Seven alumni awarded Fulbrights

Seven alumni awarded Fulbrights

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

Bhen Alan. Courtesy of Jo Sittenfeld/RISD.


August 17, 2022
Seven alumni awarded Fulbrights
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As part of the 2022–23 Fulbright US Student Program, seven new and recent Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) alums will be traveling across Europe and Asia in the coming months, tying RISD’s own record for grant year 2010–11, the only other time seven student Fulbrights were awarded to one school in the “specialized institution” category.

“We in RISD Careers are thrilled to help send seven artists and designers out into the world to ask questions, learn, engage, collaborate, innovate and make this planet a better place for everyone,” says RISD’s Fulbright Program Advisor Lisa Cramer. The artists and designers who will advance cross-cultural dialogue across Europe and Asia include:  

Bhen Alan, MFA 2022 Painting. Philippines—Woven Diaspora: Bridging Cultural Preservation, Sustainability and Identity. Alan will return to his homeland “to study the rich banig weaving tradition of the Philippines from all angles,” he says—“the technique, rituals, histories and stories that are integral to Filipino artistry and hold memories of the weaver’s life and the larger community.” With the support of Palawan State University and Silliman University, Alan will investigate the process, spirituality and materiality of Indigenous Molbog weavers in southern Palawan and local tribes in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental. 

Gabriel Bielawski, BFA 2017 Film/Animation/Video. Poland—Absent Bodies: Jewish Memory and Carving in Poland. Bielawski will study the controversial folk craft of na szczescie to zyd (lucky Jews), small, carved wooden figures that have become popular in Poland and are intended to bring good luck. His uncle, a Jew who hid in Poland’s Wegrow region during World War II, created such figurines, and Bielawski hopes to discover how the parallel craft traditions among Jews and Poles served as a kind of cultural exchange. 

Mandy Lee, MFA 2022 Glass. Czech Republic—Czech Glass 1948–89 to Now: The Evolution of Making and Conceptualization. Lee is considering Eastern European history via her project in the Czech Republic. “First, I will research the conceptual movements (why) and methods of production (how) that arose during and after Communism,” Lee says, “and then I will integrate the research within my studio practice to develop a new body of work I’ll exhibit at the Univerzita Tomáše Bati (UTB) in Zlín.”

Jessy Lu, BFA 2016 Textiles. Taiwan—Tying the Friendship Knot. Lu will focus on the traditional friendship knot, which represents community connection and heralds good fortune. “My goal is to explore the decorative knot in collaboration with the National Taiwan Craft Research and Development Institute and then create sculptural works that combine traditional knots with images and materials that represent contemporary Taiwanese values, such as sustainability and environmentalism,” Lu says.

Abiola Makinde, BFA 2022 Industrial Design. India—Collaborative Design: Patients, Caregivers and Designers. Makinde will travel to Mumbai, India to research design solutions with doctors at the Indian Institute of Technology to help children suffering from sickle cell disease. “By combining innovation, empathy, communication and a user-centered design approach, I hope to identify patients’ challenge points and positively affect the overall experience of patients and caregivers,” she explains. 

Maegan Murphy, BFA 2020 Illustration. Turkey—Designing Patterns of Intersectional Identity. Murphy will study the patterns that have evolved over centuries and are still used in local tiles and carpets. She’ll work with faculty members at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, contemporary artists, and curators at the Sadberk Hanim Museum. “I hope to connect the abstract languages of traditional crafts with… contemporary voices that highlight and address the complexities of identity in our increasingly global community,” she says.

Irina Wang, MIA 2020 Industrial Design. Finland—Co-Designed Artefacts: Visualizing Indigenous Perspectives on Arctic Climate Change. Wang will study the complex dynamics between Sámi communities in northern Finland and the wide range of climate change mitigation measures—such as conservation, rewilding and geoengineering—in use on the Arctic frontlines by university scientists and public institutions. “It’s critical to understand the contradictions between a flattened or romanticized Western view of Indigenous knowledge and the lived realities of Sámi people,” she says.

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August 17, 2022

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