From Brown-RISD undergraduate, ‘20 Drawings for the Class of 2020’

With seniors who are culminating their undergraduate experiences remotely in mind, Brown-RISD dual degree student Yunni Cho created a digital collection of drawings depicting favorite sites on the College Hill campuses.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — As her fellow undergraduates hurried to book travel and say goodbye to friends before most of Brown’s campus closed its doors in mid-March, Yunni Cho noticed students squeezing in moments for another important item on many pre-departure checklists.

“I was seeing so many people taking pictures around campus areas, trying to just gather and collect everything about their Providence life,” said the Brown-RISD Dual Degree Program student, who is now finishing her fourth year in the five-year program. “It was really sad.”

Cho’s observation quickly inspired an idea — “20 Drawings for the Class of 2020,” a digital collection of line drawings depicting beloved spots on the Brown and Rhode Island School of Design campuses.

“It originally started as a gift to my friends whom I didn’t get to see before they left campus, but then I wanted to extend it to the entire graduating class because they also didn’t get a chance to say goodbye — to their friends, but also to Providence itself and to campus,” she said. “I just wanted everyone to feel a bit better.”

Cho — who remained in Providence for the spring given the challenges of traveling home to South Korea, where the virus had already taken hold — completed the series over the course of nearly two months. She made the drawings, which feature white linework on black backgrounds, intentionally abstract to engage the memories of community members who would be viewing her work while away from College Hill, she said.

“I wanted people looking at these drawings to not immediately recognize the buildings, but then to remember certain details from their experiences,” Cho said.

She also made the drawings small — each about the size of a postcard when printed — so they could easily be held in a viewer’s hand or printed into a booklet.

Since Cho posted a video featuring her drawings on her Instagram page on April 29, close to 300 people have contacted her through the social platform asking her to share her downloadable images with them.

In addition to members of the Brown and RISD Classes of 2020, Cho has heard from alumni who — decades after their own graduations — recalled details from certain buildings. She has also heard from parents looking to print and frame the images for sons and daughters graduating far from the campus where they have spent the past four years.

“I never expected this kind of variety in the audience for my pictures,” Cho said. “It’s made me feel really good about doing this project.”

Cho’s project draws upon the customized academic experience she’s built through the dual degree program. At RISD, she is studying interior and exterior architecture — subjects that she says are enriched by her concentrations in urban studies and cognitive neuroscience at Brown.

“In urban studies, I’ve learned about the political implications of space — how space means different things to different groups of people,” she said, while cognitive neuroscience has taught her “how our senses inform our experience of space.”

The collection also draws upon her own affection toward the Brown and RISD campuses — and her wish, through her illustrations, to capture her favorite places. Among her favorite drawings in the series? One depicting the exterior of Brown’s Rockefeller Library — which students simply call “the Rock” — where Cho typically spends long hours working and studying during the school year.

“I just miss the Rock so much,” she said. “Every time I passed it after campus closed, I was having this nostalgia ... So one day, I sat there and drew it on site.”