Artscape Our weekly look at arts and culture in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.
Artscape

Artscape

From The Public's Radio

Our weekly look at arts and culture in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts.

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In Pawtucket, Gif-O-Graf helps students explore creativity with animation

Sam Shorr and Willy DeConto are the two brains behind Gif-o-Graf, a device for making short stop-motion animations. I met with Sam and Willy at their studio/workshop in downtown Pawtucket and before I could even ask a question, Sam wanted me to try out the machine. Shorr: So this is the Gif-O-Graf. It's basically a stop motion animation machine that uses cut paper as its medium. Have you ever made an animation before? James Baumgartner: No. Shorr: Okay, do you know what stop motion is? Baumgartner: Yeah. Shorr: Okay, so we chose this form really because it's the simplest... NARR: The Gif-O-Graf is a sleek black metal device, with three panels in a squared off C-shape about the size of a laptop. It has a stage where you move your paper around to animate it and a screen where you can review your work. Sam showed me how to put paper on the stage and take a picture. Then I moved the paper a little and took another picture. I repeated the process a few more times. Shorr: And you just hit save and then that sends it up via the WiFi and then you can download it on your phone. NARR: A QR code popped up on the screen, I aimed my phone at it, and just like that, I had a little 5 second animation on my phone. The whole process was simple and intuitive and took about 2 minutes. Credit: James Baumgartner / The Public's Radio Neil Letendre: Any level of student at any grade level could get on a Gif-o-graf. NARR: That's Neil Letendre, a STEAM teacher at Winters Elementary School in Pawtucket. Neil Letendre: And like you said, within minutes create, you know, it's a very simple learning curve, very few buttons, you know, not a lot to not to learn. NARR: Sam and Willy are leading an after-school program in Letendre's classroom. He has 4 Gif-o-grafs and his students use them for group projects in his class to combine art and science. Today, each machine has 3 students using it together to make a short animation. Neil Letendre: I love that it brings out so much creativity from the students. Students that you wouldn't necessarily think had that in them. They get on those machines and the ideas just burst out of them. Credit: courtesy Gif-O-Graf NARR: The simplicity of the machine has a lot to do with unlocking that creativity. There are just five buttons and a knob, and I only used two of the buttons when I made my animation. NARR: Maria SanMartino-Clinton is the principal at Winters Elementary. She dropped by the class to talk to me even though she had lost her voice the previous day. Maria SanMartino-Clinton: The level of engagement is amazing. When you see the kids working collaboratively together in groups, sharing ideas, they're engaged and they just, they love to hear from one another to get more ideas and expand upon what they've already started on. NARR: The Gif-O-Graf is the result of a collaboration that goes back to middle school. Sam Shorr and Willy DeConto grew up in the North Shore suburbs of Boston. They became friends in art class. Here's Willy: Willy DeConto: Making things like, I remember like learning how to make stencils was like a really, you know, monumental thing. And then after the stencils, screen printing, and then the screen printing. NARR: They had a screen printing business together for a while. It didn't work out but they did learn from it. DeConto: We were into doing the screen printing and the process and the art making, but then through making it into a business, then we had to expand and learn new tools, like photography or doing web design or digital design. So it all sort of like, built off of that. NARR: They also gained an appreciation for building a physical product and bringing it into the world. In 2020, Willy was working in product design for a company in Boston. When COVID hit, Willy's flexible schedule meant he could work out of a studio space he shared with Sam. DeConto: I'd be working in PowerPoint or something and Sam would be like making animations. So I sort of got sucked into it. Baumgartner: Did it look like more fun? DeConto: Yeah. I mean, I can't, you know, I don't want to say it wasn't fun when I was doing, but yeah, definitely. I think making animations looks super fun, which was one bit. And then. The opportunity to be like making a tool versus just making something with a tool was like, yeah, you know, super enticing. NARR: They went through a few prototypes and worked with a display manufacturer and a software designer, finally creating the sturdy, simple machine you can see today. The components come from a few different places, but the final assembly takes place in their Pawtucket workshop. The physicality of the Gif-O-Graf is a big part of its appeal. But the curriculum is just as important, Sam says. Students at Winters Elementary in Pawtucket, R.I. work together on a Gif-O-Graf Credit: James Baumgartner / The Public's Radio Shorr: Being able to transform the classroom, any classroom, Is a really powerful thing, you know So you literally turn the lights off, you bring Gif-O-Graf in, you put on some music put on a video and now all of a sudden it's like a movie making studio. It's like a very powerful thing to be able to take a piece of equipment or an intention and transform a space. NARR: They initially thought they might get schools to use the Gif-O-Graf for after-school programs, but now they see teachers using it for many different lessons. Shorr: And I think now that we're 100 percent going for like, this should be part of your curriculum. And unless, our curriculum too is not trying to say like, we're going to increase your math standards, you know. we're really trying to say like, you're in math class and you need ways to get your kids engaged. You need kids to have fun. They need to work together. This is a visualization tool that you can now integrate into your flow, and have something that gets the kids energized. NARR: And the kids at Winters Elementary in Pawtucket were certainly energized. In the class I visited, the students used a madlib to write a 5-sentence story about going to the beach. They made a quick storyboard and then they were cutting out paper to make their animations. It's like a glue-stick and construction paper project brought to life. Willy and Sam anticipated only getting through the first two steps, but the kids worked faster than they'd thought. Shorr: We didn't even think they were going to animate today. That was our plan. So, I think that's something that you see with Gif-O-Graf. Especially because they're working in a group. Like Adam, he doesn't really make much of the artwork. But then he's a great animator and he's waiting to make sure he gets to animate. So I think they separate their jobs and they know they can share the responsibility. Students line up their paper drawings on a Gif-O-Graf as part of the animation process. Credit: James Baumgartner / The Public's Radio NARR: Adam, a 4th-grader, describes it this way: Adam: I usually make stuff bounce and make it go fast. And when I first started it looked like, it looked very weird. But now my editing looks a lot smoother than it was before. I like challenging myself. Because it just feels like something new and it feels like a challenge. And once I complete that challenge, I feel great. NARR: Winters Elementary plans to buy 4 more Gif-O-Grafs for the next school year so more students can use the machines. There are Gif-O-Grafs in public libraries in Providence, Pawtucket and Cambridge that anyone can use. Sam Shorr and Willy DeConto are working with artists and teachers to expand the curriculum. They hope to make 60 machines this year and Sam says they have big dreams for the future. Shorr: Our goal is every school and library in the country. I think we, it just from like an idea that like this could fit anywhere. and we really feel that it's important and we're excited about it. And we, and the feedback we get from certainly from kids and from teachers is that it's a valuable thing. And so we want to, you know, from a mission, put it in as many places we can. NARR: Sam Says it's not easy these days to get kids off their phones and using their hands. But he hopes the Gif-O-Graf can help teachers bridge that gap.

