Illustrating for TEDMED
RISD illustrators are showing stimulating connections between art and medicine at the TEDMED 13 conference, which runs from April 16–19 in Washington, DC. Four faculty members and 27 students have created a series of eye-catching portraits of the medical professionals who are speaking at this year’s event, which brings together influential innovators and leaders who have made a profound impact on the healthcare field.
The RISD artwork is permeating the conference site – featured in both the printed materials and on banners. And several RISD representatives are participating in TEDMED in various capacities. President John Maeda is delivering the opening presentation, speaking about the vital connection between design and health care, and presenting examples of related student work.
In addition to having her work displayed at TEDMED, Samantha Dempsey 13 IL is one of six RISD students who will draw on-site at the conference – creating images to depict the concepts discussed at selected lectures. Karen Sung 13 IL, Pamela Chavez 15 IL, Kara Skolnik 15 IL, Sara Bloem 13 IL and Lily Pfaff 14 IL will also be drawing and sketching at the conference.
“People think that there isn’t a connection between art and science,” Dempsey says. “But our graphic facilitations will be tangible evidence that there is. It will be right before our eyes.”
US Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) is lending his support to RISD and the TEDMED effort by sharing TEDMED Live, a live stream of the conference, with the Rhode Island community. “I am pleased that artwork from RISD students and faculty will be showcased throughout the TEDMED conference and am encouraging individuals interested in healthcare innovation to participate for free online through TEDMED Live,” Senator Reed notes.
Meeting the Challenge
Everyone involved with the project worked at a breakneck pace, explains Professor Robert Brinkerhoff, head of the Illustration department. In order for the collective group to reach their goal of creating 58 portraits (one for each speaker), the illustrators were given two days to sketch, two days for review and an additional four days to complete final portraits. To make sure the project stayed on track, Brinkerhoff and adjunct faculty members (and RISD alumni) Fred Lynch 86 IL, Mary Jane Begin 85 IL, Kelly Murphy 99 IL and Antoine Revoy 99 FAV led five groups of students. Assistant Professor Susan Doyle 81 IL/MFA 98 PT/PR also completed two portraits and is attending the conference.
Students were invited to work in whatever medium they chose: watercolor, gouache, acrylic, oil paint, gel, graphite, digital media, collage, colored pencil. “You can see many different approaches and styles in each of the portraits,” Brinkerhoff notes. “The entire collection reflects the terrific scope of talents and ability in our department.”
But before the illustration frenzy began, each artist read up on the medical professionals he or she needed to depict. “The students had the chance to immerse themselves in critical medical issues,” notes Brinkerhoff. “Each of the portraits incorporates visual elements that represent its subject’s accomplishments.”
A senior who has actively pursued her interest in the synergy between art and science while at RISD, Dempsey was deeply moved by the professional feats of her portrait subjects, doctors Max Little and Amanda Bennett. “Both are brilliant scientists interested in making changes in the medical community for social good,” she notes. “I became completely focused on researching their ingenious ideas.”
Brinkerhoff sums up the collective accomplishment by noting that “it’s a huge honor to have RISD artists involved with such a prestigious conference – especially one that showcases the intersection of art and science on a national stage. That’s really exciting.”
Please email TED_MED@reed.senate.gov for instructions on how to log in to TEDMED Live.