challenges ahead for RISD president john maeda
challenges ahead for RISD president john maeda
aug 19, 2009

challenges ahead for RISD president john maeda

student artwork on the RISD ‘beach’ image courtesy of RISD

MIT pedigree and well-known graphic designer, john maeda will be entering his second year as president of the rhode island school of design (RISD). as the start of classes approaches, maeda is faced with some turmoil over the school’s financial woes, turnover amongst administrators and the resignation of hope alswang, who was the director of the RISD museum.

these difficulties have caused a bit of a stir, for museum donors and supporters who are demanding answers about alswang’s departure. it has become somewhat of a distraction for the creative institution, but alswang has stated she was leaving to ‘pursue other opportunities’.

there have been some missteps along the way which have generated some discussion over his plans for the future, but there is always some controversy or unsteady ground at first when a new administrator or board member is joining a team and establishing their footing. maeda acknowledges the growing anxiety of the school based on the fact that he is a new president who is wanting to make real changes at RISD.

maeda held a private meeting this past tuesday with students and faculty about the current situation. the following year will be a challenge, but maeda says: ‘it gives me great strength because they (donors and supporters) are passionate about our institution. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.‘ – JM

challenges ahead for RISD president john maeda a shot of the design school’s campus image courtesy of RISD

challenges ahead for RISD president john maeda chace centre and the RISD museum of art image © erik gould courtesy of the RISD museum

challenges ahead for RISD president john maeda john maeda posing near the RISD auditorium image courtesy of RISD

  • Also, why hasn’t anyone pointed out that he dresses like a woman. Not a fun trans-gendered kind of vibe, which might actually be GREAT at RISD. More of a Michael-Jackson_Without-the-Sequins kind of women’s wear. Just silly, really. Knock it off with the scarves!

    Wearing MOre Than a T-Shirt
  • It might also be noted that Obama had the wit and wisdom and self-confidence (not to be confused with self-absorption, something in great oversupply in the president’s office of RISD these days) to bring into his administration people who shone very brightly indeed in their various spheres. Though young, Obama is smart enough to understand that having brilliant, accomplished, visionary, charismatic people on his team makes him look strong, not weak – which is why he was able to harness the talents of his one-time rival Hillary Clinton, who now gives all that she has to offer to not only his administration but to the country as well. It’s called servant leadership, wherein the leader is motivated not by what is best for him or herself, but by what is best for the organization he or she SERVES. RISD had a fantastic asset in Hope Alswang, both within and outside of RISD, it is a measure of Maeda’s insecurity, inexperience, and megalomania that he would toss her away with so little thought of the consequences to RISD and the larger community (not that he cares in the least about the larger community but that is another post entirely).

    Incensed and Insulted
  • A view from the inside:
    Comparing Maeda to Obama is just silly. Obama isn’t blaming turmoil on his newness to office. He didn’t spend any time establishing a footing; he jumped in and started doing things. And one full year is PLENTY of time to stop saying the job and landscape are new. I teach at RISD. Hope Alswang made the museum a VIBRANT part of the entire Providence community, and always did so while placing the Museum’s educational mission first. Including the museum in my curriculum was easier and more effective than it had ever been before her arrival. She was NOT in “her own little world.” She was in the galleries, out in public, and gladly in the classroom any time she was invited. Maeda, on the other hand, will not respond to faculty contact of any kind; he refers all issues to underlings. If it is not on his blog, it simply does not exist for him.

    Fired if I Leave My Name
  • @isdrisd…: me? pratt? me spoiled brat! actually i’m a kraut. I went to hans and franz university of the arts in berlin. still, I think the RFID faculty details are nothing to give a cotton pickin about. who cares? get your own blog and don’t bore me.

  • @ Faskingwhy : I guess you went to pratt.

  • btw: the first picture seems to implicate RISD needs psychiatrists rather than design “stars” as teachers

  • I just revisited recently, and heard lots of good positive feelings about John, give him some more time. It’s much like Obama taking office, the economy disaster occured before both there times, they didn’t cause it. One thing RISD needs is better connection to companies and how artists designers get jobs after school, thats something thats always been lacking, well before Maeda.
    And with the past museum director, I heard from multiple sources, that Hope Alswang was not an easy person to deal with, she was in her own little world. I would hope that the next director might be someone with more of an open mind to new ideas. Btw, the bubble burst, no more wasting money days hopefully.

  • so you think you need “stars” in the faculty?

  • Maeda has no qualifications for this job

  • Wow. Nice spin. It’s almost as if Maeda wrote this himself. The view from campus is quite different. The discussion has moved rather quickly from the museum director’s resignation to the competence of John Maeda who hasn’t raised any money, hired any stars to the faculty and has mainly floundered in this post. There is a general feeling of frustration and anxiety about the future of the institution.


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