In Pawtucket, Gif-O-Graf helps students explore creativity with animation

Student-curated Black Biennial breaks down walls between RISD and the community

There's a new exhibit at the Gelman Gallery at the Rhode Island School of Design and the opening last month was packed with the exhibiting artists, their family and friends. A young artist named Ylsanita has a digital print in the show that uses augmented reality so viewers can see an animated version on their phones. It features a child playing with a toy dirt bike that is leaping over dump trucks and bulldozers. "When I was a kid I was always enamored by bike culture and seeing people on bikes," she said. "Whether it be dirt bikes or BMX bikes, and I always wanted to ride it, you know?" But she says the city's policies of destroying dirt bikes get in the way of that. "So what I wanted to illustrate is that no matter what, the culture, it's always going to emerge and it's always going to continue on." Left: "White Flight/Black Swan Paradox" by Kahlil McKnight. Right: "We Gone Smile Through It" by YLSANITA Credit: James Baumgartner / The Public's Radio The RISD Black Biennial features the work of 68 artists who are either connected to RISD or the greater Providence area and are from the African diaspora. Chris Roberts is a professor at RISD teaching experimental foundation studies as well as history and theory. "For a lot of the Black students, for them to have an opportunity to contribute to a legacy – and for a school that oftentimes hasn't always been most inviting and most inclusive of Black students – to have a really sort of student-driven effort that can be actually part of the school and fabric of the school and the students can look forward to" is important, he said. "I think it's really important for them to see themselves as contributing to the history of the place, and not always sort of having to go against it or be an adversary, but that their energies can actually help improve and make the place better." The crowd at the opening event for the 2024 RISD Black Biennial Credit: J. Susie Hwang The show is curated by two RISD students, Amadi Williams and Isaiah Raines. I met with Raines, who goes by Prophet, in the gallery a few days after the opening. He told me about the show's theme, "Sonder" – a relatively new word that means "the realization that everyone, including strangers, has a life as complex as one's own." Prophet said the show is organized into five sections about how sonder is inspired in the viewer: philosophy, culture community, family, and self One of the first works you see when you enter the gallery is a black and white photograph of a man standing outside a brick building with a cigarette in his hand. It's by Raheem A.B. a photography student in his third year at RISD. "I try to develop ways that I guess kind of supersede what we expect with portraiture, usually of people that are of ethnic communities like Black people," he said. "So kind of this entire exhibition being about the idea of sonder, and kind of stepping into someone else's lives and also their subject position." "Jerry, 2023" by Raheem A.B. Credit: James Baumgartner / The Public's Radio Prophet said he made an effort to include as many local residents as possible. "We did an open call where we posted on Instagram, we posted up posters around Providence, just being like, 'scan this QR, we're accepting everybody's art,'" he explained. "'Submit if you're Black and from the general Providence area,' whether that be Fall River, whether it be up towards Boston and whether it be a little bit into Connecticut, just the area." Prophet grew up in the Providence area and now lives in Fall River. He said that, even though he grew up not far from RISD, it never felt accessible, comparing it to a castle on the hill in the clouds. "They have all these resources and they hoard them here, and you're not allowed to access them if you're not from RISD, if you're not coming in through RISD," he said. "And I think that it's pretty detestable that RISD does that, but still expects students to go off the hill into Providence and take resources from Providence as well as eat off the resources here at RISD while claiming they don't have resources, you know what I mean?" "I just wanna dloh rouy dnah" by Kailyn Bryant Credit: James Baumgartner / The Public's Radio Photography student Raheem also grew up in Providence. "Coming here from field trips, taking visits for after-school programs, you kind of get a feeling that, even though this place is in your backyard, for many of us in Providence it kind of still feels unreachable in a way," he said. "It's a strange feeling to actually get here because the perception is that this is going to be all fine and dandy, but there's still always work to do. It's really work not only to inspire others, I guess, and also show them that there's a way to find your way in these bigger places, but to also show them that this is just one of many avenues you can go to, and that there's always work to be done out there, especially for people like us." The curators for the 2024 RISD Black Biennial. Left: Amadi Williams. Right: Isaiah "Prophet" Raines Credit: Simone Solondz If you're a casual visitor to the RISD Museum, you might miss the show. The museum is an amalgamation of a few different buildings and it can be a bit of a maze to get around. The Gelman Student Exhibitions Gallery is part of the Chace Center, the newest building in the museum – but it seems like the gallery was designed to be separate. You can only get to it from an elevator or from a set of stairs in the North Main Street entrance. "We can't call it the RISD Museum," Prophet explained. "I can't say that the second Black Biennial was in the RISD Museum. It's just in the building that the museum happens to be in." The crowd at the opening event for the 2024 RISD Black Biennial Credit: J. Susie Hwang Prophet said this year's Biennial only had a fraction of the funding that the first one had two years ago, and he feels like the school isn't supporting it as much as they should. "There's people within the institution that are actually about the show and about the community. And I do want to commend all of them," he added. "But I want to make sure that that credit doesn't go to RISD as a whole or RISD as an institution. It's very much the work of these individuals within the institution doing work despite the institution to support us, that the institution likes to try to take claim for that. I feel like it's just dirty. It's wrong. It don't feel right." Despite that lack of support, the curators have put together an impressive exhibition showcasing the work of Black artists from across the region. One last piece I want to highlight is on the far wall of the gallery as you enter the space. It's called "The Abundant State of Things" by Boluwatife Oyediran. Prophet says it's about "the immigrant experience and interacting with a culture that's so different and feeling like an outlier." A man is sitting casually on a couch. The background and his clothing are very dark, but his skin tones are rendered in blues and glowing whites, as if he's the negative of a photograph, while bright points of yellow paint are scattered around him like an energy field. It's painted in oil and acrylic, but it looks electric. "I don't have this experience," Prophet said of the piece. "I'm not an immigrant. but I felt like I could understand, like I can understand what he was talking about on a more personal level than if somebody were to just tell me, and I feel like that's what the show is about. That's that sonder." The idea of "sonder" – the idea that everyone's life is as complex as your own – comes through as you view the works and think about what it's like to be a part of, but still feel separate from, a larger institution. You can see the RISD Black Biennial through June 2. "The Abundant State of Things" by Boluwatife Oyediran Credit: James Baumgartner / The Public's Radio

