September 20, 2017

Wonder: 50 Years RISD Glass

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

Wonder: 50 Years RISD Glass. Photo courtesy of RISD.

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) marks the culmination of a yearlong celebration of its eminent Glass department by launching Wonder: 50 Years RISD Glass (RISD Shortruns). The book will be available this fall, with launch events at Dale Chihuly’s Boathouse in Seattle on October 15 and at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City on November 13.

RISD’s Glass department has long been recognized as a leader in the field. Since its spirited beginning at a small Rhode Island farm 50 years ago, the department has promoted experimentation, investigation and innovation as the foundations of creative practice. Wonder: 50 Years RISD Glass brings together contributions from scholars, cultural critics and makers including James Carpenter, Mark Dion, Trisha Donnelly, Tina Oldknow, Frances Richard, Tavares Strachan, Gregory Volk, Margaret Wertheim, Lawrence Weschler and Toots Zynsky, among others. This wide array of voices gives context to the breadth of the field of glass and supports a deep and expansive understanding of the many ways in which this ubiquitous material is manifested. The publication was edited by Mass MoCA Curator Denise Markonish, who teaches part-time in the department; Professor Rachel Berwick, who is head of RISD’s Glass department; and Associate Professor Jocelyne Prince. It was designed by Jenny Chan of Jack Design, New York.

“The experimental nature of RISD’s Glass department flourishes through its long-standing commitment to contemporary dialogue and research,” Berwick notes. “The notion of wonder that inspired the book’s title is at the very heart of the department. This publication is intended to celebrate that sense of wonder—and the slippery ground between knowing and not knowing—while highlighting themes that have sprung up at RISD over the years, such as alchemy, nature, science and the unseen.”

“Based on a commitment to both material and conceptual manifestations of glass, RISD’s Glass department has redefined artistic perspectives through disciplined investigations, experimentation and rigorous critical inquiry,” says Markonish. “The book was intentionally designed as an object that embodies the mutable nature of glass, a phenomenological experience of beauty and wonder.”

Since its inception, the Glass department at RISD has maintained a dynamic visiting lecture series in which an interdisciplinary mix of artists, curators, critics, scientists and craftspeople engage students and faculty through lectures, special projects, discussions and events. Anniversary programming began last fall with a keynote lecture by Tavares Strachan '03 GL and a panel featuring key glass alumni James Carpenter '72 IL, Toots Zynsky '73 GL, Helen Lee MFA '06 GL and Alex Rosenberg '06 GL. A wide range of influential speakers followed, including Mark Dion, Doreen Garner MFA '14 GL, Paul Ramirez Jonas MFA '89 PT, Kambui Olujimi, Stefanie Pender MFA '06 GL, Pamela Smith, Brett Swenson '10 GL, Rebecca Uchill and Dedo Von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk. Other special events included a film series and a department-wide collaborative project with Columbia University’s Making and Knowing Project, attempting to reconstruct a 16th-century alchemical recipe for gold ruby glass.

Wonder: 50 Years RISD Glass, a 2017 RISD Shortruns publication (IBSN 978-1-944103-04-0), is available for preorder at: and will be sold at RISD Works and on Amazon.

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