Monday, May 18, 2009

the solution to all our problems

I went into this class really feeling strongly about the fact that RISD lacked community. Throughout my investigation around campus, with students, just starting to observe the very nature of RISD I’m not convinced there really is a problem. Perhaps it is our relationships with episodic affairs that make it charming to complain about the void of consistency in our public lives. Perhaps pointing out that we don’t have time to really connect with all the opportunities around us somehow reflects positively on our personal dedication to our work. Certainly this can’t be true for all, communities exist here, thrive here, just like anywhere else, bikers, motors or  not, hipsters, students, connections are all around us. So maybe I won’t reflect on the fact that I’m failing to reach out as much as I should, honestly I just don’t have the time.

So if it’s not that the networks don’t exist, what is it that makes students feel isolated? Maybe is just the simple fact that this course began during winter, a common time for seasonal depression, or maybe not. Even during winter you’d hard pressed to look around RISD and not find at least five posters about something going on that weekend. And I’m aware that events don’t necessarily mean a functioning community is there, but at least people are actively trying to bring people together here constantly.

I do want to discuss what I feel like is the most controversial solution, a permanent student space. What would it be? Is it a good idea? Would anybody go? Hearing stories about The Pit makes me think RISD needs to go back to that kind of space. As it has been described to me on multiple different occasions The Pit wasn’t clean, wasn’t fancy, but had good coffee, and cheap food. It was gritty, and quick, it didn’t project any kind of RISD image in the clean-cut kind of traditional sense. And RISD doesn’t have anywhere like that anymore; it’s as if we have suburbanized our campus. There really isn’t any place other than maybe CarrHaus, or the Tap Room that doesn’t feel like a completed RISD regulated and branded space. So why is an institutionalized space, designed and run, clean and nice, furnished, the solution? Why is RISD so barren of real inspiration in a way, there are so many beautiful things being made here every day and you would never know if you didn’t take the effort to look under the RISD emblem. But whose fault is that? Certainly the institution is to blame in one way, the representation of RISD as a packaged liberal arts style college interferes and hinders, I think, a vast expanse of ingenuity that could occur here.  What does RISD gain from presenting an image of controlled creativity? And what does it risk losing? On the other hand it’s the students, some are getting out there and some aren’t. There is not just one motivation for getting a RISD degree, not everyone comes here to become a part of anything greater than completing their academic requirements. And for the people that are actively trying to be a part of Providence as a whole, have the ability to do so, even if they use their workload as an excuse not to.

I think it’s great that people care about the students here, and want them to have a better quality of live, but the patterns of living in Providence run much deeper than any kind of social structure constructed by RISD students alone. And any kind of spatial solution, could never truly be permanent, or solve all of the social constructs we have to break through here. It’s fair to say that because we function day by day, project by project, that temporal things seem to fit our way of life.  I really think affinity groups are things that can work, maybe they don’t have a voice loud enough to alter anything directly right away, but they provide students with the idea that they aren’t the only ones who care about things other than their latest project. If there is one thing RISD is truly lacking it a spirit of activism, or rebellion, things like affinity groups can be outlet for more revolutionary kind of thinking, especially if they were recognized by the institution but not controlled by it. Something like communal workspace is an intriguing solution my only concern with that proposition is the mass chaos I can see in its future.  It would no doubt provide a great solution for bringing people together and in an ideal world provide the perfect student space.

Monday, May 11, 2009



Part of what makes RISD special is the density of diverse and creative people. Ironically, RISD students rarely get to exchange ideas and share work with each other outside of our daily routine or path.

A recurring theme in the conversations about community on campus is that they exist primarily in departmental studio space. These communities are created through close proximity, repetition, shared experience, and shared passion.

Student departmentalization occurs at the beginning of sophomore year. As students are immersed into their department’s space, ways of thinking, and ways of working, they become more and more a part of a specific community. It is important to have a core community, a home space, but to gain a more broad art and design education, communication across all departments is needed.

During freshman year, students are totally mixed in their foundation studios. While this is successful in creating diverse classes where students with totally different ideas about art and design work together, I think this system lacks home or ownership. Classes are taught in the same classrooms and workspaces are shared. If foundation type studios were required every semester in addition to specific major studios it might allow for both ownership of major studio spaces and stronger cross-departmental relationships to form.

These required studios could be similar to those during foundation year (meaning 2D, 3D, drawing related courses) but could be more specific and group based. For example, every junior could be required to take a sled-building studio fall semester, and at the end of the semester would participate in a class-wide sled race. This type of system not only could help create relationships between different majors, but also would allow students to stay well rounded. In addition, specific, quirky studios could inspire excitement in classes as well as honing basic foundation skills in a different way.






On a totally different note, anonymous community creates honest conversation and work. In private common areas like bathroom stalls, elevators, and stairwells, graffiti collects and grows. As it grows, layers of different marks and messages begin to show a history of conversation by people only known by their handwriting and the color of pen they used. This type of communication can, when allowed to build, not only create an immense and beautiful 2D and 3D work, but also meaningful and honest conversations. If the school stopped periodically cleaning certain locations around campus, it would allow for these spaces to become rich and reflect currently and historically on the students who used those spaces.

5 qualities

For RISD to have a “student space” on campus it would require several core characteristics in order to be successful. Success, in this case, meaning being accepted as a social gathering place and utilized by a diverse group (departmentally, ethnicity, age, affiliation, etc.).





            For students to consistently come to a place and care about a place they need to feel a sense of ownership and belonging. A potential student space at RISD needs to, first and foremost, reflect the people who use it. Whether that is the selection of beer, events being held, or work being shown, the space needs to constantly evolve to seem both important and fresh.

            Possible ways of creating a sense of ownership to the space is to allow the space to be controlled by students. An organization like student alliance could take part in controlling the space. Also, the space could have shows of current student work ( like carr house) both departmental and not. In addition, the space should allow for some type of spontaneous evolution (ex: bathroom stall walls) where another layer of communication and community could grow.




