RISD Fulbright Winners Head to Four Continents
This year, of the 20 RISD students and alumni who applied for Fulbright grants to support research and study abroad, four have been fully funded and a fifth won a Core Scholar Grant via Holy Cross College, where she teaches visual arts. The excited recipients of 2013-14 Fulbright fellowships –Andrew Fladeboe 06 PH, Jessica Paik 13 PT, Raine Vasquez MFA 13 PR, Chris Wolston 09 GL, and Rachelle Beaudoin MFA 07 DM– will travel to four different continents to pursue their research.
The recent announcement of the winners confirms that RISD is again a top Fulbright producer among art schools. Dorothy Bocian, RISD’s Fulbright program advisor, and Kevin Jankowski 88 IL, associate director of the Career Center, attribute the high success rate for RISD students and alumni to a number of factors. Among the most important are their ability to think critically, their concern for the wider world and the exceptional work ethic most students develop here.
The primary aim of the federally funded Fulbright Programs is to further educational and cross-cultural interaction between scholars from the US and the world at large. The US Student Program typically receives more than 9,500 applications and awards approximately 1,700 grants per year to the most promising proposals from students and recent graduates who show exceptional academic and leadership potential.
Photographer Andrew Fladeboe, who has recently been working as a freelancer in Providence, will travel to New Zealand to hang out in the country’s notoriously lush pastures, where he’ll document the role of working farm dogs and their historic relationship with humans. “Dogs have been working with us for millennia,” says Fladeboe, “and they helped us make the transition to an agricultural species. I want to capture the special bond between these highly intelligent dogs and the humans who train them.” Fladeboe is currently in Norway, where he’ll spend the next two months working on a related project, Dogs of Norway.
Six thousand miles to the northwest, Korean-American painter and new graduate Jessica Paik will spend the year in Seoul investigating the cultural gap between the US and South Korea and how their diverging aesthetics can be unified through art. Hers is very much a personal project with the goal of integrating the two aspects of her own identity. Paik will study the National Museum of Korea’s collection, focusing on Joseon Dynasty paintings, and create her own work under the tutelage of internationally renowned artist and fellow RISD alum Do Ho Suh 94 PT. “I admire Suh for his constant fervor and creativity,” Paik writes in her grant proposal, “and for his bold stylistic references to the traditional Korean style of art.”
Having just earned his master’s degree at RISD and delivered a memorable speech about love and art at Commencement, Raine Vasquez will also be studying aesthetics – 4,000 miles to the northwest in Helsinki, Finland. His research will focus on Everyday Aesthetics, a Finnish philosophical movement that seeks (in Vasquez’s words) to “broaden the considerations for aesthetics, not presuming to dismiss experience simply because it is transient or mundane.” In the country’s capital, the printmaker will divide his time between the University of Helsinki and Aalto University of Art and Design, while also examining the contemporary art scene with an eye toward curating a local exhibition. After majoring in philosophy as an undergraduate, Vasquez is especially well prepared for this project thanks to his recent work as a research assistant for RISD Professor of Philosophy Yuriko Saito, a strong advocate for the Everyday Aesthetics approach.
Moving south to central Europe, performance and video artistRachelle Beaudoin will study as an artist-in-residence atquartier21, a contemporary art center in Vienna. The Fulbright Core Scholar Grant she won will enable her to spend part of next spring collaborating with members ofMz. Baltazar’s Laboratory, a nonprofit electronics lab specializing in DIY projects for women and people who identify as trans. While in Vienna Beaudoin plans to create a high-tech wearable art piece calledPositive Affirmation Underwear – a bra and underpants that play prerecorded affirmations such as “You are genuine” and “You are beautiful.” “I am very interested in collaborative art-making practices,” says Beaudoin, whose work explores feminist iconography and the body as a site for art. “The Fulbright will allow me to work internationally with other artists who have similar interests.”
Studying in a much more tropical region of the world, Chris Wolston will explore traditional and contemporary ceramics techniques in Colombia. He will collaborate with Ceramicas Renacer, an industrial slip-cast factory in the town of El Carmen de Vivoral, and with artisans who make low-cost traditional terracotta cookware in Medellin. Wolston will simultaneously work in the studio at Campos de Gutierrez, a compound and artist residency program founded by fellow alum Andrés Monzón-Aguirre 09 PT/CR. He completed a glass-blowing residency at Campos last year and is looking forward to returning to the region, where he will also design and lead workshops at the nearby Colombo Americano School, a bilingual college in Bogotá.
Back at RISD, Dorothy Bocian considers the wide variety of cultures this year’s Fulbright fellows will come to better understand and the lifelong impact those exciting cross-cultural exchanges will have on them. “It’s a transformative experience,” she says. “Alumni come back with a great sense of self – of confidence to pursue new avenues. They’re able to connect with others and to really fine-tune and focus in on an idea.”
Now that they have won Fulbrights for the 2016–17 academic year, Miri Kim 16 PT and Midge Wattles 12 PH plan to take full advantage of exciting cross-cultural exchanges.
Starting this fall, RISD’s newest Fulbright recipients will work with international experts to make breakthroughs in a diverse range of fields.
During a visit to campus in mid April, poet and indigenous rights activist Allison Adelle Hedge Coke inspired students to address urgent social and environmental issues.