Museum Guild

The Museum Guild is a group of undergraduate students from local colleges and universities. Supported by the museum’s Academic Programs staff, they develop self-directed projects and programs that facilitate the engagement of college communities within and beyond the greater Providence area. They aim to share entry points for new audiences, be responsive to their interests, and stimulate thought-provoking and personal interactions. Through this work, the Guild hopes to expand critical dialogue around the collection, purpose, and future of the RISD Museum.

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This year's group

Meet the 2023-24 Museum Guild!


Past projects and programs

In 2022-23, the Museum Guild was interested in exploring the creative potential of sound and the possibility of breaking the traditional silence of museum spaces. The result was Sonic Salad, a collaboration with student sound artist Femi Shonuga-Fleming (RISD BArch '23), local organization Anarchestra, and peers in a RISD foundations course. Using one-of-a-kind noise-making machines from Anarchestra, a group of Providence-based instruments with an underground story and a mission to make music accessible, and instruments handmade by students, visitors were invited to respond to works on view in 1900 to Now with sound. Their contributions were mixed live into an immersive soundscape by Shonuga-Fleming, who is involved in RISD's Center for Research in Sound and Technology and was excited by the potential to work collaboratively with an audience.
In 2021-22, the Museum Guild produced three public programs at the museum. "Rip and Reimagine: Collaging Museum Futures" encouraged dialogue about museums and art, offering a space to craft in community. Using excess art books from past exhibitions, the workshop invited visitors to create collages imagining possibilities for the museum's future. "Poetic Translations: Art and the Written Word" showcased students performing creative writing written in response to the exhibition Inherent Vice. Participants were encouraged to create their own text-based work by writing ekphrasis poems in the exhibition Any Distance Between Us or composing blackout poetry in the early Renaissance gallery. "Making Space," a collaboration with the RISD student publication v.1, immersed visitors in themes of space and place through readings from students featured in v.1's latest issue, conversation between the issue's editors and writers, and hands-on art-making.
In 2020-21, the Museum Guild adjusted their modes of working collaboratively. Through a year spent on Zoom, with members calling in from Providence, New Orleans, New Delhi, London, and more, the group produced Unravel: An Anti-Exhibition. This digital publication revolves around the belief that making artist processes public allows for sharing skills and ideas, supporting artists as whole people, and de-emphasizing the commodification of the art object. While museums often foreground finished work, this project focuses on the complexities of students’ artistic practice at various stages of completion, or non-completion.
In 2019-2020, the Museum Guild hosted programming for RISD's orientation and invited student artists to share their work during Third Thursdays at the museum. Pivoting to the digital sphere amidst the COVD-19 pandemic, they developed a series of Instagram takeovers inspired by past Work in Process and Student Performance programs. Students were invited to share their creative process (or more broadly, what was sustaining them during that challenging period) through the grid, IGTV, or stories.
In 2018-2019, the Museum Guild produced two large-scale programs alongside monthly Third Thursday programming such as Work in Process, Student Performances, and Hands-on Art. In the fall semester, the Museum Guild hosted “Re(con)textualizing The Phantom of Liberty”, an intervention to hold space for artists and audience members alike to reflect on how works in the exhibition Phantom of Liberty relate to the contemporary moment(s). Guild members selected local artists to provide supplementary material to accompany their work in this exhibition, where visitors were invited to read, explore, and investigate. In the spring, the Museum Guild produced How Did This Get Here?, inviting visitors to contemplate the complex life histories of objects and their links to violence, political unrest, othering, spiritual meaning, community, and repair.
In 2017-2018, the RISD Museum was one of a number of institutions that hosted the Pledges of Allegiance project, a series of artist-designed flags responding to the political climate of the United States. Inspired by this project, the Museum Guild worked with the Museum's installation team to install a small shelf on the wall below the flags with pencils, a submission box, and cards printed with a prompt inviting visitors to reconsider what a pledge could be. In the spring, Guild members produced another participatory activity that invited visitors to draw something that reminded them of home and share it by making it into a pin or adding it to an easel in the galleries. These pins served as wearable conversation starters or evidence of the similarities between museum visitors across all backgrounds. During the Museum’s monthly Third Thursday hours, Guild members invited students to participate in programs like Work in Process, Student Performances, and Hands-on Art. 
In 2016-2017, the Museum Guild shifted to primarily focus on developing responsive programming that sparked engagement between local college communities and the Museum. The Museum Guild presented a selection of student artist-scholars whose work and performances responded to or challenged the collection of European paintings on view in Intermission, an open-storage presentation organized while the European galleries were under construction. Museum visitors engaged with the students and their work, collaboratively and critically examining what was present and what was missing from the exhibition, staging a temporary "Anti-Salon." The Guild also invited local students to participate in Work in Process programs throughout the year, sharing their ongoing projects and artwork with museum visitors throughout the galleries. 
The Museum Guild was born in 2015-2016, when the museum reimagined its academic-year student group and tasked each member with facilitating and creating at least one public program of their own design. In preparation, Guild members were trained in object-based learning and supported in developing research and public-speaking skills. Guild members facilitated public tours, discussions, and other programs related to the Museum’s collection.
From 2010-2015, the museum invited local college students to apply to become Gallery Lecturers. Following a period of training, lecturers gave drop-in tours for public audiences.