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Friday, November 21, 2008

Career in Fine Arts


   The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD or rizdee) is the leading college of art and design in the United States. Approximately 2,300 students from the US and abroad are enrolled in full-time study at RISD, where Bachelor's and Master's degree programmes in 19 majors include a firm grounding in the liberal arts. RISD is located in Providence, Rhode Island — on the east coast of the US.

   Founded in 1877, it is one of the oldest independent colleges of art and design in the country. The school's fine arts division offers degrees in film/animation/video, glass, illustration, jewellery and metalsmithing, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, and textiles. 

   According to Jaime Marland, director, media relations, RISD: "Students are educated on the premise that to design is an art and to make art requires design. The notion of design at RISD is predicated on the fine arts, with a consensus among faculty that the curriculum for all design courses should rest on a solid foundation in the fine arts." 


Akshat Raghava joined RISD in 2005 because "it was the top college in the US to offer industrial design." Besides, he says, "It is an amazing place to be, everybody is helpful and supportive here. What I really like about RISD is the fact that it has a small student body, they are all amazingly creative and talented, and bring different experiences and techniques to offer." 

  For Devika Khanna, however, the decision wasn't as straightforward. "I was studying at Sophia Polytechnic, Bombay and had just completed my foundation year, which is the first of five years in commercial art. Having been in the top three students in a class of 60, I had no doubt that I would go on to doing the four-year diploma in commercial art. But, at the end of my foundation class, we had a final art exam that was graded by the J J School of Arts. Surprisingly, I didn't do too well in that exam and I wasn't taken into the first year of commercial art. Further, J J School of Arts did not even recognise the year I had done at Sophia." 

   Khanna, then, applied to fine arts schools in the US. "RISD was one of my first choices as I had a cousin who had graduated from there and had praised it. The school also had a reputation of being among the finest art schools in the world. Not only did I get admission to RISD for graphic design, they gave me a year-off based on the work I had sent them from Sophia. How ironic that a foreign school can recognise someone's work and in India, the governing board did not recognise education from another Indian institution." 

   She graduated with honours on the Dean's List in 1993. "My three years at RISD were among the most inspired years and I also worked the hardest in those years. The school was very challenging and most of the students were very talented. I loved our studio space, where we all had our own space to work, hang out together, exchange ideas and critique each other's work. There were only 15 students in each class so we got individualised attention from the faculty. The faculty themselves were well respected in their professions in the outside world," says Khanna. 


Elaborating on the same, Marland says: "The faculty at RISD are practicing and renowned artists, designers, architects and scholars with outstanding records of accomplishment in their respective fields. They include internationallyrecognised authors and illustrators, experimental glass artists and sculptors, architects, inventors and designers." 

   Adds Khanna: "We also had many visiting lecturers and the most memorable was Ootje Oxenaar, a famous Dutch designer who had designed the Dutch currency and Dutch postal service (PTT). He explained his thought process, design and implementation and how he came to the end product and design of the lovely, clever and colourful Dutch currency notes." 


However, studying at this reputed school can be expensive. Especially since there are no scholarships and students must show ability to pay full tuition. Says Khanna: "When I was at RISD, tuition was $14,000 a year. With living and art materials, an average amount would be $25,000 a year. Today, the tuition fees are about $25,000."

   According to Raghava, today, the annual expenses reach approximately $50,000. He adds: "It is, no doubt, expensive to live and study here if you start comparing it with India. But, once you consider the fact that you're in the US, studying in one of the top colleges in the world, I think it's definitely worth the money." 
   According to Claudia Ford, director, international programmes, the school has 421 international students of which 14 are from India. 


Speaking about the opportunities a career in fine arts offers, Raghava states: "It is hard for me to say about fine arts in particular as there are so many majors which fall under this category like painting, screen printing, etc. But, the current world market demands for creativity and innovation have certainly gone up and all this opens new doors everyday for creative people."

   Elaborating on the same, Khanna adds: "We all know that art in India has reached a new high where most artists, painters, sculptors, fashion designers, design houses are concerned. Not only are they getting a lot of recognition, they can also command high prices for their work. Even investment houses have followed the trend by starting art funds and having an 'art portfolio' is supposed to have higher returns than shares." 

   And as for RISD's services in this regard, Steve Whitten, director, career services, says: "RISD's Alumni and Career Services Office is a comprehensive full-service programme providing services and education in the practical skills artists and designers need in their professional and creative lives. These initiatives provide direct, practical resources for students and alumni, and connect directly to the college's academic departments through a range of integrated and collaborative programmes." 
   Khanna worked in New York with a graphic design company before returning to Mumbai. She started her own graphic design company in 2001. 


According to Ford, the school plans to introduce more specific travel/study programmes in India and to continue its exchange with National Institute of Design (NID) Ahmedabad. "We also hope our Indian alumni will come up with a scholarship for talented but lowincome undergraduates or graduate students," informed Ford.

   As for Raghava, "After graduating from RISD I want to be a product designer and yes, I will return to India. I believe India has more to offer than developed countries considering we are changing faster than others and this will be my way to contribute in the development of my country." 

   "RISD has given me a grounding I will have for life. Should I choose to change to another design industry, I wouldn't have any doubt that I could handle it equally well. The school has given me the confidence to know a good idea from a weak one and how to present and defend my work to clients. It is very important to know where your design works and where it fails. Now,it is all second nature," sums up Khanna.
Sunil Sharma

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