Student-curated Black Biennial breaks down walls between RISD and the community

New biography explores 'The Life and Line' of artist and activist Keith Haring

Join us for a conversation with author Brad Gooch at the Jamestown Art Center on Saturday, May 4th at 4:00 PM. TRANSCRIPT Hernandez: What's your first experience with Keith's art? Where did you first see a Keith Haring piece? Gooch: Well, I was around at the same time. I mean, I've been saying that I sort of Forest Gumped myself into this biography since Keith came to New York in 1978. He was living in the East village, mainly at First Avenue and First Street. I was at Bleeker and Bowery at that time. And so, so it intersects. I mean, at first with his work, the first thing I remember, that's what you're asking, was walking from the West village to the East Village with my lover, Howard Bruckner, and on the street corners stamped in graphite at every corner, was this sign that said, "Clones Go Home." Then I began seeing barking dogs, crawling babies, especially on a newsstand in Soho, either Prince Street or Spring. And all this is anonymous. So that's what added to the mystery and interest of it. And then Keith Haring begins this project in chalk, drawing on these black matte rectangles in the subways, which is where advertisements would go. But between the Smirnoff ad and the next ad for "Oh! Calcutta!", there might be a week or two of fallow time. So he would draw on this and then they would be covered over. So they were kind of impermanent drawings. This project went on for like five years. He did about 5,000 of these, which is one of the largest public art projects ever completed. And so if you were going to the subway, there are millions of people in the subway. Not all of them paid attention to these ads, but lots of people did, and especially downtown. And for a while, then again, it was still a mystery and anonymous. There was a piece in the New York Post that called him Chalk Man. So this added to the aura of Keith Haring before there was a Keith Haring. Hernandez: You have this beautiful book that you're describing his life, but if you were to describe to the novice in just a couple of sentences, two or three sentences, who is Keith Haring? How do you describe him? Gooch: Keith Haring was someone whose mission, I would say, was art for everybody. And so he devoted this kind of tenure. career, starting with drawings in the subway, but at the same time that he was making work that would show in galleries and museums, he was doing popular work. He started a pop shop. And now we all know these, even if we don't know the name Keith Haring still, or much about his life, we recognize these kind of buoyant jumping around figures and these barking dogs and crawling babies. So he made a language. And then shared it with the world in all these different media. Hernandez: As you said, you were experiencing as you go through the subways, as he was developing his style and really starting to, build himself up as an artist was in the subways and through the work he did paint, you know, drawing and painting and chalk on ads. But at what point did that all of a sudden become mainstream? Gooch: Well, yeah, he becomes an art star. And I think by doing these subway drawings, he also does a sort of end run around the art world at the time. Someone who I interviewed, Diego Cortes, who was a curator at the time, said to me that the art world of the 70s that they came into, was like white people in white rooms drinking white wine. Keith expanded this greatly and so he didn't need to go around to galleries and dealers with his slides to find an art gallery. He already had this whole following underground. So he does his first show at Tony Shifrazi gallery and he's 24 years old. The opening of the show is carried on the NBC or CBS, sorry, Evening News with Dan Rather with Charles Osgood narrating the story about this 24 year old kid from Kutztown, Pennsylvania. And so there were hundreds of people at this opening. And it was very different from the usual opening. Hernandez: What happened to him emotionally when he was diagnosed with HIV in 1987, and shortly after that with AIDS? Gooch: well his first reaction, I mean he goes down to the East River and cries. I mean he has a, obviously, even though he's been expecting such a diagnosis because people are falling to the left and right of him at that time. You know, it's still a shock and he's still initially sad about this and overcome emotionally about this, but very quickly, turns it around, and his response to AIDS becomes, was very different for the, in certain ways, for the times. I mean, he decided to do an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, which was like a rock star move, and come out publicly as a PWA, a Person With AIDS. And this was at the time that Rock Hudson was dying of AIDS and refusing to admit it, where Donald Trump's lawyer, Roy Cohn, practically came back from the grave to say that he had had pneumonia. so everyone is in denial. Obituaries at the time usually gave the cause of death as pneumonia and people didn't seem to have personal lives. Haring very much becomes an activist immediately, in his work and his paintings are suddenly about silence equals death and he's involved with ACT UP, an important protest activist organization about AIDS at the time. And also in terms of his work, he doesn't wither away, instead he sort of revs everything up and he does more and more and more work. And he's working until the last few weeks of his life and doing large pieces. He did a big mural on the side of a church in Pisa, His last major work he does at Yoko Ono's apartment is a triptych of the Last Judgment, which you can see in the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in San Francisco and a cathedral in Paris. So he's really working up to the end and traveling. So very aware of death and taking this proactive stance. Hernandez: Was there anything that surprised you as you were researching and putting this book together and digging into his life. Gooch: I would often in the first couple of years of writing this, I was asked by people, "So what did you find out that nobody knows about Keith Haring?" And I would say, what a serious artist he was, you know, which often led to disappointed looks from people, but it was. Well, you know, and following the line of him putting himself together as an artist and then tunneling through his life, creating so much work constantly. I mean, he just had an extraordinary work ethic and was, you know, very serious about his work and you now can see it when you look at these Haring works in museums. They still speak and they have a kind of freshness and you can see all these influences that he was constantly sponging up that go into the work. Hernandez: What do you want people to take away from this book and how they view Keith Haring? Gooch: Well, I think that, what I also sort of discovered along the way was that everyone can recognize a Keith Haring work. Not everyone knows they're by Keith Haring. I mean, he's so much part of the atmosphere of our life. And also people didn't know that much about his life. Haring actually was sort of a private person and a bit detached. I mean, he wasn't exactly like his jumping around figures. So the way in which someone, an artist actually lives, and in his case, how he overcame so many obstacles to get his work out there and how much he cared about it, And how he brought this kind of activism into it. All that is actually inspiring. And it seems very much of our times also. I sometimes think Haring's work makes more sense now than it did when we first saw it in the 1980s. Hernandez: Brad Gooch is a New York Times best selling writer and the author of the new biography, Radiant, The Life and Line of Keith Haring. Brad, it's been such a fun time reading the book and getting to know an artist that I've known about. I've known his work, but I didn't know anything about him, and I've learned something. I really appreciate it. Gooch: Oh, great. It was great talking to you, Luis. Thanks. Hernandez: And if you'd like to hear more, I'm going to have a longer conversation with Brad Gooch at the Jamestown Arts Center, Saturday, May 4th, at 4 p. m.