            Because studio work plays such a huge role in life at RISD, a student space needs to cater to this fact. The space could address this issue both physically and abstractly. The space could physically have a common shop and work space open to all departments and years, and be monitored 24 hours a day. Also, it could be a place where elective classes are held to bring different majors in one studio. Abstractly, the space could be open 24 hours a day to serve a student body that abides by no sleep schedule. During these hours it could serve good coffee, food, and supplies.                        




            Convenience is important in bringing RISD students into a common space. During most of the student interviews, students said that places like dining halls and the library were places were they felt a sense of community (outside of studio). A student space should include food, coffee, and supplies to attract students. This already exists at the RISD store/Watermark, however it does not attract students outside of being necessary to survive. Places where students go to, should be brought inside a student space (ex: Blue State Coffee @ the Brown bookstore).

            Also, convenience should be reflected in other features in or about the space such are location, type of space, open hours, and events.


            I understand it is a cliché to say this, but alcohol is a must to create a successful student space. This could be done in different ways, but alcohol would combine a lot of the other characteristics mentioned before (ownership – common place to drink, work/convenience – close location to relieve stress). It could be a subsidized (or non-subsidized) bar for students only, a place that sells alcohol, or a B.Y.O.B. space. Administrative issues aside, if there were a school run bar, especially a subsidized school run bar, it would be immensely popular and a great place to socialize.


Any student center at RISD cannot be labeled "student center." As artists and designers, we like to create our own space, we can't be told where to be social, where to have community. Like the current "student center" at the RISD store, if a space is labeled incorrectly it will be completely rejected.


Five Things

So, if RISD were to design and construct a student center. What are the five indespensible elements that would be necessarry for it's survival and viability?

I should start with this: Over the passed couple of weeks I have finally been able to begin to answer the question, 'What do I want from my education that I am not getting?'. Or to put if more pointedly, 'When considering the obsence amount I am paying for tuition, where is RISD falling short?'.

Some of my grievances are: That I can't go to a school run dining area for anything resembling a nutritious, fresh, grown-up meal, nor can I eat it somewhere that doesn't smell like a junior-high school cafeteria. I'm a grown-ass individual that pays a whole bunch of money to be here, don't I deserve fine dining experiences?

That I am trapped at a desk the size of a bathroom sink, elbow to elbow with others trapped at desks the size of a bathroom sink, and expected to produce inspired, well-crafted projects.

That I have to pay exorbitant prices for prints in studio.

That I am not getting the forward thinking, cutting-edge education that was promised by the RISD website and brochure.

The ability to move freely (in an academic sense) and design the curriculum that best serves my educational desires.

So, with these points in mind (and sometimes not) a successful student center should be equipped with the five following elements:

1. A dining area not resembling in appearance or odor a junior high cafeteria that serves grown-up food. That they serve alcohol would be an added bonus.

2. Student services offices: academic advising (for our self-designed curriculum), OPE, OSL, GSA, UGSA.

3. Music venue (with a bar).

4. A proper bookstore.

5. Both indoor and outdoor spaces for gathering and interacting.

In closing, we all know a campus bar would be killer, but I'm not sure the student center is the place for it.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Placin the Loom

At RISD overarching community is lacking, it exists departmentally but not school-wide. This is no revelation to those participating in this course or following our blog. All the research and discussions that have taken place over the throughout the semester all reflect this theme. People feel a departmental sense of community but are disappointed at the lack of RISD-wide community. The community structure at RISD is tribal and neither the curriculum nor the physical layout encourages the formation of a cohesive “nation”.

If one looks at a tapestry from six inches away they see the individual threads. From a foot patterns emerge. From ten feet its entirety can be taken in. In its entirety it is much stronger visually as well as physically. The tapestry in its entirety can draw us in from a much greater distance than an individual thread. After being drawn in fro afar we tend to step in and out exploring it on its different levels; its story/message (if there is one) or large pattern, the smaller patterns that make up the larger, the type, color and character of the individual threads that make up the small patterns and the method(s) of construction. In skilled hands a collection threads can be woven into tapestry that possesses great integrity and beauty.

Tasked with exploring better methods of weaving the individual RISD “threads” into a more cohesive “tapestry” this semester’s work has brought many issues and possible openings to the surface. Some of the problems that have risen to the top, in my opinion, are; the question is where to place the proverbial loom and how to structure the weave.

As I have stated before in the blog the strongest sense of community I feel at RISD is in the shops. Perhaps this is a result of our trade school history. Whatever the reason the fact is that at RISD shops are places where community thrives. People are constantly sharing knowledge, opinions, food and lending a hand when needed. They are places that are often filled with revelry but also misery, victory and defeat, comradery and animosity, acts of generosity as well as selfishness. Both the goods and ills of these places make them lively and interesting. One can witness someone struggle, be at the verge of failing and/or giving up then watch those around them drop what they are doing and come to their peer’s aid and save the day. People share in the good and the bad and it is these commonly experienced triumphs and victories that bring us together. For better or worse life at RISD revolves mainly around the production of things be they paintings or chairs, scale models or dresses. The various shops/work spaces are a necessity at RISD and creation is what we all have in common.

Successful communal spaces are ones that people come to out of necessity. Spaces they visit frequently due to the necessity and allow for casual interaction with others. These frequent, casual interactions allow relationships and understanding to form, both are essential to forming strong community. The shops do this but due to the fragmented nature of our school it is departmental and “outsiders” are prohibited. This is yet another obstacle that inhibits interdepartmental interactions. Departmental shops also translate to divided assets and jealousy.

