Sunday, March 15, 2009

Work and Food

At RISD there is no lack of diversity but there is a distinct lack of connectivity. Through our investigations it has become clear that the RISD community is fragmented into departmental components. As stated in a previous post the strongest sense of community I have felt here at RISD has been in the shops/studios. Reflecting upon this I can see why it is so. Given that there is so much emphasis put on production it makes sense that we spend so much time in the places where this production happens. We work in the studios and shops of our respective departments leaving only to get sustenance, fresh air, for a class or sleep (quite a few of us sleep on a couch or under a desk as the semester progresses). There is a twisted pride surrounding how much we work.

The communal workspaces, within each department, posses elements that foster a sense of community. They are places where community grows organically through casual interaction. People ask for advice and help, offer advice, help and support, share tools, materials and food. Bonds are formed through hardship, super ordinate goals, generosity, co-operation and emotion. I think these interactions make for better final products as well as a more enjoyable process. Though these places bring together a diverse population, the populace is gathered from within the department.
These shops are technically accessible to all the RISD community they cannot be USED by all the community for reasons of safety.

Where is the line between institutionalizing and recognizing and/or replicating and/or encouraging? I think that a 24hr RISD workshop that sold coffee, snacks nuts & bolts would be infinitely more successful than a typical student union/center ever could be. The logistics of such a place are preventative, but were it possible I believe the potential level of consideration and innovation in our work would be exponentially increased. Imagine the inspiration and solutions grown in such a cross pollinated environment. People from different disciplines sharing thoughts, advice, critiques, and knowledge, bringing all their diversity with them to the table in this creative environment would be incredible.

My proposed intervention will hopefully capitalize on the thoughts stated above. The location I have chosen is the partially covered courtyard at the top of the stairs between the RISD museum and the Metcalf building, a spot that also happens to be close to many of the important other common spaces on campus (RISD store, Metcalf store, mailroom and museum). I believe this space to be an ideal location to set up and outdoor communal workspace. Setting up 4-6 worktables, designed to serve the needs of a variety of disciplines, and access to power under the overhang will provide a pleasant, sheltered outdoor common area for students to gather and work. As the weather gets nicer peoples desire to be outside grows. This intervention would give them somewhere to go and still be able to work. Also providing opportunity for casual interactions, influences and cross-pollinations between disciplines. With some encouragement, I believe the students will develop a sense of ownership over this space and prevent it from becoming a disaster zone that would require its removal. It would have the added benefit of allowing the greater Providence community a glimpse into our world.
My other concept is inspired by a combination of last weeks guest, the family van and my own feelings about the food culture at RISD and in America in general. Too often we are grabbing something fast and eating on the run. Rarely do we sit down for a relaxing, conversation filled meal with friends/family. I have always found a meal to be the perfect setting in which to share and create ideas with others, reflect on things, release tensions, laugh and recharge physically and emotionally through the pleasures of food and conversation. A good meal is an amazing icebreaker. The intervention would be a bi-monthly, roving potluck dinner party. It will require a small mobile cart containing a microwave, toaster oven, hot plate and cooler/fridge fro storage and reheating. It will be structured to encourage attendees to buddy up with a friend from another department, which would offset the cost of contribution and help expand the circle. The kick off location will be the ID gallery at 161 S main St followed by events in other departments’ community areas. Creating a space that moves throughout the various departments will allow people to interact with new space, places and people while simultaneously being a familiar environment. Food is a commodity at RISD and can be utilized as tool to enhance community. The smells of food and the sounds of revelry will attract passers like moths to a flame. Slowly this circle will expand and people will perceive the value in taking an hour or two every so often to interact with other creative people over a meal.

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