It was no shock when RISD officially declared Rosanne Somerson, ’76 alumna, faculty member, department head and provost, the school’s 17th president this past March. After the unceremonious departure of former chief executive John Maeda, Somerson’s seamless transition as interim president in January 2014 reaffirmed her lifelong love of RISD and her commitment to the creative arts, design and global innovation.
To celebrate her new position, RISD will be hosting her official inauguration on Friday, October 9 at the Roger Williams National Memorial on North Main Street. Starting at 2pm, the ceremony is open to the community and represents just the beginning of what promises to be an exciting weekend in Providence.
In fact, the annual three-day-long RISD by Design weekend – a range of events that lionize over five decades of alumni and current students – starts at 10am on Friday, October 8 and extends until 12:30pm on Sunday, October 10. RISD By Design will coincide with RISD Craft – a juried retail sale of fine art and handmade crafts from over 150 alumni and student artists on Benefit Street – presentations, tours, open studios and receptions.
A perfect example of RISD’s multi-talented alumni, architecture graduate, fashion designer and ceramics professional Adam Silverman will kick off the weekend’s festivities with a keynote recollection of RISD’s unique “DNA.” Co-founder of the spectacularly successful street fashion labels X-Large and X-Girl, and previously the studio director of Heath Ceramics, Silverman embodies RISD’s creative flexibility, which he has showcased in exhibitions in the United States and Japan.
Following his speech, the entire central campus will host an outdoor after-party featuring live music, artwork and performances beginning at 6pm, capping the inauguration celebrations and setting an energetic tone for the weekend’s agenda. As part of the celebration, the RISD Museum will be free to the public all week, from Tuesday, October 6 to Sunday, October 11.
The afternoon itinerary on Saturday – jam-packed with 20 different presentations, workshops, sales and tours – offers explorations into academia, design, history, sustainability and RISD tradition that should appeal to children, prospective students and art advocates alike. Highlights include a letterpress printed poster workshop, a Nature Lab demonstration, book readings and signings, walking tours of historic RISD and drop-in drawing classes.
Meanwhile, Benefit Street will be closed off, becoming a marketplace to an impressive array of design work as part of RISD Craft from 10am to 5pm. Of the 90 alumni and 30 students showcasing their work, 2004 Film/Video and Painting graduate Muffy Brandt feels especially fortunate for the community’s support of art, design and crafts in all forms, with a particular love for the Benefit Street sales.
“It’s amazing to reconnect with classmates and see how people’s work and practice are evolving. There is an openness and attitude of mutual support that I love about RISD and the camaraderie among makers is warm,” she states.
Following RISD Craft, the evening’s dinners will celebrate the reunions of ten classes, with the class of 1965 being honored for its 50th year since its graduation.
On-campus exhibition tours, including the Career Center’s new 50-seat presentation room at 123 Dyer Street, close the weekend on Sunday and honors RISD’s mission to grow extraordinary people who thrive in its creative culture.
Primed to lead RISD in establishing a world that has yet to exist, President Somerson is determined to turn the “conceptual into the practical” by testing new ideas that will prepare students for the 21st century’s needs for innovation, agility and process-driven problem solving. By doing so, Somerson is convinced that the breadth of what RISD can achieve, either alone or in partnership with other universities such as Brown, is limitless.