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September 12, 2016

The End All, Be All : Lucille Crelli, BFA Apparel Design ’17

by lcrelli

My apologies for the stretch of time since my third blog post. I ended my Maharam project, turned around, and promptly started the Pre-Orientation Service Experience (POSE) as a leader for the third time. Once that ended, I applied for another grant (I’ve graduated from the Maharam now) and started my final year in college. Needless to say, things have been busy. I am sad to see the Maharam end, but it turned out to be the perfect stepping stone to the next point in my growth as an artist, activist, and leader.

Class Eleven
The last class; a bittersweet day. I had planned on doing one final art activity, paper marbling, because paper marbling produces very intricate colorful patterns and is fairly easy to do. But, instead, the women just wanted to finish up the projects they had started in the previous classes, especially the pillows. As it turned out, many of the women had previous experience embroidering, and had set out to make elaborate designs. Sadia designed a tree with blooming blue leaves, and Mariam embroidered a whole slew of utensils in her depiction of chef and his kitchen. Yomely is planning on keeping her pillow in her office at DIIRI.

So, the final class was spent embroidering, chatting, and henna-ing. I bought henna specifically for Soukaina, because she has used more than one class to draw spiraling designs on paper. She was delighted, and then proceeded to adorn every single person in the room. I myself received a henna sleeve, starting at the tip of my right shoulder and ending at the nail on my middle finger (and I received many compliments on it in the week following). The class also included questions about if the class was going to continue and if I was going to stay at DIIRI. Unfortunately, because I am choosing to spend my senior year focusing on my Apparel Design Thesis Collection, I will not be the one continuing the class. Fortunately, the class will be continued by a RISD student! More on that to come — one by one, the women finished up their work and turned them in to me, so we said our goodbyes.

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Soukaina is a very talented henna artist, and graciously decorated the entire class.

The final step in the Maharam was the “Gifts of Diversity” exhibit. This exhibit was arranged by Brandon, my supervisor at DIIRI, and was held at the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. The women in my class submitted work to be part of this exhibit that also featured “local artists who represent a range of visible and nonvisible diversity”. That’s why they were all working so hard during the last class — because it was to be presented to the public! Janet, a student from Armenia, even brought in other work that she had done, like an acrylic painting of a sunset. Our table at the event was stocked to the brim. The event itself was very cool as well. I managed to snag about ten fellow POSE leaders from RISD to come along, and we all browsed the artwork and enjoyed the dance performances. It was a lovely way to end the project.

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Our table at the “Gifts of Diversity” exhibit (find the Minion)!

Since then, I’ve met with both Brandon, my supervisor, and Sagitta, my unofficial supervisor. Sagitta and I discussed how effective my project was and how it could continue in the future. She told me that she would be interested in having the class continue for the population of unaccompanied minors, which is unfortunately an ever-growing population at DIIRI. These minors are about 14-17 years old and oftentimes arrive in this country to meet family that they have never met before. Sagitta told me how hard it was to communicate with them at first, but once she gave them crayons and paper they were able to share what they needed. This class could be a crucial part of their resettlement process. Hearing this made my resolve to focus on my studio work waver, but I am very happy to hear that my model could feasibly continue and be adapted within DIIRI.

Brandon and I discussed my project continuing in the form of another fellowship out of RISD’s Center for Student Involvement (CSI) Office: the Leadership and Community Engagement (LACE) Fellowship. I am also involved in this program, as I practically live in the CSI offices, but I use my fellowship to intern at Sojourner House, a local domestic violence agency. DIIRI is a Community Partner with the CSI Office (specifically the Office of Community Service), which means that two RISD students will be stationed at DIIRI acting as liaisons between the two communities. These two RISD students also happen to be my friends and fellow Global Initiative members: Sophie, a sophomore in Architecture, and Paridhi, a junior in Illustration. They are responsible for a number of tasks, but are now also responsible for my project (sorry). I don’t want to impose this project on them, but I’m very adamant about the fact that it needs to be continued by a RISD student. It brings together the two communities in a way that is mutually beneficial. This is still yet to be finalized, but there is clearly a need for it — I mean, I even received a gold-embossed folder with this inside:

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Thanks, Gina!

I could have used more reflection time after my project officially ended, but I had other community obligations calling me. Such is life. After a summer spent mostly with people not from my generation, coming back to school is a little startling. I notice a change in myself; I am more serious about my work and more realistic about my capabilities. This sounds sobering, and maybe it’s just senioritis talking, but I’m glad for it. This, coupled with my new and improved work schedule, will greatly benefit my Senior Thesis.

Speaking of my Senior Thesis, I have realized that my final collection perhaps will benefit the most from my Maharam. I speak about it a bit in my first blog post, but my summer at DIIRI and the IDPP have reminded me about my own identity. Although my internship was not directly related to my major, I think it spoke to my broader artistic practice in an interesting way. Because I was working with refugee and immigrant women who come from a variety of backgrounds and speak varying levels of English, I grew to depend more on visuals to express myself — “show, not tell”. Because I could no longer count on my voice to convey exactly what I mean, I had to focus on honing my art, body language, and hand motions to be as expressive as possible. It was, if you will, a returning to my roots as an artist.

Over the past year my Apparel work grew increasingly academic as I wrote long conceptual essays about how, exactly, my garment advocated for a certain issue within the realm of feminism. But in doing so, I drifted further away from my roots as an artist who makes visual products. I guess that it’s not that odd that I was tugged back into the arts by spending time outside of the art world, but I was not expecting this revelation. I of course did learn an incredible amount about effective service, flexibility, the realities of refugees in Providence, and so much more, but this lesson was the most striking. It comes at a crucial point in my career: when I decide how to spend my last year at RISD, what I do after graduation, and whether or not I will dabble in the governmental sector.

I’m not saying that I have the answers to those questions, but rather that I now have a more clear path to finding the solutions. I honestly could go on and on about what I’ve learned and how it changed me, but this blog post is getting a little long, and I bet your attention span is waning by now. I’ll end by thanking the wonderful people at DIIRI, RISD Career Services, and RISD CSI — without you, none of this would have been possible!

This is my last blog post; if you are interested in contacting me, please visit my website.

Cheers!
Lucy

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