New biography explores 'The Life and Line' of artist and activist Keith Haring

Studio session: Gian Carlo Buscaglia sings songs of romance and social justice

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Transcript: [music: Gian Carlo Buscaglia performing "El Cumbanchero" by Rafael Hernández] Mareva Lindo: Gian Carlo Buscaglia has something he wants to clear up. Gian Carlo Buscaglia: My very Italian name, Gian Carlo Buscaglia – I'm from Puerto Rico, from the future republic of Puerto Rico. I am not from Rome, or Venezia, but I'm from Puerto Rico. And I'm a singer, I'm a composer and a little bit of a clown. Lindo: His songs, which are all in Spanish, span the breadth of the Latin American diaspora, from Puerto Rico to Argentina, and they range from songs of romance to the social justice songs of the Nueva Canción or New Song Movement that started in South America in the 1950s. Buscaglia: This is from the 50s, beginning in the late 50s, early 60s, very similar to what was going on around the world as far as the Vietnam War, the more progressive lyrics, with more of a social content, having to do a bit less with romance. And romance of course is there, and poetry, but having to do with the social issues that were going on around that time. Lindo: He said the music he plays reflects what he grew up listening to with his family in Puerto Rico. But Buscaglia didn't start performing until he came to the U.S. Buscaglia: I came to the States in '79 when I was 12, and by the time I got to high school – I was in the suburbs of Massachusetts and I graduated from Bedford High School in '84 – at that time I was playing a little, I had two or three chords. I got accepted to BU, but at the same time that I was at Boston University for animation, not necessarily music, but in the still in the creative world, I started playing in the streets of Harvard Square. I was 18, 19 around that time, and I dropped out of BU because I saw "well maybe this reaches my heart," you know, even though I was not by far professional, or I had a few chords and that was it. But the Muses were there, the inspiration was there. So since '84, '85, around that early age, I started playing music in Harvard Square. Lindo: You were a troubadour. Buscaglia: A troubadour for sure. And those times were beautiful in Harvard Square, very bohemian, a lot of jugglers, clowns, different musicians, Tracy Chapman. Tracy Chapman, as you know, was around that time playing in the streets of Harvard Square. So it was a very magical time. [music: Gian Carlo Buscaglia performing "Madrigal"] Lindo: Forty years later, and now in Rhode Island, Buscaglia plays a lot of gigs at restaurants and weddings. Every Thursday through Sunday he can be found serenading patrons at Los Andes restaurant in Providence. But in the summer, Buscaglia likes to get back to his roots. He said playing along the city's pedestrian bridge reminds him of his early years busking in Harvard Square. Buscaglia: Because there's enough people walking around. There's enough people who appreciate the music and a lovely afternoon. And it reminds me of those times that – if I go to Harvard Square and play in Harvard Square these days, it wouldn't come close to what I have found, luckily enough, at the pedestrian bridge. It's just very nice. ... It's a beautiful place to play, a lot of traffic of people, people drop by from all cultures, and it's a lot of dogs. I know most of the names of most of the dogs, as well. ... It lends itself to play the romantic boleros that I play as the sun is coming down on the bridge. It's just beautiful. [music: Gian Carlo Buscaglia performing "Verde Luz" by Antonio Cabán Vale aka El Topo]

Studio session: Gian Carlo Buscaglia sings songs of romance and social justice

As AI evolves, what role will the technology play in the world of art and design?

Transcript: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Luis Hernandez: How are you teaching AI in an art class, in an art school? Griffin Smith: We have a once a week studio course from 1 to 6 p.m. And that's the same model, if you were an oil painter or a glass blower and in a traditional setting, you fill up all that time with the materials, you let the glass cool, you make things for hours and hours with a studio class, with these kinds of tools. You're really retrofitting it for what feel like brand new questions. You know, how is it going to be my art if I make a thousand of these in a day. Photographers ask that question. Printmakers and ceramics artists ask that question. There's a rich history of how artists deal with automation or transformation like digital tools. So one thing that I think is a real gift of the tech is when my students ask questions that they think are very new within the past two or three years. We can couch those questions in art history. We can compare it to what the camera did to the photography majors on campus. We can compare it to how the internet disrupted art sort of in general. So even though it's a studio course, we make stuff, and the questions that we ask end up sort of being art historical questions. An example of AI-generated art created by RISD lecturer Griffin Smith for his class. Credit: Griffin Smith Hernandez: It seems to me [that] out in the world, a big question people have is, "How is AI going to replace me?" Do students ever ask, "Wait a minute, how is AI going to replace me as an artist?" Smith: Absolutely. We have senior students who are looking at the job market and saying, "Every job that I am applying to right now has AI in the job description and says we want you to know how to use it." So we see it day-to-day adjusting for the seniors. And then you have first years at RISD who say, "What is the job market or the art market going to look like in four years' time when I graduate?" And to have both of them in a class together sharing their concerns, it does really put things into context. Hernandez: I remember hearing from you the last time we talked, you told me that artists aren't as worried as designers are worried. RISD lecturer and digital artist Griffin Smith. Credit: courtesy Griffin Smith Smith: Yeah, there's a sort of tension on campus because we're an art and design school, and in some ways artists and designers don't really have that much in common. An artist, like an oil painting major at RISD, they're going to be hired because they have a weird point of view, they have an aesthetic that's all their own, and when culture changes, you know, if there's a war that breaks out or COVID happens, the fine artists are there to critique it and to make weird stuff and to sort of represent this other voice in culture. And so the artists say, "If AI represents a crisis, I'll critique it, I'll make a great oil painting about the machine, and I can sort of do my role in culture. I can critique it as an artist." My designers say, "Well, all day long, I get stuff from a client who says, turn this into an image, or turn this into a different kind of language." And they see themselves doing what these AI models do all day long. They get in a text prompt, whether it's an email or a brief from a client, and they say, "Make this into art." And that seems like what the AI models do. So it's a very different question for my designers when they say, "How am I going to be replaced in a practical, professional workflow?" My oil painters aren't concerned about that. Hernandez: Tell me one thing that excites you about AI in art. Smith: The boundaries about who counts as an artist. You certainly don't need to go to art school to count as an artist, but it used to be you need some kind of technical skill, you need some kind of physical ability to draw or to sculpt, and technology changes who counts as an artist, and who gets to make art. That happened with the camera, and AI is changing the amount of people in the world who think, "I can do art," and that's a very exciting prospect. Hernandez: All right, now tell me one thing that scares you about AI and art. Smith: Well, the great middle class of the art world is either artists working freelance for small contracts, or designers working in teams of five or ten, and that's going to disappear. Freelance artists who can get paid ten dollars to make a little doodle aren't in as high demand anymore because of AI. And a team of 10 designers working on a project together, a team of 2 or 3 people can do the same amount of work if they're powered by AI. So, we're gonna see, I fear, a sort of vanishing of a middle class of artists. An example of AI-generated art created by RISD lecturer Griffin Smith for his class. Credit: Griffin Smith Hernandez: What's your concern moving forward, you know, when it comes to how students will use the technology? But also, again, because we've also seen that, in some cases, copyrighted images are being used, or people are claiming that their images and work is being used, because AI doesn't know the difference. Smith: One of the big conversations both on campus today and in particular in this two-day conference we had is something called model collapse. Model collapse takes as its central concern this notion that we're filling up our academic journals, our research papers, and the internet in general with all this stuff written by bots. And even though GPT can write really convincing scientific papers and code and anything you might care to see, when you fill the internet up with all this GPT-generated stuff, you can't continue over the next couple years and decades to train new AI on these systems because if you look at the whole internet it's just a bunch of stuff AI wrote anyway. So you're not getting better data as you keep training on the internet and that is both a practical concern and an ethical constraint, right? If it's stealing from copyrighted materials and filling up the internet with things we're not sure if they're half copyrighted or how they're protected, the short answer is, the law doesn't have a clear decision right now, or it doesn't seem like it will any time soon, on how you can copyright these AI outputs. And so for my artists, they just want to critique the copyright system, comment on what a silly joke copyright is in the first place. Artists like to sort of poke fun at these questions of appropriation and commodification of art. So I think as the internet gets weirder and weirder and more and more full of AI-written stuff – and by the internet, I also mean these research papers and journal articles – we're going to have a real crisis of privacy and authorship as well. And it's more than just a legal question. It's an aesthetic and an artistic question of, well, what do we actually care about? And that's where artists come in. Hernandez: Fascinating. And a little bit frightening at the same time. Griffin, I really appreciate all the information and insight. Smith: Well, thanks so much for having me. It was a pleasure.

