The Rhode Island School of Design
The Rhode Island School of Design - Comments and Student Experiences|
I did not really know what specific career I wanted, like most new freshmen.
It's been a year since I graduated with a 4 yr BFA, and I can say it was pretty easy to go on the wrong path due to peer pressure.
Between all the nonstop fatigue and illust+foundation work, I had NO time to think about "who I truly am". But this is the most important part of art college.
It is more important than following rules, or even playing it safe for your future's sake.
But risd's notorious for being extra structured and extra stiff with the intellectual side of art. I knew I was already like that--but turns out, it was my flaw, not my strength.
I deeply love animation, but nervously went into illustration, because that major's claim to fame is that it's "flexible" and "broad". So I thought I could "make it my own" and do tons of animation stuff by myself by picking a variety of essential electives, while staying in illust.
Don't trust that opinion.
For animation specifically, that doesn't work very well, if you're unsure and indecisive like me. Interdisciplinary study was very hard between illust and animation, so you must pick a concrete path and pick it ASAP in your RISD career. Preferably before sophomore year.
Also, true for all majors: Everyone agrees they had to "Bullshit a project idea they didn't want or hated, as long as it could be quickly executed and satisfy the teacher" more often then they wished. This left no freedom to really explore who you are, without fear. Fear of judgement ruled students, especially in Illustration. This adds to the fact that my decision was swayed too easily.
Now, back to animation:
Animation is packed and barely any classes are available for people who "aren't sure what they want to focus on yet." It was a very exclusive major, and the spots for course registration run out very fast. If you go in the major, you'll get what you need, in terms of computer program training and basic principles.
But! The animation facilities are not that great. Other schools specialize much better in animation and are more well equipped.
RISD animation is very, very experimental. They don't force this, but again it is an unsaid "peer pressure". All students tend to make their work on the grandiose, abstract, and deep side. This does not exclude the animation dept. I felt RISD animation looked down upon commercial style (what you see in disney/pixar, cartoon network, and nickelodeon). I can say I personally would have hated it even if I chose animation, because I prefer to make art that is meant for entertainment--unpretentious, accessible, humorous, and fun, yet still meaningful as well.
I was not able to learn this about myself...until I left the fine-artsy, clique-ish, and highly critical atmosphere of RISD (this is not necessarily bad for everyone, but it does create an inescapable mindset and kind of heightens one's nervousness).
Not the right college for someone who doesn't know EXACTLY what they want for their future right away. Even in freshman foundation, some teachers expected us to confidently state where we wanted to work.
Not good for people with anxiety. Not very forgiving towards nervous or worrisome types.
Remember, perfectionism is different from anxiety. If being perfect makes you feel happy or adventurous, it'll suit you. If it leaves you feeling more nervous than adventurous, seek more freedom in your education.
And if you're hoping and dreaming of a college to improve your self esteem and social skills, this is NOT the one.
Another thing worth noting:
It's hard to travel to buy basic amenities in providence. It rains all the time, windy, clammy, the town is often creepily empty looking, and grocery/dorm essential/appliance shopping is often more than 20-30 mins away on foot. Add in the steep hilly landscape and you'll wish there were just a simple hardware and grocery store were right near you.
This is seriously important, as art projects require you to buy weird supplies youd never imagine.
DO NOT LET THE SCHOOL'S FAME SWAY YOUR DECISION!
For freshmen year, studio classes are intense and take up eight hours three days a week. So yeah, definitely not a typical laid-back college experience. But you are with the same group of people for all three studios, so you're not suffering alone. Also, because of the small class size (around 20 or so) people can get pretty intimate about themselves in crits, particularly because the nature of art is self-expression. You learn as much from your peers as from your professors. Speaking of which, there are some profs that will change your life and some that really shouldn't be teaching at all, but that's the case with every school, so don't count that too much. Either way you will have left term with a ton of new skills and perspectives.
RISD also emphasizes the liberal arts, which as far as I know is pretty unique for an art school. Granted, the liberal arts classes here are pretty underwhelming, but you can always cross-register at Brown for various courses even if you're not a dual-degree student. Here, you don't have to sacrifice a typical university experience to study art.
A previous comment said that there's no community here, and that is simply not true. RISD does everything possible to ensure a community: the section system, the interconnected dorms, the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of majors. But whether you choose to take advantage of these things is up to you. Because of the insane workload, it is easy to isolate yourself from people around you, and many do. But even then, most people manage to make friends. There are various extracurricular student groups, and an increasing number of groups shared with Brown, so if you are proactive you can definitely get involved outside the RISD bubble.
Since the curriculum spans all different genres of art, foundation year helps to temper The Great Artistic Ego. Naturally some kids are arrogant about their work, but they usually don't outlast the beatings from half the professors. Not all the kids are friendly -- and there is definitely the perpetually looming presence of hipsters -- but there's enough diversity among people types to find your own niche, even if most of us are white or Asian.So yeah. It's hard work, but totally worth it if art is what you want to do.
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