RISD Welcomes New Hires Focused on Race and Decolonization

RISD flags wave in the sunshine

As part of RISD’s continuing social equity and inclusion efforts, a cohort of new full-time faculty members focused on race, colonization, decolonization, post-coloniality, cultural representation and material practices of resistance will begin teaching this fall as a result of RISD’s “Race in Art & Design” cluster-hire initiative.

“RISD is committed to being proactively anti-racist in principle and practice and to making consequential changes throughout the institution,” notes Interim President Dave Proulx. “RISD launched this search in October 2020 in response to student activism and calls from BIPOC faculty members to diversify RISD’s faculty and curricula and has hired an outstanding first cohort, thanks to generous donors RISD Trustee Kim Gassett-Schiller P 14 and Philip W. Schiller P 14.”

head shots of eight new faculty members
RISD welcomes new full-time faculty members Shiraz Abdullahi Gallab, Jameka Hartley, Jess Myers, Jacqueline Shaw, Naimah Pétigny, Christopher Roberts, Derrick Woods-Morrow and Mariela Yeregui.

“Our goal was to recruit faculty to RISD who would expand our curricula, conduct research and creative work in historically under-supported domains, bring new practices to our classrooms and studios and build momentum towards changing our disciplines,” says Provost Kent Kleinman. “The contributions of these new faculty promise to be nothing short of transformative.”

“Our goal was to recruit faculty to RISD who would expand our curricula and conduct research and creative work in historically under-supported domains.”

Provost Kent Kleinman

In the Architecture department, two instructors previously hired on an interim basis will now serve as full-time assistant professors: Jess Myers and Jacqueline Shaw. Myers is a podcaster, writer and editor focused on urban planning and architecture, who is currently editing a series of social justice books called Taking Freedom. Her podcast Here There Be Dragons offers an in-depth look into the intersection of identity politics and security policy in public space through the eyes of New Yorkers and Parisians.

Shaw is an architectural designer whose research focuses on the efficacy and rigors of specificity and smallness as it relates to architectural detail. Her work has been published in DimensionsSurface and The Wall Street Journal.

The Architecture and Design division also welcomes Assistant Professor Shiraz Abdullahi Gallab to the Graphic Design department, and Associate Professor Mariela Yeregui will join the Experimental and Foundation Studies division in Digital + Media. Gallab comes to RISD from Chicago, where she recently worked as a book designer for the University of Chicago Press. She is author of headgear.pw, an autobiographical piece that confronts the limitations of text-based expression, and founding curator and coauthor of Samples and Parallels, a collaborative publication that responds to appropriated text. 

abstract robotics piece by Mariela Yeregui

public intervention by Mariela Yeregui
Entreveros (top photo), a robotic installation by incoming Associate Professor Mariela Yeregui, and Escrituras (Writings; directly above), an intervention in a public space.

Yeregui is a media artist, educator and scholar whose installations, interventions in public spaces, video-sculptures, e-textiles and robotics have been exhibited in museums and art festivals across Latin America, North America and Europe. She has earned numerous awards from such organizations as BEEP_Art, Barcelona; the Telefónica Foundation; and the Argentine Academy of Fine Arts.

The Fine Arts division welcomes Assistant Professor Derrick Woods-Morrow to the Sculpture department. A multimedia artist working in painting, sculpture and textiles, Woods-Morrow meditates on deviation, disruption, language and representation. His work explores Black sexual freedoms, the complicated histories concerning access to land and the navigation of the American terrain by Black and queer peoples.

Three new full-time assistant professors will join the Liberal Arts division: Jameka Hartley in History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences, Naimah Pétigny in Literary Arts and Studies, and Christopher Roberts, who will teach in both Theory and History of Art and Design and the Experimental and Foundation Studies division. A former social worker, Hartley is passionate about telling stories that address common misrepresentations about Black women and girls within the US. Her previous clinical experience influences how she views the world, impacts her scholarly work and drives her commitment to social justice and equity.

pink and green abstract work by Shiraz Gallab

graphic design work by Shiraz
Recent work by new Assistant Professor of Graphic Design Shiraz Gallab: Only One of These Stories Can Be True (top image) and Sapphire Tears (directly above).

Pétigny is a Black feminist scholar, dancer and educator who explores the connections between coloniality, performance, erotics and Black liberation. Her work has been published in Commoning Ethnography, The Walker Art Center Magazine, Agitate!, Unsettling Knowledges Journal and the Routledge International Handbook of Gender and Feminist Geographies.

Roberts has been teaching at RISD since 2019, when he was hired as an SEI Research Fellow within the Center for Social Equity & Inclusion. His recent scholarship examines cultural memory in relation to the history of Black peoples, with an emphasis on port cities in the US that anchored the transatlantic and domestic slave trades.

​​“Each of these new faculty members is steeped in the nuanced ways that issues of race and decoloniality impact their fields.”

VP for SEI Matthew Shenoda

Of this first cluster hire cohort, Shaw, Gallab, Yeregui, Woods-Morrow, Hartley, Pétigny and Roberts hold the inaugural Schiller Family Professorships in Race in Art and Design.

In summer 2020, the institution announced a new set of commitments to address systemic racism that built on its 2017 Social Equity and Inclusion Action Plan. As a result, in addition to this “Race in Art & Design” cluster-hire initiative, during the 2020/21 academic year, RISD increased financial aid to its highest level ever and increased racially diverse hiring by 13 percent overall. For the 2021/22 academic year, RISD will continue to build on these efforts with a significant number of ongoing faculty and staff searches and continued work on SEI plans specifically addressing each area of the college and museum. 

Black dancers in motion

more Black dancers
Work by Assistant Professor Derrick Woods-Morrow exploring Black sexual freedoms, the complicated histories concerning access to land and the navigation of the American terrain by Black and queer peoples.

These outstanding faculty members were successfully recruited for RISD’s “Race in Art & Design” cluster hire initiative thanks to the hard work and expertise of search committee members Alero Akporiaye, Hansy Better, Jessica Brown, Stefano Corbo, Namita Dharia, Paula Gaetano Adi, Avishek Ganguly, Adela Goldbard, Suzanne Mathew, Anais Missakian, Lisa Z. Morgan, Ijlal Muzaffar, Heather Rowe, Duane Slick, Tracy Steepy, Ramon Tejada and Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa.

​​“Each of these new faculty members is steeped in the nuanced ways that issues of race and decoloniality impact their fields,” says Vice President and Associate Provost for Social Equity & Inclusion Matthew Shenoda. “Their joining the RISD community as a cohort is a truly pivotal moment for the college, expanding RISD’s pedagogy to address the systemic structures and power relations that continue to shape our society. This initiative pushes our curriculum more centrally into the future and ensures that RISD will be able to continue to give our students a meaningful and relevant education in art and design.”

SEI accountability updates can be found at risd.edu.

September 13, 2021

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