As AI evolves, what role will the technology play in the world of art and design?

Classic New England furniture gets a modern update at O&G Studio in Warren

O&G Studio is known for their modern approach to making furniture inspired by New England historical craft. Over the past 15 years, their work has earned the attention of publications like The New York Times, Architectural Digest, and Vogue. Jonathan Glatt is the studio's creative director and co-founder. Their factory in Warren is a classic old mill building once used for making zippers and Samsonite luggage. Glatt said he didn't set out to be a furniture maker, but studied jewelry and metalsmithing in college. "One summer I applied for an internship at Sotheby's in New York, hoping to be around metalworks, jewelry, silver, arms and armor," he said. "I got into the program, but they put me in the American Furniture Department, which I was peripherally interested in, but didn't really know a whole lot about." During that internship, Glatt saw thousands of pieces of antique furniture and learned from the top experts in American furniture history. "I got to learn a lot about furniture construction and then also a lot about seeing," he said. "With pieces that are good or great to the casual observer, a lot of times there's small differences, and the experts were really tuned into these small differences. And it was a real education in how small differences really made a big difference in the final effect." After the internship, Glatt returned to jewelry making. He opened a studio in Warren within the same building as Warren Chair Works, a company that specialized in traditional Windsor chairs, a style that began in 18th-century rural England and became popular in colonial America. "At the time I wasn't really finding a place where I wanted to be with jewelry and started doing larger metal work, which turned into furniture, which turned into much larger metal work," he said. "So from, you know, hardware up through architectural metal." In 2009, Glatt started O&G Studio along with co-founder Sara Ossana, moving away from jewelry entirely to focus exclusively on furniture – beginning with the Windsor chair. One of O&G Studio's Windsor chairs: Aquinnah Side Chair, Bayetta Stain on Ash Credit: courtesy O&G Studio "What makes a Windsor chair unique from other, the typical type of wood chairs is, you have a solid wood seat and everything is attached to the seat. Most chairs, the seat comes last. So the Windsor chair, you have the solid wood seat. It's carved from a big two-inch-thick board of wood. And then your legs, which are turned," Glatt said. "And then above the seat, you have very thin spindles that are all put in tension against each other by piercing through steam bend arms, or what we call a bow, which is the big bend part that forms the back of the chair. So there's a lot going on in a Windsor chair." You can find Windsor chairs in Independence Hall in Philadelphia and the Redwood Library and Athenaeum in Newport. "It's an amazing design object and a fairly unique one that developed to a really high level in this particular area of New England," Glatt said. "They combine material knowledge, tools, ergonomics, aesthetics, style. So it was an object that really combined all the things that make for an interesting design problem. ... It doesn't use a lot of material. It doesn't use a huge diversity of tools. And you build something that is greater than the sum of its parts." Jonathan Glatt on the factory floor at O&G Studio Credit: James Baumgartner / The Public's Radio On the factory floor, each piece of wood is carefully selected to avoid imperfections, and each chair assembled by a highly skilled team. The result is a simple, beautiful piece that looks contemporary yet classic. They're painted in bright colors and manage to look both delicate and sturdy. Most of the chairs are unadorned, but O&G has made a couple of chairs with a few extra flourishes, like a carved snake along the back, or hands at the ends of the chair's arms. "We have one palm that's open towards the sky and the other a fist that's wrapped around a small sparrow, and the palm is going to get little freshwater rice pearls and the sparrow has eyes that are two dark little garnets," Glatt said, describing one of their chairs. "What I love about them is from a distance, it looks like a regular chair. And then as you get close, you realize these little surprises." Detail of a Windsor chair from O&G Studio Credit: James Baumgartner / The Public's Radio O&G Studio has gone on to make cabinets, dining tables, beds, sofas and other furniture that match the design aesthetic of their chairs, but the Windsor chair still makes up more than half of their sales. Most of their work is in homes, but you can also see it in local offices, restaurants and places of worship like Touro Synagogue. "We build these pieces. They're meant to look good," Glatt said. "But they're meant to be, you know, intellectually intelligent, aesthetically beautiful, and they're built very carefully by people that really take pride in their craft. So I think there's a lot that you're getting beyond just something to sit on."

Classic New England furniture gets a modern update at O&G Studio in Warren

Printmaking conference brings pop-up gallery shows across the city including 'Show Me Your...