I propose that the shops be centralized into one location. This would allow for pooling of assets and resources, which would provide access to the best equipment. Instead of spending funds to acquire five lesser pieces we could acquire two top notch ones. Centralized communal shops do pose some logistical problems. Each shop has a technician responsible for its operations. Instead of having one shop tech present from 9-5 they could work in shifts extending the presence of these knowledgeable professionals, who instruct and advise as well as keep the shops running, to cover the full shop hours. More monitors would be on the floor at any given time maximizing eyes, ears and advise. Dealing with which students have clearance to operate which machines is challenging within the individual departments let alone school-wide. To deal with this key card check-in at monitor stations could be implemented immediately identifying what each student was trained on and alerting the monitors. Equipment training techniques vary from department to department this causes a problem. To solve this problem a standard lesson plan will be developed assuring that all students, regardless of department will receive the same level of training. These classes will be inter-departmental. This formula will encourage interdepartmental relationships to develop organically, through common goal, interest and need, in a classroom setting as well as outside of class time.
I believe that this centralized shop system will create an ideal environment for cross-pollination of thought and inspiration to occur, which in my opinion will lead to, at the very least an expansion of perspective if not, stronger work. It also acts as a sort of pilot program for inter departmental studies such as the BRAIDS program proposed by one of my classmates.

Five essentials for an interactive space at RISD

The Artist Ball is one of the largest events at RISD. It provides a space for students to step away from their work and have fun. Although departmental hybrid classes have the ability to introduce students to one another, RISD lacks fun student social engagement. Students are tired of listening to people lecture all day, they want to mingle, they want to talk.
RISD should think of itself as an educational institution, not a business. We endure an intense curriculum. I don’t want to talk about art and design all day everyday. RISD invests so much time inviting guest artist and designers to speak. Sadly, not that many people show up. Its simply too much and students are too tired. The space doesn’t need to be designed, all it needs are the core ingredients that have brought people together for ages.
-live music

Proposal: Arts and Music Festival

Of the many complex structures we discussed in class, only two remained essential for any event, drinks and food. RISD has the outdoor real estate both physically and aesthetically. I don’t understand why it can’t use it to provide the space (volume) and place (providence waterfront) and promote interactions via music, arts and food. Students don’t care about water fire, it’s boring as hell. Is creepy goblins and ambiguous eastern music the only thing Providence has to offer, this is a joke. There needs to be an event which encompasses RISD, Brown, JWU, and Rhode Island College. Not everyone attends Spring weekend at Brown because there is nothing to take away, or take home. I think RISD can bridge that gap by providing an experience based on its variety of students interests and backgrounds.
The Place: RISD Campus.
The Space: Market Square, the Water Front. All streets should be closed off. South Main, Weybosset, College Hill. These areas will provide the space for food drinks and areas to sit. The streets should appear as a promenade. Free Parking spaces will be available on event hand out.
The Time: Annually, every Fall.
So incoming students have the opportunity to meet other students from other colleges.
The Food: Everything. No RISD caters crap, Portfolio or MET food unless it’s free. The food should exhibit an abundance of cultural, historic and economic diversity. This can be provided free from local restaurants as a way to advertise. Indian, European, Asia, Pacific etc.. Whoever we can get. Restaurants located on Thayer, Wickenden, South Main and the West Side are encouraged to participate. (Especially the West Side, South American) Kettle corn is a must!
The Music: Rhode Island college has a tremendous Music Program. They can provide several pieces which will be performed outside, not in the auditorium. I am guessing Brown may also have a music department. There are many local bands who can also participate, they can be sponsored by local music halls,
-Firehouse 13
-Possibly a revival of The Living Room

The Art: Several galleries will be open to the public provided there are maps which can easily show where and when the artwork will be displayed. Art should be kept indoors to protect from wind, water heat etc. Unless the piece can be exhibited outdoors.
The Performances: All colleges can perform. The stage will be market square. There can also be performances in the auditorium.
-Brown/Jwu and local B-Boys dance crews.
-Other dance crews (RIC, AS220)
-Poetry slams
-Soap-Box Derby?

The interactions:
These will be inspired by the interests we share. Sign-ups for clubs both college related and non-college related will be available, not just RISD/BROWN. Networking will occur via email, facebook, and mass event text messages to promote future events. I think RISD has invested too much time focusing on itself. It should provide to everyone it's most inherent quality, its space and place.

Will I give back once I’m gone?

Does food really embody culture? The food at RISD is outrageously expensive, glorified beyond its means, and tastes awful. Having little nutritional value, and wholesome fulfillment, I ask myself is this it?
Ideas are dense with potential, unfortunately they are also bloated with egoism and arrogance. Would I give back to an institution that nurtures arrogance, certainly not! I’m tired of paying too much money for a glorified salad, I want something real, whole and humble.
Is American culture at fault, are the systems that construct our living terribly flawed? Fact: It costs more money in the US to live a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. From electric cars to fluorescent light bulbs. As dense urban areas become far too expensive to live in, we are financially forced into automobiles only to become a slave to the oil industry, car manufacturers, insurance companies, vehicle registration departments, yearly inspections and repair centers. Believe it or not, driving an automobile is cheaper than trying to afford an apartment where buying local is simply right around the corner. Not everyone can afford to buy local and the majority of expolited working families can’t afford to not shop at Wal-Mart.
The idea of this class intrigued me because I want to work towards something larger than myself. I don’t think its possible to take the self out of art and design, but we all have the capacity to care. If RISD wishes to continue exploiting it’s students, good luck! And if it thinks it can seek creative potential among its over privileged self-centered patrons, shame on you. There is far more potential, hope and commitment embodied within the underprivileged students you neglect.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Messy writing...disorganized

Community happens at many scales. For me, community happens first in the studio and includes those students that I work with directly, discussing problems and working out solutions (or more problems). To a lesser degree, I find some sense of community within RISD at large. At a larger scale, within the city of Providence, I sense the community a little less. I believe the problem for RISD lies in our (in)ability to navigate these different scales of community.

I would like to say first that I will make certain generalizations pertaining to my own experience at RISD. These generalizations may indicate problems within the community that affect me, or problems with me that affect the community (or my perception of community).

