The Current Fellows
MFA 2024 | Digital + Media
Aya Abdallah (b.1994) is an artist and architect born in Beirut. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Digital + Media at the Rhode Island School of Design. Her work explores memory excavation and speculative fiction surrounding contested sites and geopolitical situations. Through video and sculpture, she utilizes distortion and subversion as necessary tools for the excavation of hidden worlds and lost futures. The work she creates draws from archeological records, artifacts, historical manuscripts and rituals to reconfigure spaces of our social reality. This summer, Aya will be interning with the Anti-Racism Movement (ARM) — a grassroot collective working to eradicate the exploitative Kafala (Sponsorship) system — in Beirut, Lebanon. She will be involved with a media-making project that challenges the exclusivity, inaccessibility, and discrimination directed at the migrant community within mainstream news and journalism. Through working with migrant-led teams of advocates and communication specialists, she plans to use storytelling and visual practices to narrate and animate migrant communities’ struggles with the aim of elevating their stories and reclaiming their narrative.
MFA 2024 | Furniture Design
Samuel Aguirre is an Artist and Designer pursuing an MFA in Furniture Design at the Rhode Island School of Design. Samuel uses commercially available, bio based materials to objectively show what is possible, here and now, to directly address our petro dependence across industries. With the support of the Maharam Fellowship, Samuel will be working with What Cheer Flower Farm, a nonprofit agriculture and floristry center dedicated to bringing solace, joy and healing to the people of Rhode Island by giving away hundreds of thousands of flowers annually and supporting the local floral economy via job training. What Cheer Flower Farm has ambitious plans to remediate and build out their 2.7 acres of former factory land in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence. Samuel will lead an effort to plan and design a high profile, public facing outdoor space/pavilion dedicated to community use. Samuel will work with local stakeholders to understand community needs and ultimately work with a team of volunteers to build key functional/sculptural elements that might encourage the people to congregate, teach, and learn.
BARC 2024 | Architecture
Aanya Arora is an interdisciplinary designer who firmly believes in the interdependence of sustainability and social justice. Aanya has a passion for working with children and using design to enhance their learning experiences. As an NCSS concentrator, she believes social and environmental problems need to be pursued alongside each other to achieve the most desirable outcome. This summer, she will intern at the Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group in New Delhi, India. Working alongside field officers, management teams, and children she will explore the conversion of waste into social wealth through recycling and sustainable consumption. Aanya plans to develop educational tools/methods, which address issues such as poverty, gender equity, nutrition, climate change, and green livelihoods, while enhancing the children’s learning experience. This fellowship will enable Aanya to deepen her understanding of the connection between environmental problems and social change and learn about the process of working with waste-generated materials, an increasingly significant issue globally.
BFA 2024 | Illustration
Inspired endlessly by the people around her, Graciela is an artist, writer and educator that hopes to serve the communities she is part of by amplifying their stories but also, assisting in the creation of them. She is from San Juan, Puerto Rico and is currently studying Illustration with a concentration in Literary Arts. Graciela has worked with Storey Publishing, Providence CityArts for Youth, and Project OpenDoor; where she respectively collaborated with diverse teams in designing educational material as well as assisting in programming. During the summer of 2023, Graciela will be in Los Angeles as part of the 826LA team, educating youth ages 7-11 in creative writing processes through image making as a way of storytelling. Together with the administrative team at 826LA, she will create and implement a writing summer camp curriculum that engages both the visual and literary narrative building skills. The curricula will be able to be reused for future generations to be supported by 826LA!
BFA 2025 | Illustration
Growing up between the west and east coasts, Carin is an illustrator at heart with a passion for storytelling. As a student at RISD Carin has involved themselves in collaborative spheres such as the Brown RISD Game Developer Club, and even this past summer the Queer, Trans Zine Fest held by Providence’s Queer Archives. This summer Carin will be working with the Q Center, in Portland Oregon as an intern helping facilitate and plan events where local artists can share their work with the community. Together with the Q Center and their partner organizations, they will explore avenues to use their artistic and community skills to help uplift marginalized and overlooked voices within the LGBTQIA+ community. From this experience, Carin is looking forward to knowing more about the queer culture and history within Portland, and intertwining illustration as a means to spread knowledge.
BARC 2026 | Architecture
Henry Ding is a reader at heart. Pursuing a Bachelor of Architecture with a concentration in History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences (HPSS), reading is how he informs his design practice. In what ways can writing, politics, and architecture intersect and coalesce? He has explored these musings through his work with the Brown Political Review and the Canadian environmental non-profit sector. Recently, this has synthesized into an interest in using archival social practice as a tool for research, education, and advocacy. This summer Henry is returning to his hometown of Toronto, Canada to explore the power of language in design at The ArQuives—a non-profit archiving queer Canadian histories. Here, he will commence work on LGBTQ+ issues in the context of architecture and design. This will come to fruition through designing exhibitions/installations, digital collections, and community workshops. Henry asserts that traditional academia has historically left many marginalized identities without formalized and intersectional narratives—especially LGBTQ2+ peoples. He hopes to fill this space through his work with The ArQuives and extend empowerment and specialized education to Toronto’s queer community and youth.
BARC 2024 | Architecture
Born and raised in Guangzhou, China, Viola Tan is a student at RISD studying architecture and concentrating in Computation, Technology and Culture. She aspires to empower communities through design, mapping and channeling the power of technology. She cares deeply about the issue of housing affordability as that is what grounds her in her architectural studies. This summer, Viola will be working with the Housing Innovation Lab (iLab) in the Boston Mayor’s Office of Housing, exploring modular and offsite building technologies to advance housing affordability in Boston. She will work closely with the iLab team on the initial development of this project by conducting research and stakeholder interviews, organizing community meetings, as well as mapping and documenting existing practices. Through this experience, Viola hopes to learn how the iLab, as a governmental agency, promotes social justice through policy, planning, and technology.
BFA 2023 | Ceramics
Chenxi Wang is a recent BFA Ceramics graduate from RISD’s class of 2023. He focuses on conceptual and functional ceramics and traditional and experimental methods. He has experience with firing alternative kilns and building techniques, with a particular expertise in hand building and throwing on the wheel. He respects the slow and deliberate process of craft making. Chenxi is passionate about community engagement and with the RISD Maharam Fellowship, Chenxi will address the problem of inequity in the Chinese rural education system with Rye Wave, a non-profit organization working to overcome unjust educational resources and disappearing Jun ceramics (钧瓷) in Yuzhou, a county in central Henan. He will be an education researcher and have the opportunity to explore how to better utilize local educational resources with the local teachers, ceramicists, parents, and children. He looks forward to working with Rye Wave to design and implement innovative Jun ceramics workshops.
BFA 2025 | Industrial Design
Joel Yong is a designer exploring the intersection of design and social change. A proud native of Los Angeles, he has since migrated to RISD where he studies Industrial Design. Joel has worked within the federal government and nonprofit sectors, refining his interest in applying human-centered design processes to policymaking and reframing social inequalities. He is passionate about education as a critical site to accelerate equity, engage with communities, and empower democratic processes, particularly on issues of race, climate, and poverty. Accordingly, Joel will endeavor to Singapore this summer to work with the environmental organization Terra SG in developing climate curricula, interactive community programs, and collaborative sustainable action plans with local schools, organizations, and governments in order to equip the community at large to come together in the face of the climate crisis.