Gretchen Schermerhorn is the Executive Director of the SGCI – the organization putting on Verified by Proof. We're also joined by Eddy López and Miguel Aragón, curators for one of the pop-up exhibitions called "Show Me Your Papers / A Ver, Y Tus Papeles." Transcript This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Luis Hernandez: Gretchen, I'm going to start with you. Tell me a little bit about what's special about printmaking compared to other art forms. Why the focus on this? Gretchen Schermerhorn: Yeah, that's a great question. And I don't know about you guys, Eddy and Miguel, but I spend a lot of time explaining what printmaking is. It's a haptic physical experience. Sometimes it involves a press. Sometimes you're doing it by hand, but one of the coolest things, in my opinion, about prints and printmaking is that you have multiples, sometimes called an edition. I grew up as a painter, and I was turned on to printmaking in college, and it was like, oh my gosh, I can trade one with you, I can give one to my family, and so you have these multiple pieces of art that then again you can swap and trade, which makes that really fun. Hernandez: All right, Eddy, Miguel, I wanted to ask you because you've curated one of the pop up exhibitions. It's called "Show Me Your Papers," or "Haver Y Tus Papeles," which will be at the Public Shop and Gallery. Eddy, I'll start with you. Tell me a little bit about what this exhibit is and what you have there. Eddy López: The exhibition was born out of interactions with Miguel across different SGCIs, where we're like, we should collaborate on stuff because, our work kind of deals with certain similar topics. I'm an immigrant from Nicaragua. Miguel is an immigrant from Mexico and we're both printmakers. So we're like, is there a way to put together a show that is of course about printmaking, "show me your papers" is of course about showing printmaking, most printmaking happens on papers. But it's also about the experience of an immigrant, right? When they hit up against either a border or a customs place where their papers are asked to be shown. Could we use that printmaking as a way to subvert that process? Because for many immigrants, that can be a really arduous process, right? You know, some people don't have papers to be verified by. I came as an undocumented immigrant, so that idea of using printmaking to wrestle with that process for immigrants who come here I think it for me was key to to do this and Miguel was was a great partner in that, Miguel Aragón: And for me, reading that title of the exhibition, just immediately because of my immigrant background and also knowing Eddy's immigrant background, I told him this is like perfect for creating this conversation about immigration. And then we are obviously at a time where immigration is on top of everybody's head, because everything that's happening, not only on the Mexican U.S. border, but just basically everywhere in the world where all these people are being displaced and being pushed into other countries and just unknown status essentially. So there was something that really kind of shocked me this past summer when Texas decided to put some really big, large orange buoys on the Rio Grande. And then I started following the story and looking at the pictures of those buoys. And so I made a piece specifically about that. Where in my piece, the buoy is overtaking most of the composition. It's almost like a looming sort of sun within the piece. It's approached in a very graphic way. So there's very simplified geometric shapes. But basically trying to bring the viewer into an understanding that these things are beautiful in a visual way, but at the same time, they are something that are killing people. Endangering lives, pretty much anybody who could get in contact with those. Hernandez: I mean, going through some of your work, you look at some very violent moments. And I just wondered like for you, just briefly, what is it you're trying to get me to feel and see, mostly? Aragón: I am trying to humanize what is happening to people around the border. And so I'm trying to, for everybody to slow down from the, you know, hectic daily life. And to just understand that just because you are not necessarily connected directly to these people. We are still all humans and we all are still sharing this world and we all want to have the same quality of life and happiness. Hernandez: Eddy, for you, tell me about one of the pieces you want to, you would like to discuss. "Pedestrian Entry" by Eddy López, one of the featured works in the pop-up gallery exhibition "Show Me Your Papers / A Ver, Y Tus Papeles" Credit: Eddy López López: So of my work, the pieces that I'll have at the exhibition have to do with a series I started about two years ago. My sister shared with me my asylum papers from back in the eighties. And I went through those, I was a kid, so I don't remember this stuff. And just seeing the language of the "war refugee" and all of the processing and the bureaucratic nature of the papers. I felt like I needed to make work that responded to that. So I have a small artist book there that shows some samples from my book: my papers, my papeles. And then it has photographs juxtaposed of the border as well, and you can open it, close it, the idea of the bureaucracy and the whole apparatus of allowing immigrants into the country. Hernandez: This is a big topic, the issue of immigration as we're coming to our election this November, but what do you want people to think about when they see your work on this topic? López: I mean, I'm going to echo what Miguel said, because he said it beautifully: We're humans, and a number of immigrants coming to the border are humans in need. And I think that the best thing we can do is respond as human beings and try to find connections there because we share, it's a shared experience, living on this planet and our humanity. So if we can center that, I think if I can help people center that idea, I think then I think my work would have been, it's been worth it. Hernandez: I know there's a lot going on, Gretchen, but if you could give me the brief rundown of what we can expect for the person going, what they're going to be able to experience. Schermerhorn: Yeah, the Open Portfolio, I like to think of it as the best art swap you've ever been to, like a swap meet for printmakers. So artists each get one table. They can give away work, they can barter work, they can sell work. I think it's my favorite part of the conference because you go in there at one o'clock and you see a whole selection of prints and artists and talk to them you come back at three o'clock and you'll see a totally different selection. but it's not to be missed. That's Thursday, April 4th, 12:45 to 5:30 at the convention center. And that's free and open to the public. But it's not to be missed. That's something that's a big fan favorite of the conference. Hernandez: Gretchen Schermerhorn is the Executive Director of the SGCI, the organization putting on Verified by Proof. It's a conference in Providence this week dedicated to the art and practice of printmaking, graphics, and small scale publishing. We also heard from artists Eddy López and Miguel Aragón, the curators for one of the pop up exhibitions. That one is called "Show Me Your Papers / A Ver, Y Tus Papeles."

Printmaking conference brings pop-up gallery shows across the city including 'Show Me Your...