I would like to start by talking about the immediate community, the few people that we (I) spend the most time with. For many of us (RISD students) this means our studio. Jacobs offers what she thinks are “the most important habits of thought,” referring to cities. I think they are valuable to the smaller scale community as well. The first important habit of thought is “to think about processes.” It is important to understand that relationships are more complex than we might think. They are likely more complicated that we can comprehend, as they depend on their context for meaning, and context is relevant at infinitely many scales.

The second important habit of thought is “to work inductively.” [more thoughts later]

What creates community at RISD?

Providence? Do I find community in Providence? What is lacking? The larger the scale of reference of a community, I think, the more difficult it is for an individual to approach, or even comprehend. We naturally do this through the creation of smaller communities or groups, which may be constructed solely for the purpose of addressing the greater community, such as political groups.

How does the individual deal with these varying scales of community?

Do these different communities overlap? How? What is lacking?

What do we need to better connect existing communities? More overlap.

I think there are two issues that must be dealt with to solve problems with community. I think we lack overlapping space. Work space, crit space. When we feel disconnected, we make a cafeteria. This is fine, but it’s not enough. A small space in the RISD store to sit and read books is fine as well, but it is a simple solution to a complex problem. I think a place to work with students from other departments is needed.

The second issue that concerns me is the lack of overlap of our theoretical spaces. I think this is the space that will help us build community. Of course, this is a complicated problem. How do you bring students together from various departments to talk about their work in a way that connects them to other students? The problem is in its likelihood to fail. This is the case with all complex problems. That is to say, it may not always work to bring students from varying disciplines together to discuss their work, especially if they don’t have a common background, a common training, and a common jargon. However, I think it would be invaluable for students to better understand our parallels as artists and designers, and probably worth suffering some failed attempts. Our disciplines are becoming ever more specialized in the name of efficiency, and I mean efficiency in terms of economy. Perhaps we could benefit from some redundancy.

“It was early realized by such planning theorists as Stein and Bauer that preplanned shopping centers within cities must also be monopolistic or semimonopolistic, or else the statistics would not predict, and the city would go on behaving with dark and foreboding irrationality.”

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Crosspollination / Braiding

“Cities happen to be problems in organized complexity…they present situations in which a half-dozen or even several dozen quantities are all varying simultaneously and in subtly interconnected ways.” Although Jane Jacobs’ quote addresses the idea of the city on a general and macro level, this same concept is applicable to institutions like RISD; institutions that are suffering from lack of unity and community.

Throughout this semester I interviewed students affiliated with RISD and individuals unaffiliated with the school. The same theme (or problem) that continuously reached the surface was the fact that RISD’s campus and academic structure prevent crosspollination. Community members of Providence unaffiliated with the school rarely have the opportunity to interact with RISD and furthermore, RISD students rarely have the opportunity to interact with their peers outside of their chosen discipline.

The lack of crosspollination is a fundamental problem with the academic structure of the school. The structure as it exists now supports interaction between students exclusively within individual departments. Students spend the majority of their time working in studio with the same individuals from their department. Unity and interaction between students across disciplines ceases to exist with this type of structure.

Jacobs’ ideas of simultaneous, interconnected variables, interrelated into an organic whole, influence a proposal for changes to the academic structure of the school; within each chosen major, students should be required to choose a concentration or theme that would travel with them throughout their education at RISD.

Firstly, it is important to discuss how and why I have arrived at this proposal.

Like mentioned previously, I had the opportunity to interview four RISD students who were all in different departments; furniture, jewelry, architecture, and landscape architecture. The group included both undergraduate and graduate students. Each student was asked which communities on campus they felt they belonged to and whether they felt RISD suffered from a lack of community. Themes began to develop regarding overlap in their answers. All four students considered their studios as the main community in which they belonged to.

Additionally, they found that locations like the Wild Colonial or Cable Car to be communal places where interaction could exist between students outside of their department. It was evident from the interview that the students considered these types of non-departmental interactions as something favorable and something that they wanted more of.

It was important to interview individuals unaffiliated with RISD as well. Furthermore it was important to interview people who use art as a tool for creating communities. As art students, learning how other artists create community is incredibly influential and especially pertinent to this proposal. I interviewed Tyler Denmead, co-founder of New Urban Arts in Providence. Tyler discussed powerful ideas of nest building; the idea that relationships are situated and need a place. Additionally, he discussed notions of New Urban Arts’ open shell concept. This meant that there were no classrooms, no studios, and no offices. There was a desire to blur boundaries of all the disciplines within the space. This created an ambiguity and uncertainty of people’s practices – all different practices were visible inside the space simultaneously. Tyler described certain aspects of a successful space that have to exist: an organic, changing space within a specific site, and shared values of the people. With these initial aspects, the practice within the space could manifest itself in many different ways.

Specific ideas of community emerged from the interviews. Firstly, it was evident that RISD lacked a define community. But more importantly, it was clear that RISD students were thirsty for unity and for more interaction between students across all disciplines and departments. Ideas from Tyler’s interview provided a starting point to addressing these issues on campus. Something needed to be created that blurred the boundaries of individual disciplines within RISD as well as outside of RISD.

One possible answer that emerged from this idea was a student center. A student center would provide a place on campus where students in all departments could travel to and exchange ideas. A student center is problematic for several reasons as well. Firstly, I do not believe the answer to the lack of community on campus can be solved by one particular building on campus that has the specific program of creating unity. There are locations on campus like the Wild Colonial and Cable Car that would seemingly solve issues of unity, yet we still have problems. I think it would be similar with a student center. Secondly, a student center would only be inviting to students and faculty associated with the school. It is vital that the RISD community is inclusive of members outside of the institution.

