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Rhode Island School of Design Celebrates the Class of 2020

A special video tribute launched today honors graduates; official commencement ceremony tentatively planned for early October

PROVIDENCE, RI – Today, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) honored the 457 undergraduate and 207 graduate students earning their degrees this spring. The global virtual celebration featured a video tribute to the class of 2020 and is now viewable at commencement.risd.edu.

The celebration is not a virtual commencement, but a moment to commemorate the class of 2020 and their families, and students’ perseverance through these tremendously challenging times. The video included remarks from President Rosanne Somerson, Provost Kent Kleinman, graduating students and other special guests, as well as recognition of each graduate and the announcement of student awards.

RISD will hold an in-person commencement ceremony once circumstances permit. It is tentatively scheduled to occur during RISD Weekend (October 9-11), the college’s annual alumni reunion and family weekend, and an update on plans will be shared in early summer.

“While this year ended so much differently than any of us could have imagined, I am so incredibly proud of the class of 2020, and the resilience and resourcefulness they have shown during this unprecedented time,” notes President Somerson. “Commencement marks the extraordinary accomplishments of our graduating students and represents a lifetime milestone for students and their families, years in the making. I look forward to celebrating the class of 2020 both virtually and in person.”

Providence-based cinematographer Jon Gourlay 15 FAV teamed up with photographer Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH to make the video—with input from faculty member Thad Russell MFA 06 PH. The piece features messages of warmth and solidarity from a wide range of alumni, including:

Janine Antoni MFA 89 SC, Korakrit Arunanondchai 09 PR, Deborah Berke BArch 77, Gabrielle Bullock BArch 84, SooJin (Chun) 96 IL + Chris Buzelli 95 IL, Ilene Chaiken 79 GD, Roz Chast 77 PT, Shepard Fairey 92 IL, Jenny Holzer MFA 77 PT, Jon Key 13 GD + Wael Morcos MFA 13 GD, Clara Lieu 98 IL, Grace Lin 96 IL, David Macaulay BArch 69, Michael Maltzan BArch 85, Nicole Miller 73 AP, Oge Mora 16 IL, Brodie Neill MFA 04 FD, Mel Ottenberg 98 AP, Robert Richardson 79 FAV, Brian Selznick 88 IL, Gus Van Sant 75 FAV and Jing Wei 08 IL.

“To the Class of 2020, the class of perfect vision, with the distinct and very strange honor of being the first class in RISD history to graduate from the privacy of your own homes, …remember how lucky [you are to be an artist. Now] smash things down… rebuild… make something beautiful.” – author/illustrator Brian Selznick 88 IL

“Today I remind you of what you’ve already learned. It’s generous to be creative, that you’re gifted and that creativity is your gift, that your creativity can heal. It is both fierce and tender. Creativity knows that vulnerability is strength—and creativity loves mystery. And these are mysterious times. But creativity washes away our numbness, and it asks us to be agile. Creativity calls us to our bigger selves because creativity can change the world. So I’m here to thank you for dedicating yourself to living a creative life.” – Janine Antoni MFA 89 SC

“You and yours have chosen wisely at RISD. Now, please go forth and make things better.” Jenny Holzer MFA 77 PT

Because in-person events and exhibitions that are usually held around commencement are not possible this year, a series of virtual experiences will highlight new work produced by graduating students, including:

  • a Grad Show 2020 digital publication, featuring graduate thesis work (June 12)
  • a Senior Show 2020 digital publication, featuring undergraduate work (June 22)
  • the Film/Animation/Video department’s FAV Senior Show virtual film festival (May 27-30)
  • a virtual BFA and MFA Photography Show (live now)
  • the Textile department is highlighting graduating student work on Instagram
  • an augmented reality Interior Architecture senior show (May 29)
  • a virtual Illustration senior show (May 30)
  • a virtual Sculpture MFA show (early June)
  • an Apparel Design Collection 2020 online version of a publication currently in production (early June)

About Rhode Island School of Design

RISD’s mission, through its college and museum, is to educate students and the public in the creation and appreciation of works of art and design, to discover and transmit knowledge and to make lasting contributions to a global society through critical thinking, scholarship and innovation. The college’s strategic plan NEXT: RISD 2020-2027 sets an ambitious vision for educating students for the future and bringing creative practices to bear on the creation of just societies, a sustainable planet and new ways of making and knowing. RISD’s immersive model of art and design education, which emphasizes critical making through studio-based learning and robust study in the liberal arts, prepares students to intervene in the critical challenges of our time. Working with exceptional faculty and in extraordinary specialized facilities, 2,500 students from 69 countries engage in 42 full-time bachelor's and master's degree programs. RISD's 30,000 alumni worldwide testify to the impact of this model of education, exemplifying the vital role artists and designers play in today’s society. Founded in 1877, RISD (pronounced “RIZ-dee”) and the RISD Museum help make Providence, RI among the most culturally active and creative cities in the region. Find more information at risd.edu.