Studio Session: Keith McCurdy of "gothic folk" band Vudu Sister

Keith McCurdy is the songwriter, singer and guitarist for Vudu Sister, a Providence-based band that includes a rotating cast of other musicians on violin, cello, bass and more. Drawing influence from ghost stories and the macabre, they describe their music as "Gothic Folk." McCurdy says another big influence on their sound is the 90s "MTV Unplugged" series – in particular, Nirvana's legendary set. The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity. Transcript: Keith McCurdy: I was very young. Nirvana was my first, the first band I ever fell in love with. My father was a young guy. He was a bass player. He was very much into the music at the time, and a lot of new wave and post-punk in the 80s. He was a Gen Xer, and he sort of tailored my tastes, if you'll say. And I'd already really started to like Nirvana, even as a young child, when they were on TV and stuff. And I had the tapes, and a Sony Sport Walkman. When the "Unplugged" [album] came out, it showed me that a heavy band like Nirvana could also strip down and play really intimate, but still manage to be powerful and heavy. And then of course they had a cello in there, and there's candles, there's flowers, there's a sort of gossamer femininity to it. But also there's this real weight to the music and the aesthetic and everything that really spoke to me and always sort of stayed with me in my mind over the years. James Baumgartner: You had an EP recently that was in Latin and ancient Greek. That's a little bit out there. What inspired that decision? McCurdy: I went back to college, later in life, around 28, 29. And I decided to major in classics as well as English literature. I went to URI, and I had a wonderful mentor, Dr. Daniel Carpenter, that sort of helped guide me with my project. But as soon as I started learning Latin and Greek, the first instinct I had was, well, first let me try to write a poem, and then I'm going to try to write songs in these languages, because I think that would be a wonderful challenge, and it was. Baumgartner: The album, "Burnt Offerings" – can you tell me about one of the songs in particular, what's a song that stands out to you? McCurdy: Well, one that people seem to like too, and it's one of our favorites to play, is "Credite Mihi." And it means "Believe Me." And it's told from a perspective of this woman, Cassandra, who was very famously known as being this character that was gifted with foresight from the god Apollo. But she was also cursed that she would never be believed. And there's a lot we can play with that thematically and interpretively, particularly with modern audiences and a lot of, like the #MeToo movement and stuff. Mythically she sort of exists as a conduit of fate or destiny. And that's a big theme in classical myth about people trying to deny their destiny or avert it or somehow. But yeah, so I'm singing as her in that song, telling her story, her side, as well as I can. [Music: "Credite Mihi"] Baumgartner: Where does the interest in the macabre, the darker sounds, the darker themes come from? McCurdy: Well there's a lot of areas, there's a lot of places that comes from, but I think primarily I'm mostly just interested in uncomfortable realities that you have to confront as a human. And I think that there's always a time and place for these things, but that was the whole point of tragedy in the ancient world. For example, it's for catharsis, catharsis meaning a purgation or a purification of the soul. And you know, going to the theater, for example, was a religious experience, it wasn't just entertainment. It was competition, it was entertainment, but it also served as a religious function. So I find something very spiritually cleansing about confronting these realities that, maybe not every single one are you going to experience, but you're going to experience some of it that's not going to be comfortable. It's not going to be pleasant. And I think art is the one of the best ways to deal with some of those things. And, you know, also I love horror movies. I love horror and I love ghost stories. I love Edgar Allan Poe. There's something sort of darkly romantic about those things. And I try to capture a little bit of that, since I'll have a song where it'll sound pretty, but it's about something very disgusting or macabre or something, you know, like a grave robber's song or something. Keith McCurdy Credit: J.P.N. Baumgartner: What stands out to you about the local music scene here? McCurdy: There's a lot of diversity in sound, I think. I think people are starting to get better about mixed-genre shows. That's a big one for me. I don't think you should just have like, oh, it's an all-metal night. I think it's good to have a mix. For example, we play often at the Scurvy Dog's parking lot shows, which are a lot of fun. They're free, and Jamie, the owner, does a great job of really mixing it up. And we've done great by being sandwiched between two really loud, heavy, dark bands. And then you have us, and you know, we've got Diane [O'Connor] on the violin and myself. They're still heavy songs, they're just sonically, you know, it's acoustic. So that's really worked out well for us, and I think I'd like to see more of that. Baumgartner: And you have a new album coming out soon? McCurdy: Yes, most of the songs are pretty much fully finished in terms of writing, but we're just rehearsing them and we're gonna be tracking this year. My aim for this album is to be heavier and darker, and I started exploring like a baritone guitar, and I tuned my acoustic guitar a full step down, and we're exploring different tones. Thematically, though, I did start out with some ideas, but honestly, the last two albums I had done, I consider to be concept albums. "Burnt Offerings," obviously, it's got a concept to it. And the other one before it, "Mortis Nervosa," was loosely inspired by old ghost stories. And speaking of that, I largely depersonalized a lot of my music over the years because I think it can be very taxing to do that over and over and over again. You have this very sensitive material that's like coming from a very real place, and it can be painful. And there's something really rewarding about that, but then if you keep doing it over and over again, I think it cheapens the sensitivity of that. So I largely de-personalize a lot of my music. But this is actually the first one where I started to explore that realm again, where some of the songs are actually fairly intimate to my own experiences. Baumgartner: What are some of the personal experiences that you're exploring there? McCurdy: Well, I wrote this one song, I actually wrote it while I was in Sicily a few years ago, called "Having Trouble Sleeping." And it was like the first song I had written that was really deeply personal for me, and it really deals with themes of finding a new life somewhere else, and finding peace somewhere else, like far away from your own home, and wanting to forget that life and create a new one. So that was something I was dealing with at the time. [Music: "Having Trouble Sleeping"] You can see Vudu Sister on March 29 at Long Live Beerworks in Providence and on April 6 at The Upside Bar in Warren. You can find their music at vudusister.bandcamp.com. For The Public's Radio, I'm James Baumgartner.

Adoption, belonging, and finding your pack in 'Wolf Play' at Wilbury Theatre

"Wolf Play" opens Thursday night at the Wilbury Theatre Group. Written by Hansul Jung, the play is about a 6-year-old boy who was adopted from Korea by a family in Arizona who decide to rehome him after they give birth to a child. The play begins as the child, Wolf, arrives at his new home and meets his new parents, Robin and Ash. Robin has desperately wanted to be a mother for a while, and she turns to internet message boards. This part of the play is inspired by real-life cases of American parents going to Yahoo and Facebook message boards to privately rehome unwanted children, the majority of which are international adoptees. Although the original adoptive family call him "Pete Junior," the child's Korean name is Jeenu. He's played by an adult actor controlling a puppet the size of a 6-year-old. Marcel Mascaró is the director for this production at the Wilbury. "To me, the reason why there's a puppet in this play is because that's how people are treating Jeenu," Mascaró said. "That's how people are treating this adopted 6-year-old child. A puppet to me is something that we put an image on, that we put our impressions on, and we make in our own image to control them as much as possible." The puppet has no facial features, and is covered in matte black fabric tape. Sara States portrays Wolf and controls the Jeenu puppet. "Jeenu's very playful, and his limbs move and head moves to respond to people," States said. "I think the idea is that it's not like so polished, this puppet. It's got a sort of rough-around-the-edges look to it and I think that's the intention here, is that this is just a plaything in a way and it's not made to resemble a real 6-year-old human child." Jeff Ararat as Peter, Sara States as Wolf (background: Teddy Lytle as Ryan) in "Wolf Play" at Wilbury Theatre Group Credit: Erin X. Smithers courtesy Wilbury Theatre Group Despite the rough and blank nature of the puppet, he's handled with great emotional dexterity by States as the puppet reacts to the adults who are controlling his life. Shunted from family to family, it's no surprise that a 6-year-old would take on the characteristics of a wolf, howling, growling and swiping with his paws. "I think it's a coping mechanism," States says. "Something a child might do or a person might do to deal with trauma, or when things are above them or can't be controlled. Or also just taking on the persona of a wolf, an animal that's able to survive and adapt to anywhere. It's all about finding a pack. And I mean, from my experience as an adoptee, finding your pack can be really hard, you know. I'm Korean and I have caucasian parents here in the States. And I went to school in a very white school, a very white town. And so I think finding my pack was something that didn't happen right away. It's just a theme that I'm thinking about a lot and like, these aren't bad people and they do make up a wolf pack of sorts. They're kind of like outsiders, oddballs themselves." While Robin has been hoping for a child for years, her partner Ash is more reluctant, and is disturbed by the idea of finding a child from a shady internet message board in what is not exactly a legal adoption. Ash is a bit of a fictional trope: the tough boxer with the tender soul. But Ash is also non-binary, transmasculine and training to fight a cisgender man for their first professional bout. As States sees it, they're an outsider like Wolf. "Ash early on in the play sort of sees through the puppet in a moment and makes direct eye contact with Wolf," States said. "So I think both characters to me are the most alike, in that they have the most to overcome or the most to, you know, find self or something like this. And so I think they see each other in a way. Mascaró summarized the play: "For everyone else except Wolf, it's about broken people desperately searching for their pack in a sea and in a dam of miscommunication. And for Wolf, it's about a child, lost, searching desperately for his own family, in a whole dam of miscommunication." "Wolf Play" runs at The Wilbury Theatre Group March 21 – April 7.

