Response of Printmaking Department
June 29 2020
RISD & Race Forum Speakers
June 29 2020
RISD & Race Forum Speakers
To date, the Printmaking Department, a skill/technical oriented but ultimately an interdisciplinary department, has engaged BIPOC/SEI/Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity discussions in faculty department meetings on numerous occasions, formally as a faculty group and informally one on one. This does not happen at every departmental faculty meeting, given the numerous items on the agenda, but it is often enough a key subject and it may involve trying to find funds for students who have need, and as you said in your meeting, many of the BIPOC students are the ones who most often have need, or the possibility/availability of a TU(s) to direct towards a course that would be BIPoC oriented.
The Printmaking Department continues to be intent upon emphasizing print history as it relates to the emergence of the printed format in the world, most notably its role in the evolution of thought and its application as a tool for protest, social equity and even at times during the Middle Ages and the Crusades, derogatory and racist propaganda against ethnic groups. Primarily, prints were the method by which essential communication was disseminated to oppressed, poor or underprivileged global factions that were either under siege, marginalized by color or ethnicity, gender or individuality in their respective countries/locations. Prints as multiples were and continue to be cheap and accessible to the poor who otherwise would not be able to afford books and/or visual art for inspiration, appreciation and knowledge/education, or most importantly the dissemination of information and thought. Those who were illiterate and unable to read would have been able to understand pictorial symbols addressing social, political or religious subjects on disseminated printed cards. Likewise, printed posters functioned as important safety alerts or notifications regarding group meetings and related subjects that were applicable to the common good. Historically, on the darker side, prints would also be used to keep track of slaves and criminals who were considered “Wanted”. Early prints in multiples also served as utilitarian educational tools in the form of maps, itemized directions, religious images, illustrations and notifications of important historic events in all walks of life. Prints functioned as our current “email” and social applications do in contemporary society as a communicative device. Accordingly, Printmaking can be very useful and advantageous vehicle to the factions fighting for diversity and equality.
The Printmaking Department, as a diverse technical department, with critique courses for majors, graduate critique courses and degree granting courses represented by the Senior Degree Project and the Graduate Thesis semesters, requires that students gain mastery of skills in the following prerequisite undergraduate courses: Intaglio, Lithography, Relief, Waterbase Silkscreen, and Light to Ink (photo-digital print applications). These are usually studied in the sophomore year and into the first semester of the junior year. Printmaking undergraduate Critique/Seminar course pre-requisites occur each semester in the junior year. The fall semester Senior Printmaking Workshop: Critique course is accompanied by the, Senior Seminar that necessitates practical subjects such as resumes, artist statements, grants, colonies and residencies, artist taxes, etc. The final critique course is the Senior Degree Project. Graduate courses are critique based in the first year and in the fall semester of the second year. Following this, graduate students engage the Thesis course, also based on critique but this is facilitated by the faculty graduate critics and those additional persons who were chosen by the graduate student to function on their Thesis Committee.
As The juniors’ critique courses are formally entitled, Junior Printmaking Workshop: Critique/Seminar during fall and spring, it is in the two “Seminar “portions of the course that BIPoC/SEI issues can be actively engaged and folded into the subjects addressed in the instructor/critic’s syllabus and ultimately with students in the critique classes. Printmaking pledges to do this with assigned readings that relate to BIPoC/SEI subjects or books written by BIPoC authors, BIPoC histories associated with a given printmaking discipline or a specific selection of artists whose work can be viewed with written papers on the same submitted.
This pledge, although these subjects have always been operative to a degree, will also be adopted in the fall semester Senior Workshop: Critique course and the prerequisite Graduate Print Projects course.
Please note that Printmaking technical courses do not and will not involve specific assignments regarding concept or a chosen group subject regarding images. Printmaking’s assignments are technically based only, i.e., students will be assigned a print using line etching and aquatint, for instance. It is important that the department allow students to be free to compose images that emanate from personal inspiration, research, are personally inventive, and/or are generated from emotion and personal experience. We will not deviate from this approach in our technical courses. However, it is important to note that this direction involving” choice” most often gleans tremendous images that reflect BIPoC/SEI/LGBTQI issues and these are celebrated and serve to educate all in the class, including the instructor.
