Time to play that Talking Heads song again: how did I get here?
Can it BE 30 years already? Yes, it can. I went to RISD for my 30th reunion this weekend, and while the flashbacks were few, the chance to see familiar faces was grand. My fellow time travelers, Ged Kenslea, David Hicks, and Madeline Sorel, checked in with me here.
So much is new, it was a bit disorienting. Back when we were students, Providence was a seedy mafia town. Now, it's been rebranded as the Venice of New England, or something. OMG, gondolas!
Thankfully, some things don't change. Carr Haus is still a gathering spot, where I learned to drink coffee and ponder my place in the throng. Ran into lots of classmates there, like Ron de Felice, Wendy Northrup, and Mary Maguire. Wonderful!
From there, I was determined to spend some quality time at the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab. Thanks to life transitions on the elder front, I've come back in possession of this drawing I did there as a freshman.
I've been marveling at the level of determination here, and it brings back tangible memories of many hours in that lab. It remains a magical cabinet of curiosities.
No matter what your intended major, every student spends time here freshman year. I did some referencing for a current project. There are live specimens, such as this turtle basking under a heat lamp.
And the forensic samples...
This one is kinda freaky.
I sketched some cool coral samples, all white now, much like living coral that is being bleached of color due to warmer waters.
I found a curious squirrel labeled "rhubarb" that needed to be drawn.
I sat across from a student, no doubt doing her nature studies assignment. The fundamentals don't change. As stated in the Nature Lab brochure:
"By exploring specimens, students can learn about design and the intersection of form and function, the integration of parts to a whole, and be inspired by the simple elegance of natural patterns. Once that students see that all plants and animals represent a solution to a series of design constraints, they may then employ aspects of nature's solution in their works."
I sketched her as she sketched. Ah, youth.
It was hard to tear myself away from a place that really brought me back in time, but I wandered about the Waterman building and ran into Doris Ruth, former CoLab Queen. She brought me to see the new wing over at the museum, where we traveled into the cosmos looking at Tristin Lowe's Lunacy, made with sewn felt.
Talk about natural inspiration. After all my contributions to the Lunar Calendar, it was a kick to be in the same room as the moon.
Here's another favorite. The exclamation point may be overused these days, but here it has the weight and meaning it deserves. Damn, forgot to find out the artist. For shame.
From there, we joined up with other classmates, including Lane Myers, who currently teaches at RISD. He gave us a tour of the new Fleet Library, impossibly swanky, but a good place to convene and catch up on the state of art education.
He led us to Thee Red Fez, an esteemed establishment where we quenched every thirst and then some.
From there, it was on to Water Fire, a spectacle of natural elements that brings out the masses.
Downside: the streets turned into a parking lot and we were rather late for our reunion dinner at the President's house. President Maeda visited our tables, and asked us all to support his effort to bring art and design into the national STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) agenda. He asked us to support a House resolution.
He's blurry in my quickie photo, but dead on sharp about bringing more creativity to education.
It was a fantastic time, reconnecting not only to classmates, but to that distant chapter of being a student immersed in exploring the world through art and art making. It's an exploration I am still on, and loving every minute. Thank you, RISD, for helping me focus my vision.
Bravo, class of 1980. You're looking goooood!