Adoption, belonging, and finding your pack in 'Wolf Play' at Wilbury Theatre

James Beard semifinalist Sky Kim brings locally-inspired Korean cuisine to Providence

The dining room at Gift Horse is decorated in light wood tones with a large bar in the middle showcasing a selection of raw shellfish on ice. Located in downtown Providence, the restaurant's menu focuses on raw seafood, custom cocktails and a selection of Korean-inspired dishes like a Bulgogi Burger and Pajeon. I met chef Sky Kim in the dining room on a recent afternoon, where she told me she draws much of her inspiration as a cook from her upbringing in Korea. "In my family, we did a lot of ceremonies for our ancestors, which involves a lot of cooking. My grandma was really into cooking, like, fermenting, that kind of stuff. ... I have three sisters, but one of them is super lazy, and the second one is super young. ... So basically, they kind of forced me to cooking with her when I was young because I'm the only one who's doing stuff, you know, helping [with] stuff. When I was young, I was, like, super chubby. And I loved eating, you know, that kind of, made me want to cook because I loved eating so much. I loved my grandma's food. I wanted to learn what she does." When she was 18, Kim started a career as a food stylist, designing fake food for photo shoots. A mentor recognized that she had a talent for it, but said Kim could only truly succeed if she knew how to cook. So Kim signed up for a three-week cooking school in Italy, where she was in the kitchen for more than 10 hours a day. "It was really physically hard and like mentally hard thing to do because I never actually professionally did that in a school," she said. "So at the end of the day, we make everything and then chef tastes what we make that day. He pointed at me, like, 'she needs to be a cook, her food is better than the others.' After I heard that, I feel like everything has changed. After I went to Italy, I didn't know how much I enjoy it. That after I cook and I serve to someone and that person enjoying that food – it just made me so happy and I realized how much I love this." Diners at the bar at Gift Horse. Credit: Catherine Dzilenski / Courtesy Gift Horse Shortly after the cooking school in Italy, Kim came to Providence to train as an intern at Birch, a now-closed tiny restaurant that specialized in New American cuisine. It was owned by Ben Sukle, who now owns Gift Horse as well as Oberlin, the restaurant next door. Sukle told me about when Kim first worked with him at Birch. "There was a group of interns we had at the time," he said. "And one was very overconfident. And he was very confident and cocky, and Sky cut him down at his knees right then and there, and it was incredible to watch. I'm Sky's biggest fan, next to her husband Chris. Immensely talented, absolute ball buster. I'm very lucky to work alongside Sky." After a couple of years at Birch, Kim went on to work in restaurants in New York City and Portland, Oregon until she had the opportunity to come back to Providence to work with Sukle at Oberlin. And when Sukle made plans to open a raw bar in Providence, he knew he wanted Sky Kim to be the chef. I asked Sukle what sets her cooking apart. "The confidence Sky exudes when she's cooking is unlike anything I've ever seen," he said. "It's literally in her blood, in her DNA from her upbringing, and you can really tell. And you can tell when she's actually, her thoughts, now seeing them on the plates with her own dishes and her own creations to me is the full circle moment I've always wanted to have. Kim told me that the inspiration for many of her dishes comes from her grandmother's cooking that she learned as a child. "Sometimes I'm making something, it's made me just happy," she said. "The smell is like, oh my God, does it smell like my grandma's food right now?" Chef Sky Kim prepares Hae Muchim, one of the signature dishes at Gift Horse: Credit: James Baumgartner / The Public's Radio One of those dishes is Hae Muchim, which translates to raw, mixed fish. The version Kim serves at Gift Horse is inspired by her grandmother, but with a focus on the local, seasonal ingredients available in New England: a combination of sweet potato, apple, fluke, cabbage, and Gift Horse gochujang. The dish is a delicate arrangement of thinly sliced goodies, giving you a distinct array of tastes and textures that work in perfect harmony. It's like eating a piece of music, with each ingredient filling in part of the sound spectrum. The sweet potato and sesame oil are like strong bass notes, with the cabbage as the mid-range and the sweetness of the apple and the spice of the gochujang as the high notes. And then flitting in between it all is the subtle melody of the raw fluke. Kim told me that it's similar to what her grandmother made, but not exactly like it. "So what I do here, I twist a little bit, but I don't touch the base," she explained. "If I touch the base, it's gonna ruin the whole thing." I asked Kim what it feels like to be a national semifinalist for "Best Emerging Chef."She told me that on the day of the announcements, her husband wouldn't let her touch her phone for hours. "I was like, what's going on? What's happening right now?" she said. "And then I opened the whole thing and I saw my name in the James Beard list and I almost cried. When I started my career as a chef, I never thought that I was ever going to get nominated. I never imagined myself, my name on James Beard. It's just like, it's so meaningful for me. It's an honor and I can't still believe that I got nominated." The other James Beard Award semifinalists from Rhode Island include Tuxpan Taqueria, Giusto, Courtland Club, and Bywater, as well as chefs from Foglia, Jahunger, Dolores, Newport Vineyards and Yagi Noodles. Final nominees will be announced April 3, and the ceremony takes place in Chicago on June 10.

James Beard semifinalist Sky Kim brings locally-inspired Korean cuisine to Providence