The RISD community makes time to discuss civic engagement and get out the vote for the November 3 presidential election.
Assistant Professor Jess Brown MID 09 was one of the artists of color who contributed to this downtown Providence mural co-sponsored by The Avenue Concept and Point 225.
As the US presidential election approaches, the RISD community is getting into the democratic spirit via a wide range of related on- and off-campus activities and exhibitions. Intended to educate first-time voters and provide nonpartisan support for all RISD students, the COVID-safe, mostly virtual programming can be accessed at events.risd.edu/election2020.
“Many of our students have never participated in the election process before,” says Director of Community Relations Bethany Costello. “We’re working with faculty, students and staff to encourage civic learning and action through cohesive engagement practices and safe, nonpartisan spaces for discussion and engagement.”
A lively October 12 panel discussion led by recent alums Sophie Weston Chien BArch 20 and Emma Werowinski 18 TX explored professional civic engagement opportunities and, more broadly, what it means to work within an existing system. Werowinski shared the graphic design work she has been engaged in for the past year or so with Vote Early NY, noting that “voting laws are very, very specific so the goal is to use simple but accurate language.”
Chien has been involved with the Design as Protest collective that came together in June to prioritize anti-racist research. “Led by Black designers in Saint Louis and New Orleans, the group is made up entirely of BIPOC designers focused on eradicating the racism that is inherent in the built environment,” she explains.
Current students Michelle Collado 22 FAV and Leslie Ponce-Díaz BArch 23 are both sharing their perspectives and creative visions—Ponce-Díaz via First-Generation College Chisme, a bilingual online resource she created for BIPOC, low-income, first-generation college students, and Collado through a T-shirt she designed to encourage voter registration in collaboration with Massachusetts-based social justice organizations 195essential and Elevated Thought.
“Growing up in Lawrence, MA and raised by immigrant parents, I realized that the people of my everyday life are what inspires me,” Collado says. “My artwork focuses on the themes and ideas of BIPOC representation, social justice and societal experience.”
On the faculty front, Graphic Design Professor Nancy Skolos is partnering with former student Kelly Salchow MacArthur MFA 03 GD (now an associate professor at Michigan State University) to organize a get-out-the-vote campaign featuring nearly 100 posters designed by women (including Graphic Design Department Head Lucinda Hitchcock) for the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). The initiative celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote in the US. A selection of posters is on view in the RISD Museum’s Chace Center Lobby.
Associate Professor of Painting Angela Dufresne is working with Artists 4 Democracy and ADVICE—an organization dedicated to sharing resources with students in art and design schools across the country—to spark an informal peer-to-peer voter outreach effort. As the organization’s website explains, “Artists 4 Democracy stands with Black Lives Matter and all those who are mobilizing for racial justice. We believe that through the voices and actions of citizens, real change is possible.”
Additionally, Vice Provost Daniel Cavicchi and Associate Professor Andrew Robarts are co-leading a faculty workshop called Election Politics: Strategies for Class Discussion and Debate that will offer tactics for fostering inclusive discourse about the current moment, from understanding political processes and histories to making sense of one’s own stance.
Other upcoming events include a gallery talk at the RISD Museum focused on how art museums can best put visitors in touch with their senses and ultimately elevate the human experience, a workshop aimed at helping first-time voters and international students navigate the 2020 election and a community viewing party scheduled for the October 22 presidential debate. RISD students, faculty, staff and alumni are also invited to lend their voices to a collective reflection on democracy, community, dialogue—and where we go from here—dubbed Post-Vote, Now What? Accepted submissions will be included in a storefront exhibition planned for RISD’s Color Lab and a forthcoming edition of v.1, RISD’s student-led publishing platform.
Visit events.risd.edu/election2020 for a complete list of election-related events and resources.