Art School(ed): Spotlight on Zio Ziegler

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Art School(ed) is a column about all things arty (e.g., exhibits, printmakers, gouache, the Rhode Island School of Design, zines, Van Gogh, that Circle Dance sculpture made out of impenetrable tinfoil, contemporary photography, Woody Allen, etc.) penned by a real, live RISD student.

Ever wonder what the story is behind Brickway on Wickenden’s kaleidoscopic walls? It all started at the behest of one guy with an alliterative name and a soft spot for breakfast food. Zio Ziegler, who studied at both RISD and Brown, dined at Brickway multiple mornings per week before class, and could not quite jibe with the primary colored walls of the restaurant. He arranged a trade with the Brickway staff: he would paint the restaurants’ walls in his signature style in exchange for free pancakes. The Brickway we know today is the product of one month of Zio Ziegler’s junior year, when he painted those psychedelic walls every evening after class until the wee hours of the morning.

 Zio Ziegler, a Mill Valley, California native, majored in Painting at RISD and graduated in 2010. Ziegler is the crazy hybrid of Picasso and Keith Haring with Haring’s itch for spray paint and Picasso’s penchant for murals. This dude’s free-spirited public art knows no bounds: it can be spotted on temporary walls, on Porsches, on the skate ramps of this past summer’s Vans US Open of Surfing, and on the walls of Facebook’s Headquarters. The guy paints any found object he can get his hands on. He painted a mural in one day in Vegas, in preparation for upcoming “Life is Beautiful” music festival, and you can peep his process. Hella cool.

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Ziegler co-founded the clothing line Arte Sempre with his girlfriend and collaborator from Brown, Jordana Fribourg ’10. Arte Sempre sells silk-screened swag through its online presence, pop-up shops, and trunk shows in New York and California. (Ziegler’s family dynamics may have inspired his choice to partner with his GF: Ziegler’s parents founded Banana Republic together.) They create their products in their Mill Valley studio, a converted greenhouse space aptly named “The Greenhouse.” The company’s mission is to make art accessible to people from all walks of life by creating cerebral, complex images and printing them on inexpensive items like shirts and dresses. All of Ziegler’s designs are inspired by whatever he’s reading or exposed to at the moment: his influences range from French artists like Jean DuBuffet and Georges Braque, to Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novels, to ‘Spaghetti Western’ films by Sergio Leone, to the Bay Area landscape he relishes on his mountain bike excursions. His Arte Sempre team produces limited runs of all of their designs, so that the customer is technically investing in a piece of art, like a painting or print that isn’t mass-produced in order to maintain the image’s value. Fribourg, who studied International Relations at Brown, has found her niche within the company’s mission: she and Ziegler hope to eventually globalize the brand and collaborate with international artists.

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Inspiration for the rebellious and sleepless on College Hill: Ziegler has no professional silkscreening background, but he did find a way to get his hands inky in Providence without buying his own supplies or paying a lab fee. When he was done working in the Rock for the night, he would sneak into the RISD printmaking studio at 2 a.m. and borrow anyone’s silkscreen that still had any emulsion left on it. He’d print a design from his sketchbook onto a white tee, with the dregs of another student’s materials, and escape to class by the morning, rocking a fresh, hot off the press, one-of-a kind t shirt.

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Where will Ziegler strike next? I’m hoping he’ll fly back for his five-year reunion and let loose on the walls of Meeting Street Cafe.

Photos by: Edith Young RISD ’16

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