Another possible answer that ultimately took the form of the proposal of this paper involved changes to the academic structure of the school. Wintersession was an extremely valuable experience that allowed interaction between students in all disciplines. However, Wintersession is temporary and only focuses on one particular chosen class. More opportunities like Wintersession should exist throughout a student’s time at RISD. We have the most talented and creative artists in the world sharing a campus. We should be taking advantage of the infinite possibilities of exchanging knowledge and ideas. RISD is such an attractive option for emerging art students because of the incredible talent of the students. Yet, once students arrive here, they are only exposed to ideas within their department. We have the potential to be an incredibly powerful, unified, creative force exchanging ideas. However, we currently exist as separate, unassociated departments who just happen to exist under the same institution.

I will now discuss the specifics of the proposal. The main idea behind the proposal can be defined by the word crosspollination. The dictionary defines crosspollination as:

1. The transfer of pollen from the flower of one plant to the flower of a plant having a different genetic constitution.
2. A sharing or interchange of knowledge, ideas, etc., as for mutual enrichment.

The proposal involves the implementation of a new academic structure that weaves students from multiple disciplines together. Not only will every student declare a major by their sophomore year, but they will also choose a BRAID (Brown/RISD Academically Integrated Discipline). The idea is that a student not only chooses a department within RISD but also has the opportunity to choose a multi-disciplinary integrated theme. For example, a student entering their sophomore year chooses architecture as the department they will enter next fall. They would also choose from a list containing several BRAIDS. This list would include themes that weave multiple disciplines together. The list could include: sustainability, education, alternative practices, economics, professional practice, business, social studies, internationalism, digitalism, music, and performing arts. The thought is that someone in architecture who is interested in Green Design could take classes outside of the architecture school with students in all the other departments who are also interested in Green Design. Brown may offer a class on social journalism which a photo major in the social studies BRAID could take.

Additionally, BRAID’s would not be exclusive to classes offered at Brown or RISD. For example, a student could fulfill one class of their BRAID by having an internship at a sustainable design firm over Wintersession or summer. Communities outside of RISD could be formed outside of campus by fulfilling requirements in a professional practice setting.

This idea of simultaneous occurrences and blurring boundaries of individual disciplines is vital. Without this crosspollination, departments will increasingly become more polarized and RISD will become more unattractive to perspective students. The incorporation of BRAID’s into the academic structure would be a unique and attractive perk to perspective art students who are thirsty for many types of creative exposure and interaction across all disciplines.

WHITE TENTS Proposal Board

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009


Buckets, Bricks, and Sticks is a massive drum formation utilizing the acoustics of buckets and bricks. The project is my proposal of an intervention and interaction. What is different about this 'drum line' compared to others is that nearly all the participants will have little or no percussion experience. My concern with current performing techniques is the space which lies between the artist and audience. Normally, this space is used to separate the artist who is dynamic and audience whom remains static.

Can i design an interaction where people feel not on display nor feel like a wall flower. My intervention intends to bridge the gap between artist and audience. My goal is to invite people to participate through semi-spontaneous compositions. I think learning by doing is essential for experience and development. My intention is to encourage people to do more and think less.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

CircleACycles Providence, RI

523 Charles Street
Providence, RI
Chris Bull & Brian Chapman

What do you do:
We build custom bicycle frames from start to finish, as well as repair existing bicycle frames and forks. (Some processes used include cutting, machining, brazing, welding and painting)

What spaces did you make: This one.

Why is space important to you:
The organization of space is really important for us because it increases our efficiency. Prior to building up the space, Brian and Chris mapped out an aerial view using software which allowed them to visualize the high traffic areas. The focus was to reduce traffic by organizing setups, hand tools, clamps, and machines so that the process of building a bicycle would have fluidity. Although Chris and Brian's processes differ slightly, they produce an equally sensational experience and remarkable product for their users.

Several weeks ago Brian and Chris volunteered time and materials for Roller Races, a fundraiser for Recycle-A-Bike promoting bicycle reuse and up-cycling. Brian and Chris were responsible for building several of the bicycles used in the contest. More info can be found here ( Brian commented that the event was especially great because of the variety of causes involved. Recycle-A-Bike being one, and the environmental sustainability of the space located at 28 Walcott Street, Providence. Brian stressed that cause is important to him when participating in or attending any event.

What attracts you to specific spaces:
A place where i don't feel on display. If i want to participate, i can. If i want to be a wall-flower, i can do that as well.

I chose to interview Brian at Circle-A-Cycles because we (RISD) share a common work ethic, intensity and critical aesthetic study as Brian and Chris. They spend up to 65+ hours per week including saturdays and sometimes sundays. They are constantly challenged structurally and visually. Their bicycles create interactions in a variety of environments, especially sidewalks where most bicycles are locked up. After seeing one, a Circle-A-Frame is hard to miss.

visit this site!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Street art/sculpture

Revised Proposal


Street art is a way of expressing/presenting Artists and Designers work and Ideas
to a wider public audience. Used as a medium for communication and interaction across communities.


The Projects aims are three fold, firstly to combine the ideas and talents of a number of RISD students from different departments and year groups in one project. Secondly to involve the younger generation, school children into the project. And thirdly to present this collaboration of work across the spectrum to the wider public community through Street art interventions.


There are 3 possible sites for the project

1) RISD Green / Benefit St

2) Market sq / Waterfront RISD Store

3) Downtown Providence sq – corner of Washington/Union St


There seems to be two prominent divides here at RISD and in Providence.

The first divide is institutionally based. Student’s predominately work within their departments, they have little interaction between other departments and therefore there is a lack of interaction between students from different years and disciplines as there life evolves solely in their place of work. This could be seen to be due to little cross discipline work opportunities, the spread out nature of campus buildings and departments, and the difference between Grad and Undergrad students.

The Second divide is between the institution and the general public at large. Most of what we do as students at; what one would hope is a creative and Innovative institution, here at RISD is done behind closed doors; a “card swipe away”. The work is produced internally behind building walls, with little opportunities for the wider community at large to view or participate in. On the few opportunities where work is presented such as department shows and gallery exhibits it is not directly geared (marketed) towards public viewing with guests and viewers more friends of friends or affiliates in some way or the other with the school, rather than Jo blogs who sees a poster on the street and pops in to see what’s going on.


