RISD by Design 15

Posted by on Oct 16, 2015 in Children's Book Illustration, Here Come the Humpbacks, Illustration | 2 comments

There’s no harder evidence of time flying than considering your 35th college reunion. Whaaat? Upon finding my RISD 1980 yearbook, I wondered if I’d find any former self at RISD By Design 2015.


I headed to Providence in time to meet up with classmate Rika Smith McNally. Hadn’t seen her in five years, since the last reunion. We headed over to the Inauguration of Rosanne Somerson, the 17th President of the college, and the first alum.


What a graceful, thoughtful, and moving ceremony. I was delighted to spy MICA’s President, Sammy Hoi, in the throng of Visiting Delegates from other institutions. Janine Antoni led the entire audience in a hand-holding wave of intention that connected Rosanne’s mother and the Metcalfs, descendants of RISD’s founders, all the way up to the stage where Rosanne stood.


I was impressed by RISD Illustration major, Yelitsa Jean-Charles, who offered remarks on behalf of undergraduate students. She’s making her own waves by launching a toy line for black girls, Healthy Roots. The theme of the weekend was all about designing the future: Forms that don’t exist yet, Subcultures that don’t exist yet, Tools that don’t exist yet. Bravo to Rosanne Somerson! I felt immense positive energy that she will lead RISD with open arms and wise vision.

After the inauguration, a loose parade of plants formed, everyone carrying a potted something along Canal Street. I drew the woman who ingeniously created a headpiece from a helmet.


Along the way, we passed firetrucks spouting arcs of water. It was like a baptism, with sound installations and floating sculptures.


Rika and I stopped at the Colossal Camera Obscura, to peer at the upside-down views inside.


We roamed around campus before landing at New Rivers, where we were joined by our classmate, Madeline Sorel  We could’ve closed that place, so much catching up to do!


On Saturday, Madeline and I found familiar faces at registration, Bonny Katzman and Beth Singer.

I headed to my favorite spot, the Edna Lawrence Nature Lab.

That place was a major source of transformation for me.  I sketched this bird while eavesdropping on other alums wandering about in wonder. Every RISD student spends time here.


Not all specimens are still, either. This guy had a friend slithering into his pocket.

I headed over to the new ISB for my part in the RISD Reads.


The event was held in the gallery where the annual RISD faculty exhibition was on view, with a super poster by Calef Brown.

Christina Rodriguez ’03 IL was there getting set up. As Alumni Relations Coordinator, she invited me to RISD Reads. Many thanks, lovely Christina!


I was thrilled to meet another alum, 11 IL Joohee Yoon!


I read Here Come the Humpbacks and answered questions about my process. Thanks to all who came and listened!


94 IL Joe McKendry discussed his richly detailed illustrations for One Times Square, and his enthusiasm for research.


Joohee read from her recent books, talking about how her printmaking experiences at RISD informed her current 2-color illustrations for The Tiger Who Would Be King. Then we mingled and signed books. It was a blast to see my former student, Paul Gray, and catch up with my former teacher, Judy Sue Goodwin-Sturges. I always thought of her as a Celtic goddess with her thick mane of red hair. She is ageless, and still teaching!


What a delight to see these two, also looking grand, 80 IL Leslie Alfred McGrath and 80 IL Robert Brun.

We toured the new building, where students still paint from the masters.


Madeline’s now creating felted wares, and I modeled her latest at the reunion dinner at the Providence Art Club.

Several classes gathered in the cluster of historic buildings dating from the 1700’s to 1885.


The class of 1980 enjoyed one intimate dining room with two tables and a fireplace. At Beth’s urging, we took turns telling what we’re up to these days. We share this one formative chapter in our lives, yet the waters run mighty deep.


80 PT Bill Braden and his wife had traveled from Hawaii for his first ever reunion. 80 IL Ron Defelice told tales of working at Disney and Blue Sky Studios. We exchanged whatever news we had of those not in attendance, and mugged for the photo booth.

Before leaving Providence on Sunday, Madeline and I visited the RISD Museum, where I met up with former students, Miles Cook and Michele Cooney. It was heavenly to stroll around such an amazing collection. Walking along Benefit Street in the dappled sun, I think I glimpsed the art student I was. Looking at Memorial Hall, I can hear the beat from the Tap Room, can you?


Soon we will visit MICA for Parents’ Weekend, where our daughter is learning her own rhythms. Art school is a great place to discover images that don’t exist yet.



  1. Hey Jamie, loved the blog. It was wonderful to hear your take on our 35th reunion weekend! Loved your drawings too, of course.

  2. This makes me wish i had been there all three days. Great summing up of an extraordinary, indescribable place. Love your sketches!

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