Rhode Island Cultural Anchor: Bob Dilworth

DilworthStudio8 - Bob DilworthBob Dilworth is a mixed-media artist living in Providence and Professor of Art at the University of Rhode Island, Kingston. In addition to teaching painting, drawing, design, and African American Art History, he is also Director of Africana Studies.  His current works on canvas, paper and textiles tackle issues of race, culture, ethnicity, family, heritage, and ancestry through metaphor and allegory as observed and portrayed through household prints and patterns. They employ an aesthetic gesture toward moments in history that run parallel to current times, often intersecting and exploring hidden and deeper meanings of his experience as an African American.

We asked him a few questions about his life and art-making in Rhode Island for our series, Rhode Island Cultural Anchors.

RISCA: Give us a brief overview of your day yesterday- what did you do in both your personal and professional life.
BD: Home neglect is the biggest issue these days. Because the entire house is now a working studio I’ve given up on keeping it clean. Maintenance centers on moving art material from one room to another. My vacuum cleaner has dust allergies, my broom has cobwebs and my dustpan eloped with a strange utensil that I’d been keeping under the kitchen sink.

RISCA: Why do you make Rhode Island your home, and how did you end up here?DilworthStudio3 - Bob Dilworth
BD: RI is the most go-to place on the east coast. Except for when you want a real NY hotdog.

RISCA: What is one thing, personal or professional, that you want to accomplish in the next year?
BD: A small voice in my head says, “Acquire lots of money, a big house by the Atlantic ocean, and plenty of rich friends who are not familiar with the word NO.” But a louder voice screams, “Don’t say that!!!”

DilworthStudio4 - Bob DilworthRISCA: Why do you do what you do? What inspires you, drives you, to create or enable the creation of art?
BD: I do what I do because insanity, that often presents itself as an avant-garde Gertrude Stein wearing pink trousers and yellow ballet shoes, is the only alternative. Staying sane inspires me. I’m driven by having an anxiety-free life. I create because life is short and I still have so many more trousers and ballet shoes to make.

RISCA: What Rhode Island artists and/or arts organizations most inspire you and why?
BD: I’m inspired by anyone who likes sugar, shoes, soap, beer, fried foods and broccoli. I’m inspired by organizations that promote good posture and defend the rights of guinea pigs.

Rhode Island Cultural Anchor: Meredith Stern

mush6 - Meredith SternMeredith Stern is a ceramicist and printmaker living in Providence. She is a member of the international group The Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative. She is RISCA’s 2019 drawing & printmaking fellow.

We asked her a few questions about her life and art-making in Rhode Island for our series, Rhode Island Cultural Anchors.

RISCA: Give us a brief overview of your day yesterday- what did you do in both your personal and professional life.

MS: My typical work day in the winter begins by bringing wood inside for our woodstove and drinking coffee. I usually spend some time answering emails and managing other administrative issues. I’ll cook a lunch at home and then work on creating new work. Sometimes this means cutting up old prints and creating collages from them, other times it means drawing a new print onto a slab of linoleum or printing an image onto paper. I pick up our child from daycare in the afternoon and I often invite one of his friends over. Once my husband finishes work at 6, we have dinner as a family – usually cooking at home- and sometimes go on an adventure together. A walk outside, going to the playground, or when the weather is lovely, working in our backyard garden.

RISCA: How did you end up in Rhode Island?

MS: I visited Rhode Island in August of 2005 to visit some friends and we drove to the Fannie Simonowsky - Meredith Sternbeach and I fell in love with the salty air and the feel of the sand between my toes. I had been living in New Orleans for 7 years and there were no nearby places to swim in clean water. I was enthralled with the fact that we could get to the ocean in Rhode Island in less than one hour, so I decided to move in with my friends for a couple months. That visit turned into me now living her for 14 years.

RISCA: Why do you do what you do? What inspires you, drives you, to create or enable the creation of art?

