Monday, March 9, 2009

Currents in Space Practices (BWD)

Dirt Palace


Xander Marro

Feminist Art Collective in Providence

Founded in 2000

Location -
14 Olneyville Sq. 
Providence, RI

7 Members

Extract from the website: “We provide a space that promotes our personal growth as individuals, and an environment conducive to challenging thoughts and radical actions. We are continuously building and improving our facilities and structure in order to actualize our ideas. Our collective fosters the growth of strong, thoughtful, independent women who use their creative awareness of the world to change it.”

Xander was one of the founding members of Dirt palace back in 2000,

The space an Old Library Building was supported through the city with a lease to buy arrangement. The idea of Dirt Palace was to found a collective space for vulnerable female artists (A feminist collective). At the time there was little opportunities for women artists to support each other and collaborate, with the art scene in Providence at the time more male dominated and supported. There was very little culture of feminist art communities within the city. The Idea, “to make a stand” with the city at the time very supportive of the arts community.

Other the past 9 years there has been 20 people in the mix with 7 people at a time, crazy enough in Xanders words to stick with it. The average turnover being 2 years.

The space – The building an old library would to most standards be seen as being uninhabitable and to most city inspectors unsafe with old wiring and lack of heating (so its freezing), but as can be seen this adds to the charm of the space and lends to the argument that without the organizations take over and development of it the building would of fallen into complete disrepair.

The space covers 2 floors – the bottom Studio space one enters strait from the main street entrance is where the 7 artists each have a area within the large open plan room to work in. On the same floor and off from the main studio space, is where the organizations office is, a drum room, textiles fabric room and a dark room.

On the second floor is where the Old library is which is still used thou in need of a bit of a sort out. Xander says there has always been great plans and ideas by one or two members over the years to develop and reorganize the space such as a ‘radical book store’ but no ones ever got round to it. In the past the library used to be the center for ‘Books Through Bars’, which sent books to prisoners who were denied access to reading material. But as I learnt, when the main lady who had a passion for this moved so did the process, and it is now run from the local library.

The 2nd floor also houses the bedrooms with each of the 7 women having there own separate private rooms. The Kitchen which overlooks the main road and is directly above the ground floor studio space is a really great communal space and one which really represents the artistic surroundings one is in, the musty smell emphasizing the lack of heating while blending in to the whole fabric of the building. In the kitchen the cupboards are jam-packed with pots and tins of this that and the other. The old antique kitchen table is where Xander and I end up chatting over a cup of tea.

It becomes apparent that while they are a collective community in terms of the space they equally use and share they are on the other hand individually working on there own projects and outside work, and therefore it is a space which provides for individuals to develop there work and interests while in a creative environment.

Dirt palace isn’t an active community space in general terms for the wider community but does offer use of there screen printing facility’s to groups as well as allows use of the library once a month. Those from the wider community who do use the space on these occasions are often those known to the dirt palace members (friends of friends) and therefore it seems more of a close knit community rather than one completely open to just anyone. The gallery space in the main front window running along the pavement is usually used to exhibit international artists work and is not usually used to exhibit member’s work.

Asked about the feminist aspect to the organization, the response – “No diapers”

Interview with one of the members –

AMP magazine also did a recent interview about Dirt Palace which Im trying to track down at the moment.

Better World by Design Conference


Tino Chow

Final Year RISD Student ID

What local community or communities are you part of?
Better World by Design, IDFA, What We Do, OSL,

What is the Better World By Design?
The BWD was a conference I helped to run. The conference focused on the questions, Designers, engineers and academics should be asking, How can we use technology to improve the world?

Where did you organize for the conference to take place?
The conference was a collaboration between RISD and Brown University students. Brown offered the use of the facilities for the conference to take place and with many different areas to stage different discussion groups and different talks given it seemed the perfect place to locate the conference.

What spaces did you make?
Well we wanted to have the conference located in one central area but also spread out on campus into separate spaces so that people could go to one place to here one talk and find information on one thing and another place for something completely new and different.

How was space set apart for specific use compared to its usual function?
The conference took place over two weekends, as lectures and class took place in the spaces normally in the space we were using the weekends were the best time to dually use this space at a time when academic classes would not be taking place and when students would be able to attend.

Is this a continuing project?
Yes, currently were looking to expand; tho keeping in RI based. And we are looking to make the conference an annual occurrence.

How do you apply Jacobs’ concepts in this chapter to your experience or the experience of the people you have interviewed (at RISD or outside?)?

In Jane Jacobs chapter ‘ The generators of diversity ’ Jacobs focuses on the diversity within city and the districts, which make them up. It is not an assumption that diversity is natural to big cities and in this sense is natural to institutions such as ours, RISD.
In 1791 James Boswell noted when referring to the city of London and how different it is a place it is to individual people, saw two different outlooks on city life from those involved in it. He explained these outlooks one being from the perspective of a narrow minded person who sees and views city life in terms of their particular pursuit, occupation & life. The other outlook, that of the intellectual who views the city as a place where a number of different activities and pursuits take place throughout the city all the time, and is open to the idea of pursuits outside his own individual world.
I believe at RISD it is easy for us all to fall into the first classification one where are idea of what happens around us is overlooked and instead focused on ones own life and work and therefore the opportunity to break out and interact with other people in different areas is lost, and so does the opportunity to build ties and relationships within the greater community at large.
Jacobs first important question in the chapter refers to city planning. How can cities generate enough mixture among users-enough diversity-throughout enough of their territories, to sustain their own civilization? This is a question I believe we should be looking to answer when focusing on the community that is RISD.
From the interviews I carried out it seemed this issue of diversity sprung up throughout with students feeling segregated, part of only the community, which forms their place of work. It became apparent from answers given that a central area where people could meet and socialize with different students from different disciplines was in great need to bridge this gap. It also became apparent to me that there was felt a lack of inter-discipline integration between student departments, which a few interviewees wanted so that they could interact with students from different disciplines.
Looking at the student population at risd there is a great diversity of students in particular from Asia. It seems apparent that although a real effort is made to try and integrate students from varying cultures, there is a cultural divide amongst communities here with students many students really only socializing with those who can speak there home language. Even thou this is only natural and is seen in every city and community, it works against efforts to bring communities such as ours together and therefore a greater effort maybe needed in part to bridge these gaps.
A lively city scene according to Jacobs is largely by virtue of its enormous collection of small elements in proximity to each other. From the answers to the interviews I found it was interesting how all the students ate lunch at different places to each other with all bar one listing one of the three places being home. All these places are again spread out and most did not involve campus dining. From these answers it gave me a sense that even in a city like providence there is no real
Central area or street where this vibrancy can be found from day to day and hour to hour in proximity RISD students other than Thayer St which would be seen as being too far away. Rather there is the aspect a number of different places dotted around. Each frequented by the small local community in proximity to it.

No comments:

Post a Comment