Panel: Networked and Partnered Research

10:15 am, Saturday, November 3, 2012
With Debera Johnson, Sanjit Sethi, and Ezri Tarazi; moderated by Rosanne Somerson.

Within art and design institutions a variety of models for inter–disciplinary, industry–sponsored, and community–based research have emerged that hold great potential for building infrastructure and “best practices” to support collaborative and partnered research.  At the same time, these approaches raise a range of practical and ethical questions regarding, for instance, the educational benefits and ethical challenges of collaborating with industry, and broader concerns regarding the ways in which creative research is used, credited, and (occasionally) monetized within these “partnered” relations.

Rosanne Somerson received her BFA from RISD in 1976 and joined RISD’s faculty in 1985. After serving as interim provost for the 2011–12 academic year, she has been appointed provost effective July 1, 2012. In addition, she served as interim associate provost for Academic Affairs from 2005–07. After a sabbatical in 2007–08, Somerson resumed her position as professor and head of Furniture Design. From 1985–95 she ran the MFA Graduate Program in Furniture Design in Industrial Design, and from 1995–05 was head of the newly formed Department of Furniture Design at RISD. In addition to her academic roles at RISD, Somerson has maintained her own studio since 1978, where she designs and makes furniture for exhibitions and by commission. She is also a partner in DEZCO llc, a production furniture company whose projects include design and manufacture of the furnishings for the 500 bed living quarters in 15 West at RISD.

Rosanne has exhibited work extensively throughout the US and internationally in museums such as the Louvre in Paris and in numerous major international museums and exhibits. She is featured in many books and publications, and is included in a host of private, corporate and museum collections, notably the Smithsonian American Art Museum as well as Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Yale University Art Gallery, the Huntsville Museum of Art in Huntsville, Alabama, the Fuller Museum of Craft in Massachusetts, The Smith College Museum of Art, and the Museum of Art, RISD. She has lectured in museums, conferences, corporations, and schools across the world, has served on many panels and juries, and appeared in several videos and television segments. She was an honored subject of the Oral History Artists Project of the Smithsonian Institute. She has received awards and citations for her work as a designer, artist, and teacher, including two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, and the James Renwick Alliance Distinguished Crafts Educator Award.

Debera Johnson leads Pratt’s commitment to integrate sustainability into academics in her role as Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable Design Studies (CSDS). Founded in 2008, the CSDS interdisciplinary thesis lab supports industry based research projects in design, architecture and urban planning. The CSDS is the campus resource for sustainable design and has published open source evaluation tools and programming, workshops for faculty development, and documented case studies by students, faculty and alumni. The CSDS is also resource for K-12 educators in the NYC region. Debera founded the Pratt Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation in 2002 during her tenure as chair of the Industrial Design program. Under her leadership the Incubator has helped launch over 25 design driven enterprises in four sectors; clean energy, fashion, design and design consulting. The Incubator provides affordable space, mentorship and strategic business development within a collaborative community of entrepreneurs. The Incubator also works with industry and non-profit organizations through its design extension program that brings the creative design process into environmentally and socially relevant projects. The incubator currently hosts 15 businesses and is expanding to 32 companies over the next two years. It is also working to establish a small run production facility for NYC fashion entrepreneurs. The Incubator is committed to building and linking local manufacturing resources that develop the local economy through social entrepreneurship and has just launched a Certificate program in Design Entrepreneurship.

Debera coordinates the groundbreaking Partnership for Academic Leadership in Sustainability (PALS), a cohort of educators that represent 33 independent art and design colleges across North America. The PALS fellows have are actively collaborating to advance sustainability in art and design education by creating events, exhibits and processes that share and leverage their collective resources. PALS received the 2012 National Leadership Award from the ACUPCC (American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment).

Sanjit Sethi’s work focuses on issues of trauma, culture and community collaboration and the ways that art, design, and architecture can be utilized to address this complex topic.  Of particular interest to him is the ways institutions of higher education can redefine themselves through the process of greater community engagement at the local, national, and global level.  Sanjit received a BFA in 1994 from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, an MFA in 1998 from the University of Georgia, and an MS in advanced visual studies in 2002 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is currently Director of the Center for Art and Public Life, Chair of the Community Arts Program and Barclay Simpson Professor of Community Arts at the California College of the Arts.

Ezri Tarazi is an industrial designer and the head of the Industrial Design department at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. During the past 15 years, Ezri has been active as a designer, realising a large body of experimental and practical work for a number of clients; as a writer; and as a curator, a participant, and the subject of a range of exhibitions.