Accordingly, in this manner, Printmaking pledges to go forward in each of its classes, the prerequisite and the elective courses, offering many more BIPoC, and additional SEI/LGTBQI artists work for students to study/ view and/or read that will be subjects of lecture and discussion in class as well as written and presentation assignments. Printmaking would like this aspect of the course to be more informative within the printing disciplines and an informative BIPoC resource in critiques.
The former are the pledges regarding Printmaking’s pre-requisite courses, however, although it has a TU count at an economy of 30, there are other corresponding elective courses that fall under Printmaking’s umbrella that it pledges to direct towards BIPoC issues. These courses are:
RISD & Race/BIPOC Report – Printmaking Department
Print Production -Single Edition Project/RISD Editions – Will speak to this later in this report.
And then, we also have the TU for the Japan: Paper & Temples course that usually runs during Wintersession. But it will not be going to Japan in the upcoming academic year. Thus, in the short term, we are planning and pledge to use this TU in the spring semester to offer a BIPoC Prints for Protest: History & Action in Media course to directly address any and all issues students may wish to visually speak to personally, socially, economically, politically, systemically, etc., including or without text. Discussion currently continues about the formulation of this course. It will sandwich readings and books authored by BIPoC leaders, past and present, it will invite BIPoC artists residing in the community and beyond to lecture, mentor and participate, and it will most probably engage screenprinting. Stay tuned for this course during spring registration. Of course, this would be a “one-time” course unless the travel courses do not happen again next year, in 2021-2022. Otherwise, we will petition the School to, in its infinite wisdom, grant us a TU that can always be directed towards BIPoC students and subjects. I realize that I will have to beg for this TU but if the School is seriously intent on committing to BIPoC, the time is now and it needs to cough up the funds for this.
RISD MUSEUM – Department of Prints, Drawings & Photographs
I am adding the Museum into the pledges because each one of Printmaking’s courses usually schedules a class appointment in the Department of Prints, Drawings & Photographs primarily to look at prints. This has always been a wonderful opportunity for students to become acquainted with artists, historical and contemporary, from around the world and from all walks of life. The instructor of each course usually selects the prints to be pulled by Museum staff and, to date, each of our instructors do include BIPoC artists – several, not just one or two. This is a strength of the printmaking Department and its relationship with the Department of Prints in the Museum. But the Museum should also be encouraged to obtain more BIPoC artists for its collection. Printmaking has been very fortunate to have Kara Walker prints of all sorts to choose from and a modicum of Shazia Sikander prints as both graduated from RISD and worked in its department when graduate students. I personally love to look at Glenn Ligon’s work, Jacob Lawrence’s work and William Kentridge’s prints about Apartheid – Kentridge is a white South African artist who has a history of addressing this subject and its oppression.
PRINTMAKING COURSES /ASSIGNMENT/PROJECTS
Printmaking has had no course specifically or exclusively directed towards SEI or BIPOC initiatives. This, because the School has allotted us a limited economy of courses (TUs
teaching unit = 1 course) (again, Printmaking has only been given 30) needed simply to address our core curriculum requirements. We even had one TU taken away two years ago and another a few years prior to that. The recent TU giveaway went to FAV, who needed it just to adequately cover its own core curriculum course offerings. We would be very appreciative to have this TU returned as it would be used to offer a course that would specifically focus on pro – BIPoC/ SEI issues. We, for one year only, dropped one core Printmaking elective course for a History of Prints and Printmaking course in which the subjects previously noted in the HISTORY part of this report were an important part of the course…but this course, unfortunately, was cleared for this purpose for one year only and more unfortunately only 4 students registered for it and it was presented during the Covid spring semester as well.
Unlike some departments/divisions, such as Architecture, Graphic Design, Illustration, EFS, etc., Printmaking requires technical assignments but does not issue assignments regarding “subject/concept”. Thus, our courses welcome all concepts and related imagery (possibly including text, produced by hand, letterpress or digitally) that address a wide range of subjects, some of which may be poignant, highly personal and/or activist. The latter work is certainly welcomed and discussed throughout its creation in our courses and critiques as an important enlightening and educational factor that is intrinsic to the printmaking learning experience beyond the necessity of mastering various technical printing skills and disciplines. Many of our current and former BIPOC students have welcomed this rather than having to adhere to specific visual assignments and have used this freedom to address their own issues be they racial, gender oriented, etc. Were you to poll the Printmaking students regarding this inclusion in the Printmaking Department’s courses as your list of demands suggests, you will find that they would prefer to have freedom of expression and subject regarding their visual statements.
