Continuing Education partners with Rhode Island Department of Education to offer free online art and design classes to underserved youth.

As Rhode Island public school students prepare to return to the classroom, many of them are looking back with pride on the work they created this summer in virtual Continuing Education classes at RISD. Thanks to an initiative funded by the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), 145 middle and high school students from communities most at risk for experiencing summer learning loss took advantage of free online art and design classes offered by RISD as part of the Summer Academy for Interactive Learning (SAIL).

“The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically shifted all aspects of everyday life for many teenagers, who are pivotal members of the RISD Continuing Education community,” says CE’s John Murphy. “They experienced an abrupt change when school went virtual in the spring and then found out that summer camps and other learning opportunities were canceled.”

The funding opportunity came along just as CE faculty members were transforming their two- and four-week classes—focused on everything from animation, documentary photography and sculpture to coding, augmented reality and video game design—into online experiences. Pivoting so quickly was a challenge, but as Director of Program Planning & Development Mariah Doren explains, it also provided some unexpected opportunities.

“The most important opportunity,” she notes, “was expanding the range of students who participate in our classes. And in moving online, we became a more global community, so the RIDE-funded students were able to connect not only with other Rhode Island creatives but with budding artists from around the world.”

Work (above) by Mara Newkirk, who made this collage out of recycling for a Continuing Ed class as part of RIDE’s Project Sail.

Original article published 09/09/2020