My Intervention would involve a number of students from different RISD departments working together to create sculptures, which can be viewed and enjoyed by the wider community, as well as creating a sense of our community being a part of a wider local community.

The project plan would involve as many departments in this project intervention as possible, the idea being at least one student from Architecture/Interior, Industrial Design, Sculpture, Textile, Graphic Design, and Museum Education.

The second involvement would be school children who, depending on the concept and designs decided upon by the project team for the street art sculptures would in my mind be involved in the finishing aspects to the work such as painting designs and images on to the sculptures with completely free rain in what they want to do.
The end product a number a collection of art/sculptures with a collage of images and designs painted onto them.


When it comes to the materials used for the street installation I would like to concentrate on the use of recyclable materials, and this is where a fourth element to the project gets involved. The fourth element would involve the wider RISD community who would be involved in supplying and donating odd bits of materials furniture, whatever, to the designers who would then sift through the materials and use these to create designs and sculptures from them.


The project Is large in scale and in involvement and therefore I see this as a semester project and undertaken by those involved as a Independent Study.

The costs involved would be minimal as the bulk of the materials used will be from a collection of recyclable materials. The finishing aspects such as paints would in theory be where the main expenditure of finances go, and I do not foresee these costs running over $200.


Undowtably the involvement of students from each of the key disciplines outlined above is needed but not completely crucial and can come from any discipline here at RISD, specific disciplines outlined above offer varying resources to the project. Museum education has strong links with the younger generation of providence with Grad students from the discipline involved in work with school children and children in local Hospitals, a further discipline Graphic design could offer a useful work skill in publicizing the work through posters, leaflets, internet as well as most importantly through the local media and newspapers.

In terms of the use of street space depending on the location - different officials would need to be consulted to gain approval for the project work depending on who owns the site. If it is on the Providence Green, then those needed to be consulted would be faculty members who govern and decided such installations. If placed on street space at sites 2 & 3 city officials would need to be consulted to gain permission.


The outcome is a community project, which brings both RISD departments together, while involving the wider community of providence. The hope is that by presenting what we do behind closed doors, we can start to involve and present to the local community more of what we do. And hopefully at the same time inspire the younger generation towards design and art by participating in the project as well as seeing what goes on within the school.

Examples of street installations:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Midnight Soccer, Warwick RI

For those interested, Midnight Soccer occurs every Thursday night from 12:00am-2:00am. Shuttles depart from the mail room at 11:45pm. Skill level ranges from several years of training to having little or no experience. Most people who attend, play. We also have a small group of fans that appear each week. Indoor soccer resembles the studio environment in interesting ways. The abundance of artificial light reminds me of studio, when entering our perception of time is altered. A time when we should be at sleep and resting is the time we use to catch up, edit, or start an entire project from scratch (sometimes due the following morning). Midnight soccer has on occasion grown very intense and competitive, but at the same time it still remains leisurely and silly.
Because of its location and time, midnight soccer removes me from RISD both physically and mentally. I like this. Playing is doing, relying on gut instincts. Every play is unpredictable, if you mess up, its no big deal.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Kite Day

Kite Day is a day-long event celebrating Springtime and Community, and advocating urban open space. It takes place during a selected day in April, National Kite Month. At the selected site, all will be invited to fly their own kite. A number of white kites will be distributed during the weeks preceding the event, and there will be a number on hand the day of the event. Kites will also be used a advertisement with all event info and instructions printed directly on them. These kites will also have an area on which the participant will be asked to fill in the blank ‘OPEN SPACE IS ‘. The kites will be white. The messages will be black. They will be individual, but of the same language. By delivering kites and instructions to them directly, local educational institutions such as New Urban Arts ,Hope High School, and Vartan Gregorian Elementary will be invited to participate directly.

The program of the event will be kept intentionally diverse, there will be areas to decorate the kites, refreshments, and possibly a band. The aim of the event to create a moment of pause where members of the community may come together with a common interest. The act of kite-flying elicits many nostalgic memories for us, it carries with it connotations of Springtime and rebirth. It is light and playful, yet the visual poetry of the sight of tens (or hundreds) of kites being flown in unison amongst the thrust of high rise buildings may serve to remind us of the preciousness of urban open space. It would be magical to see kites being flown in on a site where it will never again be possible, as the site will be inevitably be occupied by another building or parking structure. This project creates a direct connection between earth and sky and our inextricable connection to both as humans.

At the end of the of the event, the kites will be collected, organized, and with a written manifesto submitted to city hall as a document to the ongoing need for urban open space.

The Beast

Perhaps a brief explanation of how I got to my final idea will help explain it further.
One night, not too long ago, a homeless woman entered the I.D. building. She walked right into the metal shop and took a seat. A few students started talking to her and had mixed reactions, some weren’t bothered and continued to talk to her, others decided they were going to call public safety. The latter had a definite result, public safety arrived shortly after the phone call, and the woman was given some kind of citation for trespassing. The effect of this incident was fairly small, but fascinating. She was only in the building for a short time, but she changed the dynamic of interactions between everyone present. It seemed to heighten some kind of sense of danger in a place many see as private. We each take claim of our studio space as our own, and this intrusion made us very, even if only for a short time, our private space as one that is penetrable.

No irony intended, originally I wanted to do a project I called “Sex in Studio”, in which I would place provocative nude figures in each studio as sort of super-stimuli. The idea was to bring something of the true private realm into what we consider to be our personal space, in order for students to start to question its intent, what’s appropriate what’s not and everything in-between. So basically, what happens when you insert private activities and thought in a communal space that is meant to be private?

