Education and academic career
She began her undergraduate degree at Rhode Island School of Design in photography, but switched her focus, and received her BFA in Industrial Design in 1976. After graduation, Somerson worked as a correspondent for Fine Woodworking magazine. She also assisted with former professor and mentor Tage Frid's three part book series "Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking" for Taunton Press. Somerson taught with the Harvard Extension School from 1977-1978, and joined the RISD faculty in 1985. From 1985-1995 she ran the MFA Graduate Program in Furniture Design in the Industrial Design Department. In 1995, Somerson led the creation of the Furniture Design Department, and headed the department from 1995–2005, and from 2008-2011. She served as RISD's Interim Associate Provost for Academic Affairs from 2005-2007 and as Provost from 2011-2013. She became Interim President effective January 1, 2014.
Rosanne Somerson has maintained a professional studio practice, Rosanne Somerson Furniture, since 1979 designing and building furniture for exhibition and by commission. Her current studio is located in Fall River, MA. within Smokestack Studios. Somerson is known primarily for one-of-a-kind and custom work, but is also a partner in DEZCO llc, a small-scale production furniture company which focuses on environmentally responsible and design conscious production furniture.
- Smithsonian American Art Museum.
- Renwick Collection, National Museum of American Art, Washington DC
- Brockton Art Museum, Fuller Memorial, Brockton MA
- Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA
- Yale University Art Galler, New Haven CT
- RISD Museum, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence RI
- Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville AL
- Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton MA
Awards, distinctions, and notable achievements
- 2012 Award of Distinction for Lifetime Achievement, The Furniture Society
- 2009 Named Fellow, American Craft Council, New York, NY
- 2002 National Distinguished Educator Award, James Renwick Alliance, Smithsonian Inst., Wash, DC
- 2001 First Place, Centennial Arts & Crafts Exhibition, Providence Art Club, Providence, RI
- 1996 Faculty Development Grant, RISD
- 1995 Faculty Development Grant, RISD
- 1990 Faculty Development Grant, RISD
- 1988 Visual Artist Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts
- 1988 Finalist in Crafts, Massachusetts Arts Fellowship
- 1987 Grand Prize, American Craft Awards Competition, The Guild, also Westport Arts Council Grant
- 1984 Visual Artist Fellowship - National Endowment for the Arts
- 1984 WBZ Arts Grant, Fund for the Arts
- 1984 New Works Grant - Mass Council on Arts & Humanities to Brockton Art Museum
- 1983 Award of Outstanding Achievement, Women in Design International Competition
- 1983 Artist Residency, Artpark
- 1979 Honorable Mention, Containers, Danforth Museum
- 1976 First Place, New England Winner Student Design Competition
- 1975 First Place, New England Regional Winner, "NHFL Craft/Design Competition"
- 1974 Scholarship, Edinburgh Arts '74, Completed Traditional Coopering Apprenticeship, Markinch Distillery, Scotland
- "When She Was Bad...". Search Collections. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 16 January 2013.