Arts & Culture

RISD ‘Quickies’ teach topics, skills in informal workshops

Student-led workshops teach skills ranging from organic chemistry to nail art in an informal setting

Contributing Writer
Friday, March 8, 2013

“Grab some paper and start taking your anger out on it!” said Rhode Island School of Design student Connor Lynch, urging fellow students to engage in a papermaking workshop last Saturday. Lynch, along with fellow RISD sophomore Ryan Mather, directs a series of student-led RISD workshops called “Quickies.”

In Saturday’s workshop, “Political Papermaking,” participants ripped up old posters and reused the pulp to make signs and flyers to promote Divest RISD, a student group focused on encouraging the school to divest the University’s investments from coal techonology companies.

But Quickies consist of far more than making paper. Workshops range from knitting to glassblowing to organic chemistry. Each workshop lasts one to six hours.

Jen Wong, who graduated from RISD with a degree in Illustration in 2010, founded the program in 2009. Wong said her original goal was to provide an outlet for the student body’s desire to explore new fields in an informal, fun way.

“There is such a wealth of knowledge at RISD and Brown, and it’s wonderful because people can contribute their own knowledge to this intellectual commons,” she said. “Because it was done by students for students, people were really receptive to it.”

When Wong graduated, she transferred leadership to Greg Nemes, who was then working towards a masters degree in architecture. Nemes said he worked to expand what had started out as a mostly craft-based program into a more diverse set of offerings, including digital, computational, scientific and other mediums.

“Quickies does not institute any kind of curriculum, requirements or structure in that sense,” he said. “Whoever’s teaching it — it’s their domain.

“We’re a platform, not an institution,” he added.

Nemes said he appreciated the program being student-run because students tend to keep things “fresh and up-to-date” with contemporary trends and have a better sense of how to make the workshops interdisciplinary. “There’s a lot of potentially great cross-pollination,” he said.

Nemes praised this year’s Quickies organizers, Lynch and Mather. “They’re great. They’re enthusiastic, excited, have good ideas for it, and they’ve been pushing it in the right direction,” he said.

“What’s starting to happen is that student interest groups are starting to do Quickies as a way to get people to know about their cause or what they’re working on,” Mather said. “Like this divestment Quickie. So it’s about learning new skills, but it can also be used for a greater agenda.”

Lynch added that frequently, “different groups within our campus and Brown and College Hill as a whole are focusing on the same things but people don’t know about the coincident efforts that we have.”

Lynch and Mather both said they are enthusiastic about getting more Brown students involved. “When you have two people who know very different things teaching each other, you end up with two people who are much more vastly educated,” Lynch said.

“As much as RISD students have weird, wacky talents and knowledge bases, I think Brown students have a lot more,” Mather said.

Myles Dunigan, a RISD alum who taught printmaking and etching Quickies, said the workshops serve as valuable opportunities for people to explore things they’re interested in because most people “don’t have the time or the means to study other disciplines and acquire different skill sets outside of their normal curriculum.”

“It’s nice to have students that aren’t so jaded by the process of making art in a particular way,” he said. “Oftentimes the ways they come up with to solve these art-making problems along the way are really fresh and innovative.”

Leah Bryson, who has taught knitting Quickies, added that the seminars are low-risk. “It’s not like you’re committing to a semester-long class, and it’s certainly not like you’re being graded on it. It’s neat and it’s really casual so it’s less intimidating and less scary than having a professor,” she said.

She said she also likes the format of the website,, and the opportunity it presents for people to suggest workshops or sign up to teach. “It’s a really cool resource,” she added.

“I’ve wanted to play around with a bunch of printmaking stuff since I got here,” said RISD sophomore Jon Gourlay, after attending a printmaking Quickie. Gourlay said he hadn’t pursued this interest on his own because of expense and the difficulty of learning from online sources. He added Dunigan’s course “was a really nice way to connect people who are already out there in the real world from RISD with the people who are still here.”

Elizabeth Goodspeed ’16, a dual-degree student in her second year, said, “We’re in such a high-pressure, competitive environment that I think we forget that we’re all smart.”

Though she said she plans to teach a Quickie on nail art, she added that Brown students wondering what they should teach can seek opportunities both creative and academic. “You might not be the smartest person in your econ class, but if you go down to RISD and teach it, you will know what you’re talking about,” Goodspeed added.

“Give yourself credit,” she said. “You’re talented, you’re talented!”


  1. What a great idea and a valuable resource. I want to take them all.

  2. risdquickies says:

    Hey, this is Ryan, co-director of Quickies! If you are from Brown and would like to be added to our listserv/email list shoot me an email at ! Hope to see you at a workshop soon! Also, if you have any ideas for workshops, submit a form at

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