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.

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