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Teens Develop Portfolios


Michael Lamar worked with POD participants on their lighting designs. / photo by Matthew Clowney

As part of the latest weeklong summer studio organized by Project Open Door (POD), 11 ambitious local high school students spent a week in August hard at work in a RISD studio. Sculptural Lighting, taught by adjunct faculty member Michael Lamar MFA 84 CR, provided students with their first in-depth experience designing and building in 3D. Using pine, wooden dowels, translucent papers, hot glue and low-heat light bulbs, they created functional, one-of-a-kind pieces that were formally critiqued at the end of the week and photographed for their growing portfolios.

Professor Paul Sproll, head of the department of Teaching + Learning in Art + Design (TLAD), founded and now directs POD, a program designed to connect RISD students and faculty members with local teenagers from low-income families, provide them with free art and design education and support their efforts to get in to college. Since 2006 more than 500 teenagers have participated in the program.

POD Associate Director Christina Miles MAT 11, who assisted in the Sculptural Lighting studio, has known most of the kids who participated since they first got involved with RISD as high school sophomores. Many are also members of the larger Portfolio Program, which enables students to take Saturday morning art classes taught by RISD faculty members and gradually develop their portfolios in preparation for college applications.

“The goal for most of these kids is to go to college,” says Miles. “They’re looking for opportunities.” Two out of the 11 studio participants just graduated from high school and are heading off to college in the fall – one to Parsons and one to URI. And five of the six POD kids who graduated from high school last year earned sizable scholarships and just finished their first year at RISD, Miles proudly adds.

Simone Solondz

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tags: local/regional, public engagement, Teaching + Learning in Art + Design

TLAD Foreground Image 3
An MAT student advises a teen enrolled in a Project Open Door after-school studio at RISD.