Off (Other Side of) the Hill: Taking a RISD class

Part of the charm of College Hill comes from the long-standing relationship between Brown and RISD students; Providence is the creative capital after all, and we’ve got the two artsiest (and apparently one of the douchiest, according to GQ) schools right at our fingertips. The opportunity for Brown students to take RISD classes, and vice versa, fosters a really unique dynamic that you should definitely take advantage of, if scheduling and coursework permits.

As one can see from RISD’s unofficial mascot, they go pretty hard in the paint, and you’ll have to invest hours on hours for the final critique. But by the end, you’ll have gained knowledge of a niche skill, made enough friends to be personally invited to a warehouse party (brownie points if you get an invitation to Artist’s Ball), and have something tangible to show for your efforts.

If those reasons have peaked your curiosity about shopping for a RISD studio, you might be asking: “Where do I even begin?” I was in the same boat a couple weeks ago, and I’m still learning to navigate the waters. Luckily, sending an excessive number of e-mails and asking around yielded a list of helpful tips and interesting classes to check out, some of which you might remember from RISD Wintersession 2016 Course Superlatives.

The process of registering goes a little something like this:

Step 1: Go to JWW and obtain a cross-registration form from the 3rd floor.

Step 2: Get the instructor to sign it.

Step 3: Get the RISD registrar to sign it.

Step 4: Get the Brown registrar to sign it.

A more detailed description can be found here, a website about cross-registration created by Patchi Dranoff, RISD ’15.


  • E-mail the department head or the department administrative coordinator. Professors may be slow to respond, and before you know it, all of the coveted studios will be full.
  • Jump on this earlier than later because professors may let people in based on the order in which they e-mailed.
  • WebAdvisor has about the same user-friendliness as Banner, but it’s not hard to learn. Each class has a Status column that communicates the probability of you weaseling your way in.
  • If the class is open, go for it. If you’re waitlisted, you may get in if you show up on the first day of class, but no guarantees, so keep looking around. If it’s closed, move on.
  • It is not an automatic deal breaker when a class specifies that it’s designated for ____ Majors only. Brown students have taken Majors Only studios before.
  • Be prepared to drop some bank on supplies, tools, and a fee as a non-major. WebAdvisor (RISD’s version of Banner) includes the price of materials in the class descriptions.
  • TAKE VISA0100. You can’t take a RISD course without it. If you don’t get a spot via the VISA lottery, don’t be discouraged. Show up to all the sections that work with your schedule and don’t stop attending until the professor physically pushes you out of the room.
  • You might be intimidated by the thought of seeming like a complete amateur in class, but we’ve heard more stories of a Brown student feeling welcomed by a class at RISD than alienated.
  • Industrial design, furniture, and textiles classes typically have high barriers to entry due to their popularity, especially during Wintersession.
  • You can never go wrong with a ceramics studio.

And last, but certainly not the least:

What can I take at RISD?


  • Form in MetalListed as a studio in the furniture department, this class investigates structural properties of steel (and other metals) for the purpose of incorporating it into furniture and eventually becoming Superman.
  • Documentary PhotographyA picture is worth a thousand words – learn to craft your own essay through this politically charged class.
  • Jewelry IntroductionCreate some personal hotline “bling” using traditional jewelry techniques like sawing, soldering, and polishing on precious and non-precious metals.
  • Lighting Design 101“I love lamp.” – Brick Tamland. Design a lamp and learn about the different ways lighting influences the mood of a space.
  • Witness Tree ObjectDefinition of a witness tree: trees older than your grandmother’s grandmother that have witnessed key events in history. Doubling as a history course and woodworking studio, this class explores material culture and historical influences on design while working with an actual witness tree shipped from a historical site.
  • Sculptural Fabric Structures: Manipulate fabric in all of its twisting turning glory to produce a sculpture of mythical proportions.
  • The Silkscreened PosterProvidence is known for its incredibly well designed silkscreen posters downtown and in your favorite coffee shops – take this class to learn the techniques necessary to make one.
  • Introduction to ShoemakingThese boots were made for walking, but what are the boots actually made of? Students start with a ballet flat and graduate to a fully-fledged leather boot as the final project.
  • Weaving IYou get to set up and use a loom. Enough said.

If you’re planning on returning early for RISD Wintersession, check out Material Potential, Ceramic Sculpture: Non-Majors, Creature Creation, Eyewear Design, and Parametric Design (taught by the founders of Pneuhaus). Wintersession is an experimental period for RISD students to explore outside their major, so although it is a great time for Brown students to get in on the art scene, it also means that introduction classes are difficult to get into.

Did we mention that taking a RISD class means receiving swipe access to some of most interesting buildings on the hill (the Edna Lawrence Nature Lab, to name one) and officially having a reason to buy a RISD sweatshirt?



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