Rhode Island School of Design Kicks Off 'National Manufacturing Month' with Art, Design + Manufacturing Event

September 29, 2014

With deep roots in local manufacturing – extending back to its founding in 1877 – Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) got a jump start on National Manufacturing Month today. To mark the October celebration, 60 community leaders came to campus to experience making in collaboration with faculty and students. RISD also announced the development of a new Continuing Education (RISD|CE) certificate program to support local manufacturing, and opened Co-Works, a new downtown academic facility for making and collaboration.

The day began at RISD’s Chace Center auditorium, where Executive Director of Commerce RI Marcel Valois shared next steps for STEAMengine, Commerce RI’s plan for the creation of a center for design and manufacturing; and RI Innovation Fellow Amy Bernhardt (RISD ’95), spoke about Colorfast, the exciting new textiles startup she’s launching in Rhode Island.

RISD President Rosanne Somerson then announced the development of a new RISD|CE certificate program, which will launch in January 2015. The Product Development + Manufacturing program will teach students the importance of the design process in developing meaningful solutions to real-world problems. Students will gain a range of fundamental creative, analytic, mechanical and visual skills that will enable them to address myriad challenges in the product development process. Graduating with these skills and a robust portfolio, participants will be well-prepared for careers in product design and manufacturing, as well as other entrepreneurial pursuits.

Following the announcement, participants split into two groups to engage in hands-on design charrettes with RISD faculty and students, focused on the role of design at various stages of innovation. During the charrettes, participants discussed local design challenges and opportunities; experienced what manufacturing might look like when art and design are added; and how the community can influence policy around manufacturing.

The day’s activities culminated with the grand opening of Co-Works, RISD’s brand new shared making space located downtown at 169 Weybosset Street in RISD’s Fletcher Building, where Congressman David Cicilline welcomed participants. Co-Works, born out of RISD’s most recent strategic plan and home to advanced tools and technologies, aims to bring together faculty and students from different disciplines to advance material exploration and diverse making practices.

“RISD has a philosophy of developing a deep understanding of practice in one’s domain,” said RISD Interim Provost Pradeep Sharma. “The purpose of this new space is to explore what happens when you connect deep spaces of knowing, what these areas of differing practice may bring to our own creative processes, and how they may inform new ideas and new ways of working. The challenge is not to lose our deep commitment to our subjects, but to also look at the spaces between.”

“Today RISD brought together some of Rhode Island’s most innovative manufacturers, designers, and policy makers to focus on the role of art and design in industrial innovation and economic development,” said RISD President Rosanne Somerson. “This focus has been at the core of RISD’s mission since our founding in 1877, and I’m excited by the opportunity for us to introduce new, creative approaches to materials and methods that may benefit our local manufacturing partners. Together I am confident we can advance manufacturing in Rhode Island.”

“The arts and design expertise and capabilities here in Rhode Island are key to our economic growth. RISD does a great job collaborating and bringing manufacturing, design, and the arts together into a broader creative community. This kind of innovation creates jobs, and will shape our economic future,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, who earlier this year brought NEA Chairwoman Jane Chu to Rhode Island for a look at RISD’s progress with the “STEM to STEAM” initiative. “Adding arts to STEM is becoming a national movement, and once again, RISD was out front and is helping to lead the way.”

“Rhode Island is the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution and has a long manufacturing history,” said Congressman David Cicilline, who has championed the ‘Make it in America’ agenda to strengthen the U.S. manufacturing sector. “Government, business, non-profit and academic partnerships will help ensure Rhode Island continues to be at the forefront of advanced manufacturing, which relies heavily on design and innovation excellence and I’m especially pleased to help unveil Rhode Island School of Design’s new Co-Works space to educate and train the next generation of innovators at RISD.

The activities and announcements of the day are all examples of STEAM, an initiative championed by RISD that has turned into a national movement. STEAM calls for adding art and design to the national STEM agenda (STEM + A = STEAM) to develop a comprehensive educational model that will better prepare future generations to compete in the 21st century innovation economy. RISD’s advocacy of STEAM is spurring a growing conversation about how innovation and creativity – essential qualities nurtured by an art and design education and highly valued by employers – are what the US needs urgently to foster economic growth and competitiveness in the years ahead. Supporters can add themselves to RISD’s recently-launched STEAM Map at map.stemtosteam.org/