RISD’s Fall 2023 Semester Closes with Cross-Campus Crits

a graphic design student presents her work to a panel of critics

“I set three goals for myself this semester,” says first-year grad student Katharine Frank MFA 25 CR, “pushing the size and scale of my work, creating 3D forms and using pattern.”

Frank walked Ceramics Department Head Katy Schimert and faculty members Jane Dillon 79 CR/MA 12 and Nicholas Oh MFA 18 CR through the large collection of vessels and abstract forms she began creating in September out of porcelain and clay. The conversation took place in mid-December as students, faculty and visiting critics gathered in studios and workrooms across campus for the renowned end-of-semester RISD critique. 

an array of porcelain and clay pieces by grad student Katharine Frank
a purple and pink zine unfolds into a print
Above, work in porcelain and clay by grad student Katharine Frank; below, a zine unfolded by Graphic Design grad student Michelle Belgrod.

“Sometimes you have to dance with a form for a while before its meaning is revealed.”

Associate Professor Ramon Tejada

Across the street in the Design Center, Graphic Design students showed their work to Associate Professor Ramon Tejada and visiting critic Nikki Juen 90 GD. Russian-American grad student Michelle Belgrod MFA 24 GD presented prints and zines inspired by Russian nesting dolls. “My parents stopped speaking Russian so that I could learn English,” Belgrod explained, “and for me, the nesting doll symbolizes the many things I don’t understand about Russian culture.”

Tejada gently interjected as she attempted to clearly define the significance of the various pieces on display. “It’s OK to make a thing now and figure out what it means later,” he said. “Sometimes you have to dance with a form for a while before its meaning is revealed.”

students and faculty member Peter Dean examine a wooden cabinet during final crits
Professor Dennis Congdon discusses a quirky painting of two people and a cow
Above, faculty member Peter Dean examines a cherry tea cabinet by junior Paramee Panchaphalasom; below, Painting Professor Dennis Congdon discusses a piece by sophomore Willa Sheehan.

The meaning behind the forms created by Furniture Design juniors in a studio called Cabinets, Doors and Drawers was more straightforward. Led by long-term faculty member Peter Dean BArch 77, the class gathered in the RISD Auditorium to share their work. Jackson Kemper 25 FD showed a DVD and projector cabinet in bleached ash whose doors open via hidden hinges. Dean described the piece as “well conceived and well executed.”

Viva Motwani 25 FD/ID presented a maple cosmetics cabinet with small brass pulls that had, as she explained, kicked up a lot of trouble in the shop, warping and forcing her to rebuild again and again. “It’s all about learning as you go,” Dean responded. “A good portion of the game is figuring out how to fix problems you can’t control.”

Meanwhile, grad students in the Glass department showed conceptual installations to gathered faculty members and visiting critic Jen Bervin. A piece by Yiko Yang 20 FAV/MFA 25 GL presents an intimate conversation between the artist and the moon. Yang asked the group if they could feel the sadness that went into it.

jewelry pieces by Anne Irving laid out on the table like a poem
a wooden model showing proposed landscape design plans for the Jewelry District
Above, Jewelry + Metalsmithing student Anne Irving lays her work on the table in the form of a poem; below, grad student Cody William Young proposes new buildings and elevated connected walkways for the Jewelry District.

“Your work functions more on the level of poetry than narrative,” Bervin noted. She did sense the emotions behind the work and added that “loneliness is implicit in a lot of space-related artwork. I love the inherent tenderness in this piece as well and see the images you created as a bridge connecting the Earth and the moon.”

In the Landscape Architecture department, students focused on the terrestrial, proposing new buildings and urban plans for downtown Providence. Cody William Young MLA 25 showed models of his vision for a “greener and grittier” Jewelry District. “The theme of my project is connectivity,” he explained. “By creating elevated pedestrian walkways connecting the buildings as well as channel cuts between them, I’m proposing a way for pedestrians to look out over the water as they move from building to building.”

Simone Solondz / photos by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH
December 21, 2023

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