Between Competition Dances
My daughter’s dance career has brought us to Providence, RI this week for Headliner’s Dance Competition Nationals. This is the same New England city that I visited with my parents many years ago while looking at colleges, something I’ll be doing this year with my own daughter.
When I was 17 years old, and a senior in high school in the Great State of Massachusetts (As my Father used to love to call it) my sights were set on attending college in pursuit of an art degree; all I ever wanted to be was an artist. Back in 1986, the best art school in the country was Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), second was Pratt in New York City, and third was Syracuse University’s School of Visual and Performing Arts in Upstate NY.
Being raised in a relatively rural area of New England, the idea of attending college in New York City was too intimidating for me to even consider. I had visited New York and found it to be exciting, but confusing and overwhelming at the same time.
Applying to RISD had its own intimidation factor. Not only did you have to submit a portfolio of work, SAT scores and your GPA, but I also had a project on my hands. RISD gave their applicants a drawing assignment that had to be executed in pencil on oversized paper, rolled up and mailed in to the admissions department for critique. To meet requirements, I spent a lot of time drawing undulating folds of fabric, and my high school art teacher spent a lot of time preparing my portfolio of work. In 1986 there were no JPGs of to be submitted via CD or FTP, oh no! Ancient technology meant that Ms. Chiampa spent hours of her own time photographing my work on slide film, had it developed, and then cropped the images by means of applying black electrical tape over the slide to cover anything on the film beyond the edges of the art. What an involved process!
My parents took me to visit the RISD and we learned that it sits on the hill of Providence, RI right next to Brown University. Academic classes would be taken at Brown, an Ivy League school, not a bad reciprocating agreement. Providence was a nice city and college hill offered beautiful architecture, unique shops, green areas, and brick streets. I was thrilled with the idea of being accepted to and attending RISD, but the truth of the matter was that they didn’t have much money to give in financial aid. I needed more than they could give.
I had to give up my dream of attending RISD, but I was always very proud to say that I was actually accepted. 12 slides embellished with electrical tape and a still life drawing later, RISD was impressed enough with my talent to offer me enrollment. Sometimes artistic validation is enough to make one happy, even when faced with the fact that you can’t always get what you want. To this day, considering myself a successful artist is about being accepted by those considered to be experts and respected people in the field.
Walking around campus today was a totally different experience for me than it was in 1985. How things change yet stay the same. I saw students setting up to draw a sculpture on the green with an instructor, I appreciated public sculpture, I had an ice tea and checked my email at a small café, and I spent some time in the RISD Art Museum and Store, all things I would have thoroughly enjoyed as a student here.
There was a lot of construction on Thayer St. at the top of the hill where most of the restaurants and coffee shops were, but that did’t stop people from being out and about. The whole campus was buzzing with people, it seemed like there were summer sessions in progress as I even saw a group of students being given a lecture in the RISD Art Museum.
Museum’s a Must
The RISD Art Museum offered some wonderful impressionistic paintings in their collection. I admired several by Matisse, Cézanne, Monet, Manet, Pissaro, Degas, and even a small Van Gogh. (Peggy Guggenheim also gifted a rather lovely Jackson Pollock to the Museum) There was a wonderful graphic design exhibit on display which covered logo design and branding, as well as type design, posters, and books. I was impressed to see an exhibition of this type of commercial art in the museum, after all many students will choose to major in some form of commercial art.
Exiting the Museum I had to make my way around a closed sidewalk, RISD is erecting a new Illustration Studies building on campus. Its exciting to imagine all the incoming students who will be able to learn and study in a new facility, the future of art.
The exhibit I most enjoyed was probably that of the 2014 student work. How exciting it was to see what art students today are working on. The exhibit showcased both MFA and BFA student work. There was fabric/clothing design, embroidery, painting, sculpture, photography, painting, print making, sculpture, you name it. A very nice representation of all mediums, classic and contemporary. I think my favorite piece was a painting entitled Melatonin 10mg, perhaps because I can relate to the sleeplessness that often brings on creative ideas and concepts. The title made me smile, the painting was wonderfully loose and bordering abstract.
Art All Around
Public art isn’t just limited to college hill in Providence. I was taken with a Wall of Hope that was made up from hundreds of individual tiles, hand painted by people of all races, ages, religions, and cultures. The wall is a tribute to loved ones lost in the 9/11 tragedy. Art plays a part in a vision of hope for the future, whether it be tiles of hope or a new building for college bound illustration students.
It was a pleasure to spend the afternoon on the campus of RISD, Brown, and in Providence. I am after all, always going to be a New England Girl at heart. My family is going to pick up my dancing daughter and I on Monday morning, we will head out to Western Massachusetts for a family gathering in celebration of my father’s 70th birthday in early August, my daughter’s birthday in early July, and my birthday this week. I’m sure we will manage to squeeze in some homemade ice cream at the local creamery coupled with some photos of cows, a drive by of the Yankee Candle headquarters (I CAN’T go in there, my luggage is already over weight) and of course some pancakes with pure maple syrup made by my brother and his sons from the trees in their yard.
for being a part of
My Art Journey,
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