BlochDailyHerald: An Interview with Professor Stefano Bloch on this Friday’s Urban Studies Paint-Out event

If you’re unfamiliar with Urban Studies at Brown, you might not have heard of 29 Manning, the adorably quaint two-story house on the walk towards the daunting doors of Barus & Holley that serves as the department’s house. Designed in 1938 by architects and owners Peter J. and Margaret B. Geddes, the building “is a striking example of early Rhode Island modernism,” a contrast to College Hill’s overwhelmingly dominant presence of buildings in Federal, Greek Revival, and Colonial Revival styles. Adding to its incredible historical legacy, 29 Manning once served as the office for Peter J. Geddes and his partner, where the duo designed some of Rhode Island’s best modern buildings.*

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After a 20-year term as the department’s home, the time has come to say goodbye to 29 Manning. To pay homage, Providence artist Gregory Pennisten will produce a full size grafitti-mural on the façade of the building on Friday afternoon. To learn more about how the department is bidding adieu, I sat down with Professor Stefano Bloch, Presidential Diversity Fellow in Urban Studies.

BlogDH: What is your background in relation to graffiti and public murals?

Bloch: I’m interested in graffiti as a phenomenon in terms of how this sub-cultural act contributes to the appearance and functioning of the built urban environment. In my more general interest, I’m always fascinated by the lengths to which people will go to assert themselves in an often-alienating urban environment, even if it means risking their freedom. So transgression and forms of contestation are simply interesting to me on both an intellectual but also personal level.

In my teaching and research, I focus on graffiti like I would focus on any other prolific, visual, and contestative act that contributes to our collective life-worlds. So graffiti to me in that way is not unique at all as well as being so unique in terms of how visually prolific it is. That’s actually the main point – that it is both unique and not unique. It’s not unique in that it’s one of the many components to the development of our life-worlds, our cultural spaces, but it is unique in that it’s so visually present in our lives. While at the same time being, to put it simply, often illegal. In this case it is not illegal.

Professors and their cars...

Professors and their cars…

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A Cool Thing You Shouldn’t Miss: Thursday’s Graffiti Panel


Graffiti artists are known for keeping low profiles and staying out of the public eye, but next Thursday night the Center For the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America is hosting a once-in-a-lifetime exception. Clear your schedule at 6:00 p.m. and head to the Carmichael Auditorium at 85 Waterman (just next to Faunce) to hear some of the most renowned Los Angeles graffiti artists talk about their art, and the relationship between graffiti and the city. Panelists include:



Originally from Guatemala City, Guatemala, Cache is known for his iconic chickens that color walls throughout Los Angeles and speak to the greater human experience. His work has been featured in exhibits throughout the country and focuses on reviving neglected urban areas and questioning consumerism.

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BlogDailyCarrels: The best of the Rock’s pen/pencil graffiti, Part 2

As with any good art form, graffiti, particularly that which is found throughout the studious halls of the John D. Rockefeller Library, is a constantly evolving medium. Even as tidbits of wisdom from past Brown undergraduates are invariably rubbed away by the passage of time, freshly scrawled ones appear just as quickly on the desks and walls of the library, a discourse that unites the tired, over-caffeinated students of both past and present. While some of the older works still remain, a new wave of notable Rock graffiti has since begun to sweep the building—an artistic movement of small but revolutionary proportions. Witness the current denizens of the Rock encourage, cajole, and occasionally insult one another with the following five gems of life wisdom (which mainly focus on how studying really, really sucks).

You Can Do It

“You can do it :),” one of the more simplistic pieces on display. The encouragement feels unoriginal (albeit genuine), and the basic style of the smiley face indicates a lack of proper artistic training. Still, more than one hard-working student has undoubtedly taken solace from this message. 

Go Get Em Tiger

“You get ’em tiger!” As with the first picture, this piece is basic in both style and substance. With that said, the use of the colloquial ’em’ rather than the standard ‘them’ speaks to an awareness for current, ‘hip’ language trends that isn’t present in the previous example.

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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. Continue Reading

BlogDailyCarrels: The best of the Rock’s pen/pencil graffiti

We’ve all seen them: in the depths of finals, on Friday evening study sessions when the place is depressingly empty, or when we gaze up, bleary-eyed, from the papers and theses and problem sets we’re struggling to complete overnight. They sustain us and annoy us and distract us. They are little snippets of wisdom and beauty. They are technically illegal vandalism of university property. They are the many examples of pen and pencil graffiti on the desks of the John D. Rockefeller library, and some of them are pretty awesome.

After exhaustive research and in-the-field study, here are some of the most clever, moving, funny, and brilliant notes ever to be etched into the desks of this hallowed place of study.


A second floor gem. At first glance, a seemingly casual note on the lack of apparently desirable “normal” guys at RISD, but let’s think about it. Does this unnamed RISD student truly crave a “normal” love interest? Is he/she unaware that variety is indeed the spice of life? Should the men of RISD feel insulted for being deemed undesirable, or should we men of Brown take offense for being called “normal” when we probably all like to think of ourselves as quirky and unique? I’m quirky. I’m unique. There’s emotional baggage here for everyone involved, if you care to unpack it. Continue Reading

Writing on the Stall: Vol. 3

Level A, Rock

Level 2, Rock

This week, we are returning to the A floor of the Rock to the same stall we looked at last week.  From there, we’ll progress up two floors to Level 2.

Around a jotting that may look familiar from two weeks ago are two new additions. Both have a decidedly political leaning. “Industrial civilization is incompatible with a healthy planet” seems to be a comment on environmental issues, and “Don’t let the man hold you down. Keep writing!” is a rallying cry to potential graffiti-ists. It references the ongoing interactions between students and Facilities employees, where the stalls undergo a reoccurring cycle of graffiti-ing and whitewashing. The traces of this cycle remain around the starkly blue-penned slogan—faded, partially legible jottings emerging out of and fading into the white paint. This graffiti indicates the importance ascribed (literally) to this forum by some of Brown’s women, but it is significant that it is “the man” keeping us down. This is a common turn of phrase to be sure, but one that points to larger cultural structures where women remain in an inferior position is defined by their non-male status, despite a seeming equality because of our right to vote, laws to prevent employment discrimination, and so on. And maybe we should ask, who is the man? After all, he is not the female employees at Facilities who actually do the whitewashing. Continue Reading