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Extraordinary Honorees at Commencement

Extraordinary Honorees at Commencement

At its June 4 Commencement ceremony, RISD will confer honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees on three individuals who have made significant contributions to the worlds of art, design and education.

At its June 4 Commencement ceremony, RISD will confer honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees on three individuals who have made significant contributions to the worlds of art, design and education. The 2011 honorary degree recipients are:national design leader Bill Moggridge, philosopher andspecialist in aesthetics Arnold Berleant and public artist Mierle Ukeles.

Bill Moggridge, director of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in Manhattan, will also deliver the keynote address to the graduating class at Commencement. A visionary interaction designer, he is one of the first people to integrate human factors into the design of software and hardware, which he discusses in his bookDesigning Interactions. Among his many accomplishments, Moggridge designed the world’s first laptop computer, the GRiD Compass, in 1981. (It launched in 1982 at a price tag of $8,150). The groundbreaking prototype was the first portable computer to be flown into space, and with its clamshell case opening to a display screen on top and keyboard below, it went on to define the look of portable computers in subsequent decades.

As an industrial designer, Moggridge initially started his own business and in 1991 co-founded the design and innovation firm IDEO, playing a leading role in developing design methods for interdisciplinary teams. Since 2000 he has advocated passionately for the value of design in everyday life – by writing books, producing videos, giving presentations and teaching. At a White House ceremony in 2009, he was honored with the Cooper-Hewitt’s Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2010 was appointed director of the national design museum.

As a philosopher, musician and leading figure in the field of aesthetics,Arnold Berleant has taken all three of these disciplines in new directions by asking fundamental questions about the nature of beauty in art, the natural world and our built environment. A lifelong academic, he is a professor emeritus at Long Island University, founding editor of the online journalContemporary Aesthetics and the author of seven books, including, most recently, Sensibility and Sense: The Aesthetic Transformation of the Human World (2010).

Berleant’s work centers around the idea that all aesthetic experience is contextual, and that its core elements – the creation of an object or environment as well as our experience of it – are fluid and interdependent, bound up in a process he calls ”aesthetic engagement.” His work on environmental aesthetics and ethics both draw on and have influenced a wide range of disciplines, from landscape architecture to urban design to environmental studies. Berleant is an Honorary Life Member of the International Association for Aesthetics and an honorary member of the French Society of Aesthetics.

Mierle Laderman Ukeles is a New York-based conceptual artist whose action-oriented public art confronts the endless maintenance and service work that allows cities to run and all human activity to thrive. Her work has been exhibited across the country and around the world, with installations, performances and public art pieces in Paris, Oslo, London and Jerusalem. She has taught at Yale, the Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia, and earned grants and fellowships from the NEA and the Guggenheim, Andy Warhol and Joan Mitchell foundations, among others. And since 1977, she has served as the official and unsalaried artist-in-residence at the Department of Sanitation in New York City.

Ukeles’ exploration of public sanitation grew out of her personal experience of motherhood: In the late ’60s she wroteManifesto for Maintenance Art, 1969!, proclaiming her role as a mother that of a maintenance artist and challenging conventional divides between public/private, artist/mother. From her recent work remaking landfills into urban parks to her choreographed “work ballets” with parades of garbage trucks and tons of recyclables, Ukeles has transformed the invisible routines of cleaning, serving and maintenance into radical art statements. In one of her most famous large-scale performances,Touch Sanitation, she spent nearly a year going around New York City shaking hands with more than 8,500 garbage workers – drawing attention to issues of ecology and sustainability as well as degrading stereotypes.