|17th President of the Rhode Island School of Design|
February 18, 2015
Interim: January 1, 2014 – February 18, 2015
|Preceded by||John Maeda|
June 21, 1954 |
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Occupation||Woodworker, furniture designer, educator|
Rosanne Somerson (born June 21, 1954) is an American born woodworker, furniture designer/maker, educator, and current President of Rhode Island School of Design. Long known as a leader in the studio furniture field, she has also earned a growing reputation as a visionary leader in art and design education.
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, as Provost from 2011-2013 and as Interim President from 2014-2015. The RISD Board of Trustees appointed her the college's 17th president in February 18, 2015.
Barely two months after Somerson was named as RISD's 17th President, the RISD community was faced with a strike. 44 technicians, who bridge technical and theoretical practice at RISD, first went on strike on April 2, 2015. The Administration claimed that an impasse has been reached, ending negotiations with the Technical Association. Somerson led a town hall meeting with the student body on Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 that attempted to clarify issues at hand, although a large portion of the student body continues to stand with the Technical Association. The Technical Association remained on strike in order to reopen negotiations between the Union and the administration. Through picketing and letter writing, many students have voiced their support for the RISD Technical Association. On April 6, over 900 students rallied in support of the staff, just after President Rosanne Somerson and Houlihan, president of the RISD Technical Association, signed an agreement. Although the school administration eventually has agreed to a new contract after a five-day technician strike, the whole event has created an enormous amount of unrest within the student population. Press coverage has included interviews and articles in WJAR, Artforum, The Providence Journal, GoLocalProv, and RI Future.org. 
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 Gallery, 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.
- "Rosanne Somerson | President | About | RISD". www.risd.edu. Retrieved 2015-06-29.
- "Details About RISD’s Negotiations with the RISD Technical Association". RISD Academic Affairs. Retrieved 4 Apr 2015.
- "Just the Facts... From the Technicians Union". the risd technical association. Retrieved 4 Apr 2015.
- "Unionized technicians settle with RISD". WJAR NBC 10. Retrieved 7 Apr 2015.
- "RISD Technicians Union on Strike". Artforum Magazine. Retrieved 4 Apr 2015.
- "RISD Technicians on Strike". the Providence Journal. Retrieved 4 Apr 2015.
- "RISD Techs Hold Protest Over School’s Refusal to Negotiate". GoLocalProv. Retrieved 4 Apr 2015.
- "Photos from the RISD art studio technician strike". RI Future.org. Retrieved 4 Apr 2015.
- RISD's 17th President
- NBC 10: "Unionized technicians settle with RISD"
- Artforum: "RISD Technicians Union on Strike"
- New York Times: "Rosanne Somerson Named RISD President"
- Huffington Post: "At RISD, an Artisan Who's Now President"
- Disegno: "Interview: Rosanne Somerson becomes president of RISD"
- Core 77: "RISD Welcomes a New President"
- ARTINFO: "Rosanne Somerson Officially Appointed RISD President"
- New York Times: "It’s Empty at the Top"
- Disegno: "Rosanne Somerson on the challenges of design education"
- Providence Business News: "Design is a critical element to manufacturing innovation"