EHP and RISD IN THE WORLD… letter from Rome.

EHP and RISD IN THE WORLD I have greatly enjoying the brief tenure in Rome (25th July-19th December 2009) I have developed some ways of thinking about the program and the importance to RISD of international experience, RISD in the World…..

The RISD EHP is an institution in Rome admired by all for its cross disciplinary strength and the depth of the students’ work. The Final Show is attended by hundreds and frequently declared the best in town of all student shows. The magic of the Caput Mundi is revealed in the work: imagination, people, place and eternity. Living and working in the Palazzetto Cenci is of another dimension, a renaissance scale. It is a productive haven: kitchen and dorm, classroom, library, studio and gallery, a unique place. (Much also depends on the Director; Students and Critics have benefitted greatly from the kindness and wisdom of Ezio Genovesi whose knowledge of both contemporary and historic Italy is profound and whose experience with the program goes back 26 years).

The EHP is exceptional in that it allows the undergraduate students a cross disciplinary liberty that the normal structure of RISD majors do not allow. Further it allows students to understand how they might position themselves in the world and how to work into an environment that at first is foreign and over time becomes theirs. This is an experience all our students, grad and undergrad must have.

RISD IS INTERNATIONAL: The EHP (EUROPEAN HONORS PROGRAM) is aptly named. Five months is not really long enough for teacher or student to become Italian, to learn the language or to easily developed profound friendship with the Romans, they are conservative. But it is a good amount of time to become comfortable with work and study in Europe. The students traveled extensively first as organized by the EHP within Italy and then on their own with trains and low cost airlines, (Rome is a hub for Ryan Air and Easy Jet). Most have travelled almost every other weekend visiting: Paris, London, Barcelona, Prague, Vienna, Zurich, Budapest, Krakow, Istanbul…., visiting, monuments and museums, meeting up with friends, possible employers and often RISD alums. They are now familiar with the layout and culture of these cities and in many instances have made plans to return either during winter session or after graduation. RISD can easily already be perceived as international. That said it is clear that we could and should have other programs similar to the EHP; Asian Program, Latin American Program, African Program, Middle Eastern Program, and others (Utah, the Bronx,Detroit).

INTERNSHIPS/APPRENTICESHIPS: During the EHP at least half of the students worked as interns with cooks, artists, scholars and designers. This has been an excellent way for them to become engaged in the creative life of Rome, freeing them from Cenci apron strings and allowing them to make their way as young professionals. This could be further formalized so that ALL students in the Program intern, learning the “culture”.

It must be clear to us that the future work of our students will have to be international and for many the most fruitful commissions and other possibilities will lie abroad (for architects this is already the case). Further it is clear that an increasing number of our future students will come from aboard where the standard of living is rising exponentially; the Euro has nearly doubled in ten years against the dollar, China counts 345,000 millionaires and many billionaires………., more future work and future alums are to be found in the world.

MEANINGFUL LONG TERM RELATIONSHIPS with the AAR and OTHERS REQUIRES A ONE YEAR TENURE FOR CC: The Fellows at the American Academy in Rome are a great source for critics and accomplished professionals who need interns. Any way we can create a more integral relationship would be great. Though I have interacted intensely with the fellows their late arrival (mid September) and my December departure hinders the making of long term relations. Other friendships have been also tentative because of brevity of the tenure in a Roman time frame. This is a situation that could be offset by extending the tenure of the Chief Critic to one full year; strongly recommended by all CCs and the Director as well as everybody who has worked or studied in Rome.

ALUMNI: Roman resident Alums and Alumni passing through Rome contribute to the EHP experience. They act as critics, provide internships and connections, reinforce the international coherence of the RISD and are proof that one can (and really must) live and work away from home and the Alma Mater; they are thriving abroad. We may have not built enough on the possibility of help from alumni for international programs and future job possibilities for the students. International alumni are fabulous at bringing visiting RISD into the heart of a place. They can make the possibility of other international programs easier, viable, and deeply memorable.

INTERNATIONAL and CROSS DISCIPLINARY IS GOOD FOR TEACHER AND STUDENTS: Importantly there is the rejuvenating benefit of international cross disciplinary teaching/learning required by the Chief Critic and students. The challenges of working with honors students from up to 17 departments in Rome’s (Istanbul’s, Tokyo’s…) intensely rich context is the epitome of interdisciplinary, and is wonderfully stimulating for a teacher. For the students taught by a Critic outside of their department, may be their division, with classmates with diverse RISD experiences this is a marvelous environment; learning as much from experience and peers as from mentors.

FACILITIES: The Cenci is a treasure but a near permanent facility for other international programs would not be necessary. Annually changing sites/cities for successive iterations of international programs would be possible; alumni and students’ parents are eager to have RISD teaching take place on their soil and in every instance are helpful and enthusiastic.

If RISD made mandatory a semester + plus (18 Credits) in the “WORLD”, at any one time up to 1/8 of our students would be off campus allowing an enrollment increase of 150-200 students in Providence while addressing actively the changing international role of RISD education, the interests and engagement of faculty and student abroad and the future employment needs of our graduates and the world wide web of our Alumni. It would allow at least 6 times as many faculty to benefit from international / interdisciplinary teaching too.

I have spent much of my time as a RISD teacher fostering international exchange at every level. RISD IN THE WORLD is essential to our future. I am interested and would be very willing to discuss the EHP and to vigorously pursue the modeling of other International Residential Programs, Grad and Undergrad.

With Respect and Affection, Peter Tagiuri, Roma, December 2009

EHP, International Programs, Rome

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