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?

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Check out “Of[f] Course”: the 7th Annual Brown|RISD Dual Degree Show

10929111_10152653030439537_228845248285525654_oThe Annual Brown/RISD Dual Degree Exhibition, now in its 7th year, opened Thursday night in the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, showcasing works from students in all five years of the cross-institutional program. At the opening reception, members of the Brown, RISD, and local community wandered through the galleries and stairwells of Granoff, enjoying artwork, refreshments, and activities including temporary tattoos and a sign craft station.

This year’s exhibition is titled Of[f] Course, dealing with themes of “expectations, routine, and deviation.” Pieces in this show approach these ideas from different angles, some dealing with associations of physical traveling, through maps, landscapes, and urban motifs.

New Haven, Three Views, by Jeremy Wolin, pictured below, explores this theme by carving into three medical textbooks, almost as raised relief topographic maps. In these views of New Haven, Wolin sculpts into the books an estuary of sorts, a grid-like city plan holding coins, knick-knacks, and found objects, and a sprawling city center.

"New Haven, Three Views," Jeremy Wolin '19 (Interior Architecture & Public Policy)

“New Haven, Three Views,” Jeremy Wolin ’19 (Interior Architecture & Public Policy)

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A Cool Thing You Shouldn’t Miss: A Better World by Design

better worldA Better World by Design, or the only conference clever enough to advertise in the middle of a crosswalk, is back for its seventh year and is cooler than ever. Founded by Brown’s Engineers Without Borders in 2008, A Better World by Design seeks to “bring a global community of innovators to Providence” to create a powerful exchange across fields to “build a better world.”

The three-day conference is packed with lectures, panels, and workshops intended to get you thinking about how passionate individuals and teams can change the way we look at the world through innovative design. Events will take place this weekend, September 19-21, mostly on College Hill and spread across Brown and RISD’s campuses. This year’s theme is “wayfinding” or “a collective design process used to solve social changes,” so expect programs drawing from the fields of “mapping, interactive art, design policy, and DIY biology.”

You’ll have the opportunity to hear a ton of influential speakers and attend programs that cater to nearly every interest. Seriously. This year’s program offers lectures ranging from “hearing colors” to effectively redesigning public policies to lessen social disparities. Needless to say, this conference offers programs that go way beyond our normative definition of design.

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A Cool Thing You Shouldn’t Miss: ‘In Search of Air’

Lida Winfield performing "In Search of Air."

Lida Winfield performing “In Search of Air.”

Although we are sometimes reluctant to admit it, RISD has cool things going on. One such event is “In Search of Air,” a dance and theatre performance by Vermont dancer, choreographer, and spoken word artist Lida Winfield.

“In Search of Air” chronicles Winfield’s struggles growing up with a learning disability and her ultimately triumphant journey towards literacy, which she achieved in her early twenties. Combining gravitas and humor, Winfield’s piece attempts to explore a group of children thrust to the fringes of society.

“Every child with a behavioral, social, physical or learning disability was tucked in the same room. We were angry children,” Winfield writes on her website.

In typical hipster RISD fashion (although they aren’t as hipster as we are…), this performance piece is interdisciplinary and explores the holes in our ability to communicate, both verbally and nonverbally.

“In Search of Air” is one night only, being performed tonight from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at 226 Benefit Street. Admission is free.

Image via.

Ra Ra Brunonia: RISD


Ra Ra Brunonia is back with another exciting installment about our slightly more creative/hip counterpart down the hill, RISD (pronounced riz-dee).  Though a journey to the Rhode Island School of Design does require a bit of a trek, the school holds an incredibly deep-rooted history that is rightly overlooked by the impressive work that is regularly pumped out of the institution. While Brown does indeed pride itself on the being the ‘Creative Ivy,’ the buck stops right around Benefit Street, where scores of students with drafting boards will literally etch out the artistic dreams of Brunonians. I’m sorry, someone had to say it.

Despite the seemingly mysterious aura it exudes, RISD serves as an unbelievable resource for Brown students and should neither be overlooked nor avoided. Yes, RISD may be notorious for its cutthroat critiques, six-hour studios and Olneyville Warehouse parties, but at the end of the day, we are all children of the great city of Providence and should get along as such. Reading through the sarcasm, the city of Providence is quite relevant to RISD as an institution and truly provided the backbone for its establishment.

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Anatomy of a RISD party

“Dude, we’ve been planning this for a while, haven’t we?” I asked a friend of mine, who prefers to remain anonymous. We’ll call him Keenan.

“Yeah, but we’re actually fucking doing it. We’re actually fucking going to the other side of the Hill,” he mused, lacing up his new Nikes like they were armor. Our pulses thumped in our throats and were drunk with the exotic lure of the place.

There’s a Hall & Oates song called “So Close” which contains these lyrics: So close, yet so far away. We believe in tomorrow, maybe more than today. Daryl Hall and John Oates often strike my steely heart, their words like a flint. But this time, the resulting spark lit a strong urge. RISD, our redheaded, sulky stepsister, had lurked in my skull for too long as just a murky ghost.

Who were these too-hip brooders? I had heard whispers, seen glimpses, but I wanted to crawl right down into the belly of the beast and understand our cigarette-wolfing, wanton pseudo-siblings that were so close, yet so far away. Continue Reading