group of passionate students about the issue and would like to share that broadly for anyone interested. We talked with students about how to best bring their message forward to the Board with the sense of urgency the students believe is necessary.
Divestment is a rich and complex issue, one that I know the Board takes seriously and wants to explore thoughtfully and deliberately. Last week, Michael Spalter, RISD’s Board chair, put out the following statement sharing where they are at in this process:
“We recognize the passion of certain members of our community about divestment, and expect no less from the globally-minded citizens that fill the RISD campus and global community. Ours is a vibrant and diverse community of more than 28,000 students, faculty, staff and alumni whose creativity has made an impact across the world, in traditional art and design fields and beyond. We celebrate everyone’s right to pursue causes they believe in and we are just beginning to explore this complex issue. As a first step, the Board is in the initial phases of forming a Study Group on Divestment to explore different approaches in the context of our fiduciary responsibility. We look forward to the process yielding insight and to becoming more informed about this issue and its implications for RISD.”
On behalf of the administration, we applaud the students’ activism and recognize their desire for RISD to be at the forefront of action on climate change. Indeed, we all share the belief that artists and designers are powerful innovators who can make a true impact on the issues of the day. We will be working with the students closely between now and the May Board meeting to make sure these issues are brought to the attention of the appropriate parties for consideration and will keep the community apprised.
SVP Students & Enrollment
As President John Maeda noted in his post this morning, he’s at the Tribeca Film Festival today to accept what has got to be one of the best-named accolades out there: a 2013 Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award (TDIA).
The TDIA is an outgrowth of Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen’s Disruptive Innovation Theory, which explains how simpler, cheaper technologies, products and services end up decimating industry leaders. Now in its fourth year, the annual award showcases applications of disruptive innovation that have spread beyond the realms of business and technology to the fields of healthcare, education, international development, politics and advocacy, media, the arts and entertainment.
President Maeda is in color company today, sharing the limelight with such creative business forces and pop cultural figures as Psy, Twyla Tharp, Norma Komali, Quirky founder Ben Kaufman, Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya (“the Steve Jobs of yogurt” :) and many more.
President Maeda speaking with Perri Peltz, who presented the TDIA award today.
The award is in appreciation for RISD’s STEM to STEAM initiative to add art and design to the national education agenda rather than just placing increased emphasis on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, math). After all, as RISD people already know, it’s the critical thinking that goes on in art and design studios that will lead to the breakthrough innovations needed in the 21st century.