When we have the opportunity, given the titles of our courses, we encourage work that make cohort oriented, social and/or personal statements. Accordingly, a Relief course presented during Wintersession was entitled Prints as Protest and our Print Installation course heralded these subjects in the public art that was created in the community.
Our syllabi follow the usual new prerequisite pro SEI initiatives regarding the addition of Diversity and Inclusion statements, if BIPoC students wish to change this information on syllabi, please direct revised language to Matthew Shenoda and Printmaking will substitute it on our syllabi. The current statement reads:
Diversity and Inclusion Statement: I would like to create a learning environment that engages students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives. The diversity that the students bring to this class is viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. The academic community places a special obligation on all members to preserve an atmosphere conducive to the freedom to teach and to learn. It is the responsibility of each member of the RISD community to maintain a positive learning environment in which the behavior of any individual does not disrupt the classes of teachers or learners.
The syllabus is open to change based on the individuals, interests and needs of those enrolled in the course. It is my intent to present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity: gender identity, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, nationality, religion, and culture. Your suggestions are encouraged and appreciated.
If you have a name and/or set of pronouns that differ from those that appear in your official RISD records, please let me know.
No doubt you have seen or read this syllabus inclusion, at least my students have because they are each given my syllabus and we go over it during the first class’s orientation period. The Administration wants this statement on every faculty syllabus before it can be approved. I realize that this comes from a School initiative to address SEI issues and it was sorely needed however at times, all of the printed matter and letters that circulate on its behalf at RISD ring pretty hollow when the initial recruitment, acceptance and treatment of BIPOC students always remains at an all-time low. RISD needs action, not words, but regarding the Diversity Statement in the body of syllabi, it was a start, words with little support backing it up. RISD needs the corresponding behavior to support this action as well and apparently every institution including RISD needs sustained pressure to this effect that never lets up until we hit the ideal that we do not have to even use the word racism and bigotry.
This digresses a bit but Printmaking faculty have discovered that some students do not inform us, or fellow students, about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and it ultimately leads to uncomfortable and embarrassing moments going forward in critiques and such. Is your cohort mindful that this kind of communication would help faculty in their courses? We do want and need to know what you want so that no student feels slighted or disrespected. Please assist us here, as I, for one, feel helpless.
Some Printmaking courses assign students books to read for discussion and written assignment such as, Seeing Red, by Sandra Brown, a book recently given to the Printmaking graduate students that addresses equity protest subjects. Another assigned book that serves to address pro BIPoC/ SIE initiatives is, Paper Politics: Socially Engaged Printmaking Today, by Josh MacPhee. We also brought Josh MacPhee (artist activist) to RISD to participate in midterm graduate critiques during the 2017 - 2018 academic year to present a lecture involving his work and projects.
We annually participate in a T shirt project, AcTEEvism, that evolved three years ago. It involved the silkscreening of six selected images on a dozen T shirts that depict pro SEI subjects concerning social equity. These were sold at Print Week in New York City, the proceeds of which were donated to non-profit organizations that target subjects regarding political and equality themes. Megan Foster, full-time Printmaking faculty, curated and performed a live printing demonstration at Printfest for AcTEEvism (artist designed political t-shirts) Several graduate students assisted from beginning to end. In addition to this effort, an ongoing project, Prints for Protest, printsforprotest.org, represents a portfolio of prints that has actually garnered some media attention. The Prints for Protest portfolio is for sale each year to fund
different non-profit organizations that target issues regarding initiatives in step with SEI. To date, this s project has addressed SEI subjects only, but now Printmaking pledges to include BIPoC subjects as an important part of this project. Current Printmaking students, alumni and faculty participate in this effort., although this year, sadly, it was cancelled due to the Corona virus situation. If you what we are doing, and it is reinstituted following the Corona virus cancellations, let us know. Everyone can participate and it can be a RISD tradition, not simply a Printmaking tradition…although you will need to relegate work to prints.
