Date February 2, 2024
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Dual-degree students explore nostalgia, intimacy in wide-ranging art exhibition

The 16th annual Brown-RISD dual-degree student art exhibition, "While The Sap Flows," is on display at Brown’s Granoff Center through Feb. 25.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Carefully installed across four floors of Brown’s Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, a new exhibition welcomes visitors to get lost in a world of personal sentimentality and collective memory.

From graphic textiles and furniture design to slick paintings and sweet sculptures, “While the Sap Flows” is comprised entirely of artwork created by students enrolled in the Brown-RISD Dual-Degree Program; its opening marks the 16th year of the program's students conceiving and curating the annual exhibition.

Through the dual-degree program, students have the opportunity to develop and integrate diverse spheres of academic and artistic interests by pursuing degrees at both Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design over five years. Each year, it admits a cohort of about 15 students; in total, there are 77 enrolled students, and nearly half of them exhibited or otherwise participated in the development of “While the Sap Flows.”

The exhibition includes 44 works of art by 31 students across all five years of their studies, representing a broad swath of inspiration and interpretation.

Alysha Lai, a member of the Class of 2028 who has two works on display in the exhibition, said she was impressed by the sheer variety of artistic mediums represented, especially sculptural and 3D work.

Lai is pursuing concentrations in biology and psychology at Brown and textiles at RISD. She said the exhibition, though varied in style, is cohesive in theme, thanks to closeness and collaborative nature of the cohort.

multimedia artwork by alysha lai
“Vessle for Flower Buds” is one of two 3-D works on display by Brown-RISD first-year student Alysha Lai. Photo by Alysha Lai. 

“The theme of ‘sap’ was very reflective of the program because there is a sense of intimacy, with there being such a small cohort each year, and nostalgia, in all our works,” Lai said. “We come from many different backgrounds, but we share the common experience of the Brown-RISD Dual-Degree and life in Rhode Island.”

Lai exhibited two sculptural works, “Dance a little…” and “Vessle for Flower Buds,” both of which she created in a spatial dynamics class as part of her experimental and foundation studies program at RISD. She said they’re the works she was most proud of last semester, and when the show’s theme was selected, she felt like they would be a perfect fit.

But not every student involved in the development and curation of the exhibition submitted their own works for display.

First-year student Anay Agarwal, whose interests lie in the intersection of humanities and oil painting — or perhaps furniture design, one of the many RISD disciplines he’s looking forward to exploring — worked behind the scenes to make the event just right.

three people hang a textile artwork on the gallery wall
A trio hangs a textile piece during the installation process. 

Agarwal was a member of the committee that created the graphic identity of the exhibition, designing and producing promotional materials. He also helped plan the exhibition’s opening reception, which included a dried flower bouquet-making activity and some sticky sweets, inspired by his own childhood.

“The exhibition is about sap and sentimentality, time and memory,” Agarwal said. “I thought, ‘What are the things that we can include in the reception that are sort of nostalgic in the same sense?’ So we got things like honey sticks and maple candy that literally fit the ‘sappy,’ amber theme, but figuratively provide a powerful sense of nostalgia.”

Beyond the theme, Lai and Agarwal agree that the exhibition is a shining example of the imagination that comes from pursuing multiple paths of study, and that each work reflects the interdisciplinary interests of each artist — whether it’s inspired by climate change, social justice, past relationships or poetry.

“I think it’s really evident that the art was not created within a vacuum, or something created solely for the purpose of being seen,” Agarwal said. “In this exhibition, there’s such deep thought processes behind each of the artworks.”

“While The Sap Flows” is on display now through Sunday, Feb. 25, at Brown’s Granoff Center for Creative Arts at 154 Angell St. in Providence.