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Maira Kalman to Deliver Keynote Address at Rhode Island School of Design’s 2013 Commencement


Kalman will receive an honorary degree, along with legendary Swiss designer

and artist Karl Gerstner and environmental activist Bill McKibben


PROVIDENCE, RI – On Saturday, June 1 at 10:30AM, 197 graduate and 462 undergraduate students from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) will receive their diplomas during RISD’s 2013 Commencement celebration. The ceremony will take place at the Rhode Island Convention Center in downtown Providence, adjacent to the space that houses the annual RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition.

This year RISD will present three outstanding cultural leaders with honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees: illustrator and designer Maira Kalman, who will also deliver the keynote address; Swiss designer and artist Karl Gerstner,who is unable to travel to Providence but will accept in absentia; and environmental activist Bill McKibben.  

Illustrator and self-described optimistMaira Kalmanhas written and illustrated many well-loved children’s books, including Max Makes a Million, What Pete Ate from A–Z, Looking at Lincoln and Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey. A frequent cover artist and contributor to The New Yorker, she has brought her inimitable style to books such as And the Pursuit of Happiness, Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style and Michael Pollan’s newly reissued classic Food Rules. Kalman also collaborated with her late husband, the indomitable Tibor Kalman, at his design company M&Co, which created a number of products now carried by the Museum of Modern Art.

Karl Gerstner, apreeminent designer and systems thinker, has made a significant impact on the world of modern art, design and design education. He was a cofounder of GGK (Gerstner, Gredinger and Kutter), one of Switzerland’s largest and most successful ad agencies and one that made a global impact through groundbreaking work for Geigy, Swiss Air, IBM and other clients. Gerstner is perhaps best known for his 1963 book Designing Programmes – something of a “bible” in design circles – along with several books on color theory and such pivotal works as Compendium for Literates, Visual Language and MarcelDuchamp: »Tu m’« Puzzle upon Puzzle.

One of the world’s leading environmentalists,Bill McKibbenis an author and activist who has been called “the planet’s best green journalist” by TIME magazine. He has written more than a half dozen important books – including Maybe One (about population growth) and Enough (about genetic engineering) – and is a frequent contributor to The Atlantic Monthly, Grist, Harper’s, Mother Jones, The New York Times and Rolling Stone, among others.

McKibben’s 1989 bookThe End of Nature became the first widely influential polemic on climate change. Since 2009 his grassroots climate change campaign – which references 350 parts per million as the safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – has coordinated thousands of rallies around the world. 

Among the other awards presented at Commencement, RISD alumna Tamara Kaplan MA/MAT 00, operations manager at the Providence-based nonprofit New Urban Arts, will accept the Alumni Association’s Art and Education Award for outstanding service and leadership in art and design education. She is being recognized for offering local high school students a safe and caring creative community in which to explore their interest in art and develop lifelong learning skills.

A series of exhibitions leading up to Commencement will highlight new works produced by graduating students, including the Senior Invitational Exhibition at Woods-Gerry Gallery, the RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition at the RI Convention Center, a selection of graduate student works at Sol Koffler Gallery, a student-curated exhibition at the Gelman Student Exhibitions Gallery in the Chace Center, and the Senior Film/Animation/Video Festival at the RISD Auditorium. Details about each can be found in the Exhibitions area of RISD’s website.

Commencement is a true representation of the students’ time spent at RISD, where their spirits of individuality and creative minds come to life via both playful and innovative costumes created specially for the occasion and the thoughtful decoration of otherwise traditional caps and gowns. For more information on RISD’s 2013 Commencement, visit

About Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has earned an international reputation as the leading college of art and design in the United States. Recently ranked #1 in Business Insider’s survey of The World’s 25 Best Design Schools, approximately 2,400 students from around the world study at RISD, pursuing full-time bachelor’s or master’s degree programs in a choice of 19 studio majors. RISD is known for its phenomenal faculty of artists and designers, the breadth of its specialized facilities and its hands-on, studio-based approach to learning – one in which critical thinking informs making works by hand. Required courses in the liberal arts provide an essential complement to studio work, enabling graduates to become critical and informed individuals eager to engage with the world. Through the accomplishments of its 26,000 alumni, the college champions the vital role artists and designers play in satisfying the global demand for innovation. Founded in 1877, RISD (pronounced “RIZ-dee”) and the RISD Museum of Art help make Providence, RI among the most culturally active and creative cities in the region. For more information, visit or


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The façade of the Chace Center, a new multipurpose hub that opened
in 2008, offers an interesting contrast to the historic campus
buildings that surround it.