PRINTMAKING MAJORS & GRADUATE STUDENTS
Over the four plus decades that I have been a faculty member in the Printmaking Department, many diverse students, undergraduate and graduate, have crossed my path - but unfortunately not enough BIPOC students have crossed my path because they have not been there as Printmaking majors. In recent years the number has improved and we do see BIPoC students as elective students in our classes but, few and never enough. Why? Possibly because the Admissions Office and its corresponding Admissions Committee needed to accept more students of race in earlier years – and, again, this has improved but it needs immediate and intense recruitment - or possibly because the BIPoC students were not applying in great numbers to RISD because its tuition is out of sight and increasing yearly and also because there are not enough scholarship monies allotted for BIPoC students once they are accepted. I am also wondering why Printmaking is not often chosen by BIPoC freshmen as their major. This could be due to school systems attended by BIPoC students that were not given funds to engage art subjects like printmaking. This lack of money invested in their schools and the corresponding lack of instruction in the arts and/or mentorship constitutes the systemic racism in the educational arena prior to making applications to a college – poverty also put college and such a place as RISD out of their grasp (systematic racism regarding the economic arena).
The number of BIPoC students has very slowly increased at RISD cross college, but the situation remains unacceptable.
The few, too few, BIPoC students that Printmaking has had as majors, grads and alums have been, to a person, outstanding and always represented our strongest students. It is good to note that Printmaking’s BIPOC students consistently win our Printmaking Awards, become notable professional artists and shine as instructors in teaching positions or as curators or as master printers, etc. They will be the ones who will finally break barriers, fill gaps and correct lapses in the Printmaking realm. I am always eager to prepare them for this.
As to the climate and coexistence of the entire group of Printmaking students, I have not witnessed anything but engagement their work en groupe in the studios or in the shops with enthusiasm and respect for the unique personal differences of their fellow Printmaking majors and the corresponding work that is/was created. If you know of any attitudes/ behavior that runs counter to this, please let me know immediately.
If I were I to list names of the BIPoC students and alums that have been studying in Printmaking, including our ISOs and elective students from other departments who we “adopted”, it would be quite long and impressive but suffice it to say that Printmaking students span racial, gender and social and income diversity and they become successful and, in some cases, famous.
(Faculty – a weakness, Critics – a strength)
The Printmaking Department is one of RISD’s smallest departments and therefore it hosts a small faculty head count. There are currently four full-time faculty, two white females (73 and 43 years of age) and two white males (73 and 58 years of age), one of whom is also Queer. Our part-time faculty count comprises seven members, five of whom are white males (30’s to late 40’s in age) (one also functions as the Printmaking Technician), one is Native American and two of this group are also Queer. The seventh part-time faculty member is an Asian female but she has recently told us that she is moving to Utah to be closer to her husbands’ family. In previous semesters, we have had more female faculty, most of whom are white and one Asian (30 – 40 years of age). This faculty representation has shifted over the years to encompass more diversity but it has remained the same for approximately five years now. It has never had a black faculty member among its ranks. I will be on the trickle-down retirement plan after this year and had my sights on functioning as Search Committee chair for my replacement. Several of our former Printmaking grads, with technical mastery of printmaking skills who would be great BIPoC candidates, that should be recruited as applicants for this position, in addition to several national applicants, but I have now been told that it is likely that RISD will not be replacing my position. Are you aware that RISD is looking to reduce the number of full-time faculty? This will critically limit your objectives to bring in BIPOC faculty. Address the RISD Administration regarding this issue. Of course, now we are told that RISD has frozen searches going forward due to RISD’s financial Covid situation and it is saying that this may even have to happen in the following year as well. Not good.
Printmaking definitely needs more diversity represented in its faculty, both full and part-time. Pat-timers tend to shift more and yet when someone is needed, we do not have the budget to adequately pay any part-timer. Therefore, we are relegated to hiring persons with the technical skills to teach Bookbinding, Letterpress, Japanese Printmaking from within the immediate or regional area so that they will not have to pay much of their salary for transportation to and from the job. Do you folks have any idea what RISD pays part-timers? The part-time salaries are despicable and RISD can afford to pay more.
