Art School(ed): Things I learned from Patti Smith’s lecture


Each year, the RISD Museum presents a legendary guest lecturer for the Gail Silver Memorial Lecture series. Past lecturers have included photographer Sally Mann, Soundsuit inventor Nick CaveNew Yorker staff cartoonist Roz Chast, conceptual artist Jenny Holzer, and feminist sculptor Lynda Benglis. This year, the lecture series’ announcement caused quite the commotion: Patti Smith was coming to Providence.

This annual lecture tends to sell out within minutes, but in some twist of fate I scored a ticket. I read Smith’s memoir Just Kids a few years ago, but remained wary of the book because of the ghostwriter rumors surrounding it. However, in the span of Patti Smith’s hour-and-45-minute lecture, I had been converted: I am now a full-fledged Patti Smith fangirl. Classic RISD student, I know.

As a memoirist, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, photographer, poet, and godmother of punk, Patti Smith knows how to command a stage. She recited her own poems, read from her memoir, and jammed out to her songs, all while maintaining a conversational tone and keeping it totally cool. She started the night off with her poem “The Lovecrafter,” as a tribute to H.P. Lovecraft and the city of Providence. But had I not known Smith’s entire curriculum vitae before seeing her speak, I would have thought that she reigned the stand-up comedy world, seeing as she cracked jokes at her old age and overall messiness throughout the lecture.

Here are the three most resonant vignettes that Patti Smith bestowed upon us at the 37th annual Gail Silver Memorial Lecture, after the jump. Continue Reading