RISD art sale showcases student, alum creativity

By
Sunday, March 11, 2007

RISD Alumni/Student Art Sale Photos

Despite Saturday’s rainy weather, Benefit Street was crowded with people attending the 17th Annual RISD Alumni/Student Art Sale, the centerpiece of the Rhode Island School of Design’s Alumni/Parents Weekend.

From its modest beginning in 1988, the art sale has grown into a major art event for RISD and the greater Providence area. This year over 150 RISD alums and students exhibited finely conceived and often quite beautifully decorative and functional fine arts at the sale.

Their work delighted the throngs of appreciative patrons. “The show was a blast,” said RISD alum Elizabeth Tanner. “Who wouldn’t want to purchase a one-of-a-kind piece of art?”

The art sale acts as an especially beneficial venue for alum and student exhibitors. For the alums, it is a chance to mentor students at their alma mater, sell their work and perhaps even catch the eye of an influential gallery owner or commercial art retailer. For the students, it is an opportunity to learn from the alums, gain invaluable exposure for their work and get a taste of what life in the real art world is like.

For all exhibiting artists, it is a chance to share their unique visions and stories.

Ebi Baralay, a senior ceramics major at RISD, explained the tension he felt between artistic creation and commercial success. As an exhibitor of wheel-thrown ceramic pieces crafted from porcelain and stoneware, Baralay said the works he loves to create are difficult for him to sell. But as a senior, he welcomed the chance the art show gave him to become better attuned to the economic challenges and opportunities that await him in the “real world.”

RISD alum Jennie Elias, who came to the show with her husband to sell glass blown pieces and to celebrate the 30th reunion of their RISD class, said the life of the artist in the post-Sept. 11 world is especially hard because the demand for hand-made crafts has decreased. Also, retailers of handmade crafts often support foreign rather than American artists, making handmade crafts even more difficult to sell, she said.

Still, she remains optimistic about the future and is about to open her own gallery with her husband.

Joyce Baker, who graduated from RISD with a major in illustration, sold an assortment of jewelry and pins. A former graphic designer, she continues to employ her graphic design skills to create intricate patterns for her jewelry. Through her unique blend of education and enterprise, she has become an artistic and commercial success, a fact made evident by the admiring crowds who surrounded her table. One RISD parent bought five pairs of earrings from Baker.

The creativity that the RISD curriculum inspires in its students and alums was evident in the work of RISD student Fanny Chen, who displayed various pieces she made in connection with a project for one of her classes. Chen’s project was to create functional art by utilizing recyclable goods. Molding commonplace paper egg cartons and coffee trays, she fashioned an intricate circular design in a bowl shape. The result was a stylish bowl set that joined form and function. The work of art was an environmental statement and a reminder of the power of art to transform even the most mundane elements of everyday life into objects of beauty.

For those who missed this weekend’s sale, there will be another opportunity to shop for art at the RISD Alumni Art Sale on Dec. 10.