There was no BIPOC candidate to teach a Bookbinding course, nor was there a BIPoC part-time faculty to teach Japanese papermaking or Letterpress – the list goes on. It is critical that we have a bank of technically skilled BIPoC candidates who can teach the mastery of these skills and disciplines….and who live regionally that they do not see their RISD part-time salary swallowed by transportation costs before they even make it to the print shops. If Printmaking is able to teach more BIPOC students from every department, the number of eligible BIPoC candidates for full-time and part-time Printmaking Department positions will increase.
Anecdote: Regarding fulltime faculty positions in Printmaking, we seem to have one every 15 - 20 years or so. This is a fact that is not otherwise known throughout the RISD community. This represents great difficulty when making changes to the faculty that would address having more diversity, i.e., it is one of our most formidable weaknesses. We had our first search in 20 years three years ago and the second full-time female faculty (white) was hired in that search as well as a Latino candidate who declined the teaching position because RISD did not offer as much salary and benefits as he was already receiving at his current teaching position elsewhere. This has to tell you something about the RISD Administration and its commitment to financing faculty. How you can get the Administration to move progressively at the bargaining table with the faculty unions regarding this financial problem will be amazing, but the time to do this is now critical and you might be the ones to resolve the situation. Note: A School, any institution, corporation or company, that finds its workers seeking unionization is an institution that does not treat its workers well – otherwise, a union structure would not be needed.
Where Printmaking fails miserably in its faculty cohort, it attempts to resolve, albeit temporarily or for a semester’s length at the most, by hiring BIPOC Visiting Critics and faculty for both grad and undergraduate courses. We have consistently brought in invited artists/critics from all walks of life, color, nationalities, ethnicities, and gender identities, including one BIPoC transgender artist/critic. We will continue to do this because it is so very rewarding and beneficial for Printmaking students to meet, identify and discuss their work with professionals representing a wealth of diversity. More recent visiting artist/critics are: Simonette Quamina, Martine Gutierez, Paula Wilson, Tomas Vu, Felandus Thames, Victoria Udondia, Torkwase Dyson, Josh MacPhee, Charlene Liu, Sarah Suzuki, ………………..
RISD Editions --- (a strength)
Each year, for the past twenty years, RISD Editions invites an artist to the Printmaking Department to create an image which is then printed by a faculty member functioning as a master printer accompanied by a group graduate and undergraduate Printmaking students who function as printing assistants. An edition of professional prints is created, one is given to the Department of Prints & Drawings in the RISD Museum and the rest are for sale, not to end up in Printmaking coffers, but to allow us the funding for the next RISD Edition project and artist.
To date, we have not made money on this project. If we did, it would form a fund for Printmaking BIPoC scholarships. At this point, the money from any print sales is devoted to paper, inks, plates, room and board, transportation costs, etc. The Printmaking Department is always mindful to fill the diversity gap when an artist is invited to create a RISD Edition. We will continue to invite BIPOC printmakers to Benson to create these printed editions and in doing so, it will serve to facilitate awareness regarding BIPOC artists who have become notable in the visual arts realm, who will flesh out the dearth of BIPOC printmaker’s work in the RISD Museum Department of Prints & Drawings (finally), and who will inspire and encourage BIPOC students as well as notifying white students that white artists are not exclusive or the epitome of contemporary art (even historical art) The most recent artists invited are: Sam Gilliam, Roberto Juarez, Martin Ramirez, Enrique Chagoya, Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhonah and Rico Gatson.
Of Printmaking’s elective courses, we are now looking at two, Print Production/The Single Edition/RISD Editions and the Print Installation courses that can directly involve BIPoC work and visiting artists. We cannot change the existing white faculty teaching these courses as yet though, but we pledge to redirect these courses and the BIPoC faculty change will come if and when Printmaking is allowed another search.
STUDENT BODY--- (a weakness)
We could definitely have more BIPOC students represented in our Printmaking student body. This represents a chronic situation - past, present and future. There may be two or even no black undergraduate Printmaking students in any given academic year. This year, we have only 2 Black students, a female student in her senior year who is graduated on May 30th, a male student in his junior year. We have 4 female, Asian graduate students, all graduated in May, 1 female, Latina student from Cuba, 8 female Asian undergraduate students, 1 Latina undergraduate student, 1 male Asian ISO student and Sarah (Alvarez and Jada (Akoto), also ISO Printmaking students. We did have Taj Richardson briefly as an ISO Printmaking student but he found that his requirements in Architecture this coming year would preempt any ISO in Printmaking…but we have still adopted him as a printmaking student in our student group anyway.
