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.

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