I began to question the outcome of such a project, and found the possible value of the end result to not be satisfying. So I decided to do something similar, but different, and perhaps something with a more positive approach. I decided I wanted to keep the focus on RISD studios and do a project that visually represents the positive qualities of each department.
Since RISD is so department centric, and with a little inspiration from a friend who loves to personify animals in her drawings, I decided it was about time each department got a mascot.
I want to assign each department with a shell of what I think represents it best, based on both Celtic and Native American symbolism, using an animal to personify each department. All of these are subject to change and are based on a quick study of animal symbolism. I chose to use animals as signifiers because they carry a lot of meaning, and have so many positive and negative connotations they can be interpreted in millions of different ways. And for the most part, they are more approachable then provocative nude figures.
Animals have been used to represent unique human characteristics in literature, film, and television, so it has been come natural for us to compare ourselves with traits we find in animals. I also wanted to play with the idea of a mascot kind of figure, something that represent the department as a whole, and encourages students to interact with it.

Here are the preliminary assignments;
Sculpture - Elephant
Ceramics - Turtle
Painting - Whale
Textiles - Spider
Apparel - Cat
Glass - Jelly Fish
ID - Alligator
Architecture – Mountain Lion
Illustration – Badger
Jewelry - Raccoon
Intar - Bee
FAV - Bat
Graphic - Rabbit
Printmaking - Bobcat
Photography – Lizard
Furniture Design – Wolf
For my intervention I want to make wire forms of each animal, cover them in clear plastic, and place them in their corresponding departments with a name tag and a brief explanation.

And then I am going to impose a task to go along with the figure. I’m going to leave an opening somewhere on the animal for kids to put whatever they want inside of it, with the preface being not trash and hopefully anonymous(or not) thoughts, opinions, and art. My goal is that these animals become a temporary honorary member of the department, and students develop a sense of ownership of it. The animals will live in their departments; they won’t be tied down in any way and will most likely move within the buildings. At the end of their lifespan within the department I will bring together what is left of the animals, and create a beast by combining all of the forms connecting each and every department. I want to sort through what was placed inside the animals and create a tent structure to blanket the beast if enough material has been collected; if not some other arrangement could be made. It is my hope that this beast be displayed in the Edna Lawrence Gallery, the space where freshmen display their work as a sort of offering to those about to join the ranks.

This project in the end will be a physical representation of the collaboration of all of the departments in a way that didn’t require direct social interaction by intentionally but will most likely foster it through the intrusion of space. Its my goal that through this project you will be able to see and appreciate the value of each department individually and as a whole, understand how the work together.

We are separate, we function separately but we are co-dependent in sometimes an unnatural non-social way in which one would work without the other, but with every loss the first would become less unique.

Here is an example of what the wire form might look like for the Sculpture Department, along with the name tag/I.D. that would be around its neck;

Video Projection Loop

I am proposing a piece about distance and memory in space and time. It also has to do with the voyeuristic tendencies of people, their desire to see through the lens of an increasingly anonymous society. The camera has a strange effect of disconnecting the subject and the author. The goal is to transform the space (currently undetermined) by flattening the physical space to a screen or surface through projection, and condense time through an overlap of time.

The arrangement will consist of a video camera, a laptop, a projector and a surface or screen (constructed or existing) on which to project. The projected scenes come from the camera, which are captured and stored on the laptop to be projected at a later time. The camera will capture what is projected as well as anything standing between the screen and the lens.

The delay between the captured scene and the projected scene create a special opportunity to capture a series of scenes, overlaid both in the documentation of the piece as well as in the experience of the viewer. The piece will transform itself as it progresses, as the viewers begin to realize they are participants as well, as anybody who moves in front of the screen will be projected moments later.

I am curious about the possibility of synchronicity. My hypothesis is that there might be unexpected rhythms or patterns that emerge as the piece progresses. At first there will be no footage to project and viewers will lose interest quickly. By the second loop, there might be moments of overlap where the viewer comes across a scene of another (or possibly themselves) from moments earlier. This moment will be captured by the camera and played back moments later. I’m interested to see if this sort of interaction will build upon itself to create a much denser layering than I expect.

I am equally intrigued by the degradation of the imagery depending on the conditions of the space. If there is too much light, the projection will be washed out and will therefore disintegrate in the loop more quickly. In the dark, of course, the projection will be clearer and perhaps the time that is compressed into the scene will represent a greater space-time.

The project is a sort of introverted system of place making. Scenes are collected and built upon one another. It brings into question the ethics of public display, voyeurism and consent, but as it evolves, it may become extroverted. It relies on the viewer’s ability to change, to understand and learn from repetition and possibly voluntarily engage the piece. This commitment from the viewer/participant is crucial to the success of this piece. The goal is to transform the space through a different kind of use, not to record a layered series of images. The documentation (footage incessantly fed back to the projector) becomes the creation of a new place, creating an ambiguous relationship of the viewer/participant and the space/piece.

Possible sites|


This will likely be an issue. I will need a camera, a projector and a laptop, and I'll need them for more than a day. I will have to get in touch with media resources to hopefully arrange to get this equipment for a longer period.

I'll also need to secure all the equipment. I think a box would be good to protect, and also to conceal, the equipment. The safety of the equipment was a main factor in choosing sites. I was looking for places that I could set up and leave for longer periods of time. Something indoors (perhaps in the window sill of somebodies office) would be ideal, and I could project through the window.

Also, I may need to construct a screen. I toyed with the idea of projecting onto an existing surface (hopefully aligning the projection to the existing texture) but it might lose too much information. Anyway, a screen could be constructed fairly cheaply, maybe out of fabric.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

wall space

RISD students, for the most part, remain within the boundaries of their departments. We spend the majority of our time in studio, and when we are in a common, on-campus space (like the dining halls, the RISD store, the library, or the mailroom) it is either brief, with people from our major, or by ourselves. We are very protective of our own studios and shops, and don't easily welcome outsiders to our major space. As we saw this year (with the addition of the "student center" to the RISD store), when community space is labeled for us, it is completely rejected and ignored. In addition, it isn't realistic to have a student center on campus. We both have limited free time, and the free time we do have rarely overlaps between majors.

