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Print Editions Thursday September 28th, 2023

Silk scarves, glass bead jewelry, furniture, paintings and hairy "Nightmare Snatcher" journals are just a few of the many items to be featured and sold in the Rhode Island School of Design's annual Alumni Spring Art Sale on Saturday.

The spring sale is one of three main sales featuring alums' work that RISD hosts each year, the other two being in October and December, said Alan Tracy, event coordinator for Career Services at RISD. According to Tracy, the first October sale was hosted by the school 22 years ago and the addition of the spring show came a few years later.

 "It's come a long way," Tracy said, adding that the sale has gone from originally featuring only a "couple dozen artists" to about 170 participants this year. The school had to turn down approximately 60 artists that would have liked to be featured, according to Tracy. "It really can't get any bigger," he said.

Shoppers will see that the sale, which will take place outdoors on Benefit Street from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and include food and live jazz music from the Alex Snydman Evolution Trio, is "all over the place" in terms of the items sold, Tracy said. While some items may be priced at as high as hundreds of dollars, Tracy said the price of many will be "very achievable" for attendees.

Though most artists featured in Saturday's sale are from New England, Pennsylvania and Delaware — including 75 to 80 from Rhode Island — there will also be artists from a diverse range of states, such as New Orleans, California, Virginia, Florida and Illinois.
"You can meet most of the artists when you come to the sale," Tracy said, because the vast majority prefer to show their work themselves.

For Yuh Okano, who earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in textile design from RISD in 1991, this year will be her eighth participating in the show. Okano, whose work includes scarves made from silk, wool and polyester as well as jewelry sold in stores such as Anthropologie, divides her time each year between Japan and Brooklyn, N.Y. She cited RISD's uniqueness as an institution as part of her motivation to participate each year.

"Of course RISD is the best art school and all of us inspire each other to create (our) own originality," she wrote in an e-mail to The Herald, adding that the school possesses a "special power to bring more wonderful people from all over to this sale. It is very important to feel I am among this community." Okano wrote that the sale is also a "good opportunity to understand" what shoppers like to buy.

Sarah Evans, a Delaware-based artist who graduated from RISD in 2006 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in illustration, expressed a similar appreciation for her fellow alums in an e-mail to The Herald. "It's very inspiring" to see what other alums have been working on after their time at RISD, she wrote.

Although it is Evans' first time participating in a RISD show as an alum, the various sales the school hosts each year actually led her to her current artistic path — making "Nightmare Snatcher" journals.

"The Nightmare Snatchers actually started as an assignment for my entrepreneur class," she wrote. "We were asked to make a product, anything we wanted" that could be replicated for the annual student sale, she wrote.

The idea for the project came to her when she stumbled upon a dream journal in a bookstore and thought, "Wouldn't it be more beneficial to write down your nightmares than your dreams?," she wrote. "I made Nightmare Snatchers and sold them in the student show. They did so well that I pursued the idea and started selling (them) online and to stores around the country." 

The journals, which are made to look like monsters, come complete with fur, eyes and teeth. Each contains the "Nightmare Snatcher spell" written by Evans' father, she wrote. 
Evans is excited for the upcoming show, she wrote. "I love how crowded it gets, to be honest. It's pretty much guaranteed to be full of shoppers and visitors, which is always good for a seller at any show," she wrote. According to Tracy, the event is expected to receive at least 2,500 visitors based on past turnouts.

Even after managing numerous sales, Tracy said he is "still totally excited" about this one.
Okano's e-mail conveyed a similar enthusiasm. "There is no other great show with great people who appreciate artistic quality like (the) RISD sale," she wrote.


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