Project Open Door students are back on campus this summer, trying their hands at everything from textiles to toy design in long-running RISD program.
Project Open Door Alums Return to RISD for Print and Design Collaboration
A key component to earning a master of art in teaching (MAT) from RISD’s Teaching + Learning in Art + Design (TLAD) department is working with local teens enrolled in Project Open Door (POD), which provides under-resourced youth in the greater Providence area with free art and design programming. “This summer’s programs went really well,” says POD Director Lauren Allen. “Many of the POD students already have jobs or attend other arts programs, so we just wanted to have some really fun, unique offerings that the students could fit into their schedules.”
This summer, POD alums explored printmaking with local artist and community arts educator Jacques Bidon as part of Documentation as Assessment and Advocacy, a summer graduate studio led by TLAD faculty member Kristina Sansone. The fourth module of the studio focused on community documentation and took MAT candidates to the RISD Archives to learn about how students have used poster design to support various causes over the years. Participants then created their own posters highlighting the contributions of a historical Rhode Island figure of their choice.
“This module is about validating the experiences and stories of students, oneself and one’s ancestors via documentation,” says Sansone. “The collaboration between Jacques and the POD alumni worked out beautifully.”
“I’m still elated about the weekend,” says Bidon. “I love how kids come with their minds and their eyes wide open. I never learned this stuff in high school. Sharing these truths with young designers feeds my soul.”
“I love how kids come with their minds and their eyes wide open. ... Sharing these truths with young designers feeds my soul.”
MAT candidate Sylvia Rodriguez 23 IL/MAT 24 found this part of the experience inspiring. “I am very grateful to have been able to share Jacques Bidon’s space with my wonderful peers in the MAT program and the very talented POD alumni,” says Rodriguez. “I think the experience gave us a lot of insight into using design as a means of collaboration. When I begin developing my classroom curriculum, this will be an experience I can draw inspiration from.”
Students split into three groups, each focused on designing posters for a different historical figure. Rodriguez and her team created posters highlighting the contributions of Nancy Elizabeth Prophet, the first Black RISD graduate, who earned a degree in painting and free-hand drawing in 1918.
“We chose a golden, earthy color for the prints,” says Rodriguez, “because Prophet mainly used wood to create her sculptures.” The team experimented with type sizes to emphasize specific words, making legacy stand out above all others. “Despite being impoverished most of her life, I believe she left a profound legacy on Black RISD students and artists for years to come,” Rodriguez adds.
After finishing the module, Sansone reflected on the unique learning experience. “The students learned so much through the process and the conversations it inspired,” she says. “This is what public education should look like in Rhode Island.”
Allen was also pleased with the workshop’s outcomes. “The course’s focus on community engagement really elevated the work,” she says, “and it was great to have POD alums, who are at various stages of their careers and studies, all participating and making art together again.”
In addition to uniting alums and MAT candidates for a day of printmaking, POD offered a robust schedule of other free summer programming for teen participants. Included was an intro to clay course held at The Steel Yard for the second year in a row and a popular two-day workshop led by POD alum and Textiles faculty member Lyza Baum 16 TX that provided students with foundational knitting skills. Students also had the chance to enroll in the annual Hasbro toy and game design workshop, in which they met designers and worked together to create games and toys.
“The programs were all really wonderful,” Allen says. “It’s inspiring and exciting to watch POD students progress as artists, see some go on to attend arts schools, including RISD, and pursue a lifelong passion for the arts."
Isabel Roberts / photos by Lauren Allen
August 30, 2023