Experimental and Foundation Studies

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  • Based on the philosophy that all first-year undergraduate students benefit from a shared understanding of RISD’s approach to studio learning, first-year students follow the same studio curricula—known as Experimental and Foundation Studies. Each of the three programs of study meets one full day per week, with students expected to work on an ongoing series of challenging assignments outside of class time. Faculty work closely with students, offering ongoing guidance and feedback. Group critiques provide important opportunities for students to present their own work and support that of their peers.

  • First-year studios

    Drawing

    At RISD students pursue drawing as both a powerful way to investigate the world and an essential activity intrinsic to art and design practice. The studio becomes a laboratory of varied and challenging activities in which to investigate materiality, imagined situations, idea generation and the translation of the observable world.

    Design

    In this studio, students explore how to organize visual and other sensory elements in order to understand perceptual attributes and convey meaningful messages through objects, spaces and experiences.

    Spatial Dynamics

    This studio-based inquiry into physical, spatial and temporal phenomena considers force—the consequence of energy—and its effect on structure. Students explore physical, spatial and temporal phenomena through a range of analogue and digital processes. 

  • Faculty members emphasize the development of rigorous critical inquiry and motivate students to learn independently. Projects are designed to encourage exploration, questioning and risk taking. At the end of each project, critiques are held so that students can discuss their intentions and processes, and reflect on the capacity of the work to embody ideas and emotions.

  • Mariah Robinson | first-year student

    “I always knew I wanted to be an artist. So it’s a privilege to be able to explore my creative interests at such a culturally progressive school. During Wintersession I took a Creature Creation course and made amazing foam puppets and this spring we’ve been studying the dazzle camouflage collection at the RISD library for a project to manipulate perception through color and shape. I can already tell that I’ll keep finding new interests that are just waiting to be discovered at RISD.” 

  • Shawn Greenlee | associate professor + programs head

    “Critical inquiry — challenging untested assumptions — is at the core of what we teach in Experimental and Foundation Studies, which is also an ongoing necessity in the majors and in professional life. As they’re starting out, I tell my students that at RISD they can expect to immerse themselves in making and thinking and living their work. This is really the RISD experience. The culture of RISD is studio-intensive but it’s also a dream come true for most students.”

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  • Unlike RISD’s 16 discipline-specific undergraduate studio majors, Experimental and Foundation Studies compares and combines disciplines. It offers a multidisciplinary approach to learning fundamental concepts in studio production while emphasizing process, experimentation and critical thinking and making skills.

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