Often it seems like there is little or no community at RISD, but this is precisely why we are a community. RISD students are bound by their passion for art and design. Because we are so passionate we spend all of our time working and little time socializing. A community space at RISD needs to respond to the way students live and work. A community space should be open to RISD students, and the public. It should be flexible, it should evolve, it should be organic.

The bathroom stalls in the buildings on campus (especially in those that house more than one major) have developed a wealth of conversations on the walls. These messages have created an immense since of ownership and community. New drawings or text appear daily, responses to these materialize, alterations occur, and before long there are layers of student communication. Moreover, this type of communication is anonymous which allows people feel safe, and thus, more honest. 

My proposal is to emulate the bathroom phenomenon by allowing the space between Memorial Hall and the museum, from Benefit St. to the Chase center, to permanently be a completely open, unstructured, non-policed space for 2-D and 3-D work of any medium by students and the public (graffiti, text, sculpture, ads, installations, whatever). This will allow people to contribute, on their own time, in their own way, to an ongoing conversation and common body of work. Also, it will, in a way, be a daily show of current student’s effort and thought. Because of its location on Benefit St. and behind the Chase center, it both is a highly trafficked and central space for RISD students, and it might help to suck the local, non-RISD, population into the bowels of our campus to interact with and learn about students and their work. Also, it will, in a way, be a daily show of current student’s work and thoughts.

This budget for this proposal is $0. It is funded and maintained completely by students and the public. All is takes is an approval by someone up top, and completely ignoring that space when it comes to cleaning and maintenance.

White Tents Revisited

Conceptually, the original proposal for this project attempted to explore two ideas: uncertainty and precise indeterminacy.

The courtyard between the Chace Center and Metcalf building was chosen as the location for the proposal due to its heavy traffic of both RISD students and the general public. I envisioned this type of transitional space to work best in testing the two ideas I mentioned previously.

The white tents represent mini space makers. I want people to circulate through them as they move through the site. They would move from outside to inside and back to outside. I want them to spark curiosity and ambiguity. I see them as an opportunity to describe circulation. The experiment would explore whether people conform to the circulation path or describe their own.
I plan on revising the original program of the tents. Initially, I envisioned the program to include food stations, work space, social gathering, and circulation. Realistically, many of these are not feasible because of limited resources and finances.

Additionally, my original proposal primarily focused on RISD students and failed to address ways of uniting the general public with campus. After re-reading Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics, I have explored alternate ideas for the program of the white tents. Bourriaud states, “Art is a state of encounter…a work can function as a relational device in which there is a degree of randomness.” I am very much interested in this idea of randomness and uncertainty. Bourriaud also writes, “It can be a machine for provoking and managing individual or collective encounters.” Using the idea of art as a tool for social encounter, I have developed a new proposal. There will be a different art project inside each tent. As people move through the site, they will have the opportunity to add to the piece of art. Multiple tents may be used to house one piece of art. Not only will students and other community members have the opportunity to contribute to the art, but they will be able to decide which piece of art they would like to contribute to. For example, one of the art projects will be a large mural for painting and drawing, another will be adding clay to a large piece of sculpture, adding a chosen word to a large paragraph, and a performance art tent.

This new proposal allows members of the community (who may not be associated with RISD) to become involved with students and the school. It’s a way to promote creativity through social interaction. The artwork begins to define a history of the previous people who passed through the space. It’s uncertain what the end result will be. People may or may not visit the site at other times throughout the day to see how the artwork is changing and developing. Some of the pieces may be much more developed than others due to popularity and interests of the people traveling through the site.
I have diagramed possible formations of the tents.

The first formation describes a linear circulation through the site. The red lines represent possible routes of encounter with the tents and the blue represents a possible route of avoidance. This formation explores how people may react to the tents. Will people use them as circulation and go through them to get across the site? Or will people treat them as furniture in a living room and go around them?

The second formation describes routes that allow people to move in multiple directions of the site. Additionally, this formation describes the tents in both individual and cluster formations. The tents are arranged so that smaller pockets of space are created. Will people use these new activated zones for gathering?

The third formation describes the tents in two linear arrangements. Possible circulation routes allow people to move in the center of the two lines or routes through the tents. This formation explores the typical “flee-market” arrangement.

The fourth formation pushes the tents to one side of the site. This arrangement allows people to freely pass through the site without being confronted with the tents. Interaction with the tents is by choice only. This arrangement explores whether or not the ambiguity of the tents attracts people to see what is going on inside them.

Like I mentioned previously, I am interested in uncertainty. I am uncertain what the projected outcome of the event will be. That being said, I want to receive specific results from the experiment. I see both the failure and success of the space to be extremely valuable. In fact, I hope that I see a mixture of both. My actions during the experiment will have to respond to the failure of the space. Can I re-arrange or change the tents during the experiment to respond to how people are passing through the space. Which formation was receiving better results? The result of the experiment will not be something that I gather at the end of the day but rather continuously throughout the entirety of the intervention. What aspects had to change? What things about the space attracted people to stay and use the tents? How were people interacting with each other? Were students meeting fellow students they had never met before? Was the ambiguity and uncertainty of the space attracting students to stay rather than pass through?

Additionally, I hope that the physical relic of the artwork informs me something about the experiment. How were students reacting to the art compared to the general public? What were students saying to each other and members of the public? Were people interested in seeing what the final piece of art looked like at the end of the day? Were people even interested in contributing to the art?

This project excites me because of its uncertainty. I am unsure if this type of event could habitually occur on campus. However, I am hoping it will begin to show whether the physical location of the site (an in-between space on campus with heavy circulation going through it), and the idea of the space (an amorphous, uncertain, and changing space, with multiple programs), can have positive results on campus.