Rhode Island School of Design Presents ‘Sonder,’ its Second Student-Curated Black Biennial

Providence, RI – April 24, 2024“Sonder: The Black Biennial,” a multidisciplinary exhibition showcasing the talents of Black artists from both RISD and the surrounding community, opened at RISD’s Gelman Gallery on April 18th. Curated by juniors Amadi Williams (Painting, ’25) and Isaiah “Prophet” Raines (Sculpture, ’25), the exhibition runs through June 2. It builds on the themes of access and unity first introduced in the 2022 inaugural Black Biennial.

“We’re trying to provide a level playing field for all Black artists in the area, regardless of their affiliation with RISD,” explains Williams. “Our goal is to weave together their different realities and highlight the phenomenal work happening throughout the state.”

The exhibition’s theme, Sonder, underscores this idea. The definition, displayed at the gallery’s entrance, reads: “Sonder: The realization that each individual is living a life as vivid and complex as your own, in which you might appear only once, as a part of someone else’s story.”

Prophet, who hails from Fall River, MA, describes his first experience curating as “a huge learning curve,” and adds, “I see curation as a way to create opportunities for people who don’t have a lot of them.”

To honor the artists’ voices, exhibition labels do not specify RISD affiliations, allowing each artist to share their own story. Enhanced with QR codes, visitors can access firsthand accounts, adding a personal dimension to the artworks, such as the oil painting “Lost” by 17-year-old Jovani Delgado and “NATE” by Elijah Trice (March ’23), which is paired with an engaging interview that elevates the viewing experience.

Williams, who is also a two-year conservation fellow at the RISD Museum and has previous curatorial experience, emphasized the importance of community connection and visibility. ““Every piece we chose from the 160-plus submissions we received has the ability to speak on its own but also communicates with the pieces surrounding it,” she adds.

The success of the initial Black Biennial, curated by alum Rey Londres (’22 Photography) and Melaine Ferdinand-King, generated significant interest and a high volume of submissions for this year’s event.

“Sonder: The Black Biennial” welcomes visitors through June 2, culminating in a special closing reception during the Commencement & Reunion Weekend. Visit the RISD website to learn more.

About Rhode Island School of Design
RISD (pronounced “RIZ-dee”) is a creative community founded in 1877 in Providence, Rhode Island. Today, we enroll 2,538 students hailing from 60 countries. Led by a committed faculty, they are engaged in 44 full-time bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and supported by a worldwide network of over 31,000 alumni who demonstrate the vital role artists and designers play in today’s society.

Beyond facts and figures, what is the spirit of this community? Through a cross-disciplinary curriculum of studio-based learning and rigorous study in the liberal arts, RISD students are encouraged to develop their own personal creative processes, but they are united by one guiding principle: in order to create, one must question. In cultivating expansive and elastic thinking, RISD seeks to activate a critical exchange that empowers artists, designers and scholars to generate and challenge the ideas that shape our world. RISD’s mission, at both the college and museum, is not only to educate students and the public in the creation and appreciation of works of art and design, but to transmit that knowledge and make global contributions. Visit risd.edu to learn more.

Media contact:
Dalia Stoniene | Blue Medium