Taking RISD by Storm
“It’s so hard to describe Foundation year to people who haven’t experienced it,” says sophomore Dennis Krawec 18 ID. “You’re thrown into a hurricane of new people, assignments, materials and ways of thinking. Everyone is working their tails off just trying to survive – and also creating some of the most amazing work any of us has ever seen!”
Now that he has in fact survived, Krawec is happy to offer advice to first-year students he met as a POSE (Pre-Orientation Service Experience) volunteer. “I tell new students that what you need the most is drive,” he says. “If you’re not passionate about what you’re making, then you don’t grow as an artist and none of it is worthwhile.”
In addition to volunteering to help through POSE, Krawec is a member of the Student Alliance and a regular at both theCareer Center (where he works part-time) and RISD’s Center for Student Involvement. Connecting through student organizations provides “resources that you don’t get from class, like interpersonal and leadership skills” – not to mention extra food he likes to share with his roommates.
When he had to select a major last winter, Krawec was torn between Apparel Design and Industrial Design, but ultimately opted for the latter despite the incredible Wintersession course he took as a first-year student with Apparel Design Critic Maria Canada 14 AP. “She is fantastic!” he gushes, “and I’m planning to take her Dressed Bodies class this Wintersession. But Industrial Design is such a broad, open major that I can pull a lot of things in from Apparel. The ID department even has a lot of the same industrial sewing machines they use in Apparel studios.”
Although it’s a bit early to think about life after RISD, Krawec envisions himself designing some sort of wearable tech – or perhaps state-of-the-art footwear – in the future. At this point, he says, he’s focused on learning fundamental techniques and enjoying the mutual respect he shares with the other sophomores in ID. “It’s really inspiring to see other people’s work,” he adds, “and the studio monitors and other upperclassmen I’ve met are all happy to share tricks, tips and ideas. The people in my section have a lot of fun working together.”
Krawec also likes sharing the knowledge he’s already gained as an artist and spent last summer teaching young kids at the Brookline Arts Center near his hometown of Medfield, MA. “They believe anything at that age,” he quips. “I tell them that my name is Beyoncé and I’m 63 years old.”
When he’s not goofing around with five-year-olds, Krawec takes his own opportunities at RISD seriously. In addition to his involvement with student leadership activities, he’s studying Chinese at Brown and pursuing a Liberal Arts concentration in Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies. The core NCSS seminar he’s taking with Assistant Professor of Furniture Design Peter Dean BArch 77, he says, is “phenomenal. He shows us examples of how people use nature to inspire their work – like a company that is trying to develop a self-filling water bottle based on a beetle that lives in the Namib Desert and drinks condensation it collects on its back.”
It’s these kinds of learning experiences that make RISD RISD, Krawec believes. “There are so many resources and collaborative projects to take advantage of,” he says. “I plan to get involved with as many activities as I can while I’m here. I’d rather be too busy than not busy enough.”
—Simone Solondz / photos by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH
Sophomore Nina Ripich 18 PT finds solace and creative freedom by connecting with horses in RISD’s equestrian club.
Three siblings enrolled in the Brown|RISD Dual Degree program pursue their academic passions while making time for music and high-adrenaline sports.
Rising senior Dennis Krawec 18 ID is studying Chinese in Beijing and preparing for an unconventional final year at RISD.