“Drawing can give form to thoughts, lead to new ideas, make the invisible visible, and be the means to dream. This studio is a place to use drawing as a tool in these ways and more.”
This was the introduction to Out of Line, an open studio space for RISD Museum visitors during the run of the exhibition Lines of Thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to Now from the British Museum (October 6, 2017–January 7, 2018).
The RISD Museum’s Education Department wanted to create a space where visitors could participate in the drawing exhibition by engaging with the medium themselves. The Out of Line space needed to make the practice of drawing available to museum visitors daily, accommodate several different types of programing and enable engagement at different audience skill levels. Different prompts would provide the basis for visitors to get started and draw at their own pace. A library of objects would allow numerous possibilities in exploring textures, shapes and different still-life arrangements.
As a museum connected to an art school, the design team was interested in making the space not unlike RISD drawing studios. They began the design process by researching drawing classrooms and looking at historic art school arrangements and furniture, as well as more temporary pop-up spaces. They looked to traditional studio assignments and to the roles figure and still-life drawing play in them. They were also thinking about the fantastic resource that is RISD’s Edna Lawrence Nature Lab.
“Cabinets of curiosity” acted as walls, signage and storage for drawing materials and the specimens borrowed from the Nature Lab. Fragile specimens were entirely enclosed in Plexiglas and fixed in high or low places on the modular shelves, while others were positioned where they could be handled and taken to tables to draw from.
Working with the Education Department, the design team developed nine different drawing prompts that visitors could use to generate drawings. Prompts were printed on colored cards in English and Spanish. A loop of videos illustrating examples of artists following the prompts played on a large screen above where the drawing materials were stored. Made in collaboration with RISD students and local artists, the videos presented a playful entry point for visitors through vivid and absurdist montage. A large Homasote-covered wall acted as an evolving gallery where participants could hang their drawings.
Because the RISD Museum team designed the graphics for both the British Museum exhibition at RISD and the Out of Line space, they were able to visually connect the two spaces while also differentiating them. They chose a typeface family called MAD (Machine Aided Drawing) by Dries Wiewauters. Wiewauters designed the typeface based on the constraints of CAD drawing programs, in which letters are drawn with lines instead of being outlined as shapes.
Sarah Ganz Blythe, the museum’s deputy director of exhibitions, education, and programs, describes the impact of the project: “The daily prompts, demonstrations, collaborations, and other creative experiments offered in Out of Line enabled practiced artists and first-time visitors opportunities to use drawing as a tool to imagine, discover, and explore.”
"The beautifully designed cabinet of curiosities initially piqued the jury's interest in the project. The educational and experience opportunities this provokes elevated it to award winning."
"What a great way for a museum to use its collections in an unexpected way by bridging art and natural history. Out of Line does a lot of things really well...really, really well! The creators must be applauded for bringing people together through engaging experiences in a common place without the use of technology. it's simple and elegant and very thoughtful design at its best."
Stephen Wing (exhibition design), Brendan Campbell (exhibition and graphic design), Jeremy Radtke (exhibition design and video creative direction), Derek Schusterbauer (exhibition and graphic design), Rocio Delaloye (video art direction, video production), Cara Buzzell (graphic design, video animation)
Hernan Jourdan, e Jackson (studio assistance); Sarah Ganz Blythe (program and design management); Deborah Clemmons, Christina Alderman, Mariani Lefas-Tetenes, Alexandra Poterack (program development, design consultation); Betsy Sara Ruppa (natural history object selection and preparation)
Nick Hollibaugh (primary fabricator, cabinetry), MB Signs and Graphics (vinyl signage fabrication)