When hundreds of professional illustrators flock to Providence this week for the international Illustration Conference (ICON7), they’ll get a strong sense of RISD via a knock-out exhibition of more than 60 RISD artist-illustrators and a day-long series of workshops highlighting the RISD experience through the lens of illustration.
The only national gathering specifically for illustrators and the graphic arts community,ICON7 offers a unique forum for artist-illustrators to share their work, experiment with new media, learn about entrepreneurship and get inspired by a jam-packed roster of speakers at the top of their field. As secretary of ICON, the national professional organization behind the conference,Soojin Buzelli 96 IL spent the last two years helping to plan ICON7, juggling conference planning with her responsibilities as SVP/creative director at Asset International.
This year the biennial conference, which takes place from June 13-16 at the Renaissance Hotel, is being sponsored by RISD for the first time. In addition to the high-profile RISD faculty and alumni participating, it will feature such well-known guests asThe Simpsons creator Matt Groening, celebrated cartoonist and playwright Lynda Barry and pioneering illustrator Marshall Arisman.
As more than 600 participants take part in everything from career development panels to figure drawing jam sessions, RISD’s Illustration department will also be a star attraction. The opening night of the conference will double as an opening reception forRISD ICONS: A Legacy of Illustration from Rhode Island School of Design. The first-of-its-kind show will feature work by 60-plus RISD alumni, includingDavid Macaulay BArch 69, Chris Van Allsburg MFA 75 SC, Shepard Fairey 92 IL, Julia Rothman 02 IL, Chris Buzelli 95 IL, Grace Lin 96 IL and Oren Sherman 78 IL.
“It’s an incredible show, and just a really stupendous thing seeing work from 60-some people – all RISD alums and almost all of them from the Illustration department,” says ProfessorRobert Brinkerhoff, an illustrator and current head of the department who serves as ICON’s Education Chair. In addition to playing a leading role organizing the conference, Brinkerhoff will moderate a panel discussion with representatives from Etsy and Kickstarter focused on educating entrepreneurs.
“We’ve done extremely well in recent years with student competitions in illustration, and every year it gets better,” Brinkerhoff says. “But the points of connection to the profession have been mostly through prizes and internships, which happen on an individual basis through students seeking things out. This conference is a chance to extend that even further and really showcase the school, the faculty, the work – and actually strengthen the ties between educational institutions and the profession.”
In that vein, the entire opening day of the conference will take place on campus with workshops led by RISD faculty. The day will open with three workshops – on color, street sketching and character design – led by award-winning faculty membersMary Jane Begin 85 IL,Fred Lynch 86 IL and Shanth Enjeti 98 IL. In the afternoon, faculty members R. Kikuo Johnson 03 IL, Fritz Drury and Lars Grant-West will lead sessions on the graphic novel, artistic anatomy and hybrid creatures, respectively. In the late afternoon, ICON “Game Master” Jordin Isip 90 IL will lead an “ICON Soccer Match” and in the evening, President John Maeda will welcome conference participants to the opening reception for the RISD ICONS show at Woods-Gerry.
“For the participants, it will be very much like taking RISD classes for a day,” Brinkerhoff says. “So in addition to connecting with the profession and drawing on the expertise and networks that are so important for students and alumni in the field, the conference allows us as an institution to share our own expertise from the Illustration program with the professional community.”
RISD ICONS is on view from June 14–24 at Woods-Gerry Gallery. Hours are 10–5 daily and 1–5 on Sunday.
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An interview with Literary Arts and Studies faculty member Taylor Polites, who encourages students to engage with Providence’s rich history and diverse community.
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