MS: I am inspired by people and our need to communicate and to connect with each other. Artistic expression can allow people to connect through non-word based language which allows for subtlety, for emotions, for dreams to be shared through sound, texture, color, or touch. I think art can be many things to many people – it can communicate what is present but also who and what we can be. Art can allow us to think differently, to explore different possibilities, and to explore how our society can change and how we can be better. Much of my art explores history, social movements, family connections, and mutual aid and cooperation.

RISCA: What is one thing you think the art community in Rhode Island needs?

MS: I think our society as a whole needs to work to undo institutional inequality, specifically racism, sexism, transphobia; which means so does the arts communities. Nationally, white men have been over represented, celebrated, and rewarded in museums, galleries, etc. It’s essential that we acknowledge our historic biases, and work to correct it. This can include many efforts, including retelling art history from the perspective of those who have historically been marginalized or ignored. We can Justseeds InstallationPIttsburghBiennial2 - Meredith Sternhighlight artists and hire administrators in our museums, galleries, and other cultural centers who reflects the diversity of perspectives of people living in our city of various ethnicities and genders.  Another example is a custom that has been being adopted by cultural and educational institutions of land acknowledgements of the indigenous inhabitants of the land. I’ve seen this done in the University of Connecticut, and I’d like to see institutions in Rhode Island adopting this practice as well. There’s a lot of work to do to address systemic inequality, these are just a couple examples.

RISCA: What is the biggest challenge for you in your art life?

MF: Time. I used to spend 10 – 12 hours locked in my studio 5-6 days a week. Now we have a three-year-old and I have less time and need to budget my time better. I have less time to wander through the stacks at the library or get lost in the woods by myself. I think I am more efficient with my time, but sometimes miss the ability to lose myself in a book or random adventure for a day or two.

Rhode Island Cultural Anchor: Libby Slader

Libby-Slader-Photo-Mrs.-Duchovny.jpegLibby Slader is the founder of Libby Slader Interior Design, Inc., an award winning design firm that specializes in hospitality and corporate office environments. She is also a Co-Founder of DESIGNxRI, a non-profit organization that promotes and galvanizes the design community in Rhode Island. Currently, she serves as the Chairman of the Rhode Island State Council of the Arts, a position she has held for 3 years.

We asked her a few questions about her life and art-making in Rhode Island for our series, Rhode Island Cultural Anchors.

RISCA: What do you love about the art community/scene in Rhode Island?

LS: The creative scene in Rhode Island, both within the arts and design communities, are so connected. There are opportunities to connect, collaborate and inspire each other. Whether that’s with individuals, organizations or institutions, the energy around those sectors keeps evolving and growing.

RISCA: Why do you make Rhode Island your home, and how did you end up here?

LS: I’m a native Rhode Islander. I left the state for a long time, after high school, but because of my family, I decided that “home” was the best place for me.

RISCA: What is one thing, personal or professional, that you or your organization want to accomplish in the next year?

LS: I feel that the arts, culture and design sectors have been working towards recognition as a formidable, important and relevant force in the economy of Rhode Island. I would love to see more resources and opportunities to grow these sectors from the state level. Increased funding from the legislature for grants to these organizations would be key to keeping this momentum moving forward.

RISCA: What are you the most excited about right now in your art practice/work as an arts and culture administrator?

LS: This fall, RISCA will be hosting the “Leadership Institute” for the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) in Providence. This conference brings the executive directors, chairs, and council members of state and US territory arts agencies together and we will get to highlight all the amazing work that RISCA and the state have been doing. We’ll also be able to show off our fantastic state and arts ecosystem to the senior staff at the National Endowment for the Arts, including the chairman.

RISCA: What is one thing you think the art community in Rhode Island needs?

LS: As a small business owner and a creative person, I understand that the “business” part is not always taught in art and design schools. Having resources available to develop skills for artists and designers around business development, marketing and finances, etc. would be invaluable. It’s not sexy, but it’s necessary.

RISCA: What is the biggest challenge for you in your art life?

LS: Educating people on the value of art, design and culture in their everyday lives.

You can follow her design work on Instagram and Facebook.