RISD’s First Endowed Chair in Textiles
Professor Anais Missakian 84 TX is honored to serve as the Pevaroff-Cohn Family Endowed Chair in Textiles. | photo by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH
“When I graduated from RISD and headed to New York as a designer, teaching was not on my radar,” says Professor Anais Missakian 84 TX, RISD’s newly appointed Pevaroff-Cohn Family Endowed Chair in Textiles. “But I realized I’d found my calling when I led my very first class—and since then I’ve always considered myself incredibly fortunate to be a part of the RISD community.”
Artist, alumna and RISD trustee Lisa Pevaroff 83 TX has been equally passionate about RISD since she and Missakian first met as students here. In her ongoing efforts to give back and support students and faculty, she has generously funded the endowed chair position in Textiles—the major she and Missakian share.
“As an evolving artist and maker, I am constantly reminded of the value of a RISD education,” says Pevaroff. “RISD gave me skills but also taught me to experiment, explore and take risks. The work I now create (in paint, encaustic, jewelry and sculpture) is a product of that exploration—and adds a healthy dose of glitter! This gift is in honor of Anais Missakian,” she adds. “No one embodies the RISD mission of excellence in teaching and making the way she does.”
Missakian began teaching at RISD nearly 30 years ago and has since served as department head and graduate program director in Textiles as well as interim dean of Fine Arts. In Textiles—which is part of the Fine Arts division at RISD—she is unwaveringly attuned to changes in the industry and always questioning whether the curriculum is striking the right balance between deep disciplinary learning, interdisciplinary exploration and cutting-edge technology. “We strive to stay allied with the fine arts as well as the other design disciplines,” she explains. “It’s so important to maintain those critical dialogues.”
Missakian believes that part of her penchant for fiber and fabric stems from her Armenian roots. “Textiles are in my DNA,” she says, “and they have always been a really important aspect of Armenian culture.” She treasures the carpet her grandmother carried with her when the family fled from eastern Turkey in 1915.
This lifelong love of textiles is serving Missakian well as she looks to the future of the discipline. For the past two years she has been engaged in advanced textiles research, and with Pevaroff’s generous support, is looking forward to expanding her focus on soft technologies. She is currently working with MIT Professor of Material Science and Electrical Engineering Yoel Fink and a team of designers, scientists and engineers at Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA) in Cambridge, MA to develop groundbreaking textile systems.
“Yoel and his team have developed multifunctional fibers and fiber assemblies,” Missakian explains. “Conductors, semiconductors and insulators are arranged in a single fiber to provide similar capabilities to cell phones. And it’s not just about sensing and communications; the potential applications are limitless. For the first time, intelligent textile technology is an integral component of the design woven and knit directly into the structure of the fabric.”
In addition, Missakian continues to lead the Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship (SEAF) program in which RISD collaborates with the Salama Foundation in Abu Dhabi to develop the UAE’s burgeoning fine arts scene by supporting its most promising emerging artists. Now in its sixth year, the program selects a cohort each year to take part in a distance-learning program that includes short-term workshops in Abu Dhabi led by RISD faculty members. The ultimate goal is helping student fellows go on to earn MFAs at leading arts institutions—primarily in the US and the UK.
“I’m extremely proud of the progress we’ve made,” says Missakian. “SEAF has already had a profound impact on the quality of the arts in the UAE and the role that local artists play.”
And closer to home Missakian has plenty to be proud of as well. “RISD is such an important part of my life,” she says. “The opportunity to work with students in this space is one of my greatest joys, and I’m truly honored to serve as the department’s first endowed chair.”
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