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.