Two of our current grads are queer and 2 of our newly graduated senior/alums are queer, 3 current undergrads are queer and one undergrad is they/them. Every student in Printmaking enriches our department and particularly inspiring are the BIPOC students as very strong visual artist/printmakers who create personal visual statements that expand everyone’s awareness regarding their life experience. All are valuable studio technicians in our shops, function as teaching assistants in our courses, are socially active with their Printmaking peers and faculty who in turn very much value their friendship.
It is also important to note that a Printmaking alumna, Qualeasha Wood, curated two powerful exhibitions, one, in the Benson Gallery two years ago that featured work from BIPoC students across the College and the other, in the Gelman Gallery that did the same. Her curation produced two of the most exciting and enlightening exhibitions that I have seen in a great while at RISD. Qualeasha is greatly missed but we keep in touch. She has now completed her first year in the graduate program at the Cranbrook Academy of Art where she will earn her MFA in Photography in June 2021 – Covid does not allow for this.
Existing resources and how they can be shifted to support BIPOC/SEI.
As previously mentioned, Printmaking’s existing resources are: TU’s, Courses, Faculty, Critics, Awards, RISD Editions. We are currently doing as much as we can with the resources that we are managing to keep. Simply put, we need more resources. It would be great to have a couple of TUs to exclusively devote to BIPOC/SEI issues, but this coming to pass has been doubtful. Lip service is paid in committees and meetings, reports and letters are written, but nothing transpires in the end – then the cycle of demand and processing begins all over again only to end up in another stalemate. Funding is required for TUs, but no additional funding is ever available. This year, the Administration is making great noise about “financial sacrifice” everywhere in the School. This, due to the Covid situation. It is difficult to dispute the financial problems associated with the Covid situation as it came out of the blue. Hopefully RISD will be sincerely responsive when the BIPOC/RISD & Race cohort comes at it with its demands for change. Primarily, a good deal of this change that is needed at RISD requires money and RISD has historically consistently dug its heels in the sand regarding money and funding. I am out of ideas as to how Muhammed can move the mountain here. Printmaking continues to try to accomplish all that it can for BIPOC/SEI initiatives with the “resources” that it currently has.
The Printmaking Department has engaged community partners throughout the years. City Arts has been one of these partners as has School One. We have also welcomed school groups from School One to Benson Hall to visit various technical courses in session, to view printmaking demonstrations and to tour the facilities. AS220’s Print Shop and course schedule was initially inaugurated by a Printmaking undergraduate alumna, Morgan Calderini, and we had many of our students assisting in its shop while courses for inner city children and adults attended printmaking courses. The advantage to AS220 is its outreach activity that encompasses low income students in the Providence community. Once Morgan moved on, the Printmaking Department continued to attempt to collaborate with AS220 and many of our alums are teaching or working there, but as the administration of the printmaking area at AS220 changed frequently over the past t8 years, we have drifted from each other. Our students still work there as shop monitors and course assistants, while some, once they graduate from RISD with a Printmaking BFA, teach courses there and/or exhibit their work in the AS220 Gallery. We are also considering collaborations with the Providence Public Library in downtown Providence and outlying public libraries to reach more people in the community and metropolitan area.
Finally, Printmaking has been eager to join with RISD’s Open Door Program. TLAD now engages a program that works with BIPoC and low-income students in the community. Very successful teacher mentor programs have been instituted that instruct and prepare high school students’ applications and portfolios for college and art schools and also has initiated classes for junior high-level students. We plan to make our approach to Open Door this year to see where we can help and where we can best fit in. The issue that has stopped our progress is RISD workload an entity that has grown exponentially in the past five years with the growth of the RISD Administration and the trickle-down workload that its new separate entities demand – meetings, reports and spreadsheets in addition to the contractually required teaching load, advising load and committee assignments. At this point, it is impossible for faculty to adequately engage their own work – another requirement for reappointment – in the face of Printmaking faculty’s participation in such an important community engagement entity as Project Open Door. The latter represents where change can and should begin.
Professor, Fine Arts
Department Head – Printmaking