“The Room of Silence,” is a short documentary about race, identity and marginalization at the Rhode Island School of Design. Based on interviews conducted by myself and the campus organization Black Artists and Designers, this film contains well under a third of the stories we collected in March 2016, and an unknown fraction of the stories belonging to students we didn’t have a chance to meet with.
This video is meant to serve as a discussion tool and testimony on behalf of the growing student activist movement on our campus, and around the country. The video has been shown at faculty and departmental meetings, and its release online marks the next step in exposing these issues and fostering dialogue between students and school.
There are a lot of issues present in the extremely intersectional problem this video is attempting to tackle: issues that cannot and should not be simplified down and crammed into twenty minutes. Please consider this the first entry in a necessary conversation.
My senior year at RISD, I collaborated with the student group Black Artists and Designers (B.A.A.D.) to document the difficulties faced by students of color at predominantly white art schools.
We released “The Room of Silence” to the community on social media. It spread across campus in a matter of minutes, raising support for a rally scheduled two days later ("Not Your Token”), and attracting the attention of local newspapers. It began a dialogue about race where previously there had only been frustrating silence. However, reports from students and faculty currently at RISD indicate that the school has taken no concrete steps to act on student demands.
While I am responsible for shooting, cutting and hosting “The Room of Silence,” this project was fundamentally a collaboration. None of this would have been possible without the efforts of Olivia Stephens, Utē Petit, Chantal Feitosa, and the student organizers at B.A.A.D. You can listen to Chantal and I discuss the origins and impact of the project in Episode 676 of Bad at Sports, which was recorded live at Hauser & Wirth in Chelsea, NYC, on January 18, 2019.
Online, the film spread virally, and has been screened and included in curricula at art institutes for higher learning nationally and internationally, including University of the Arts London, MassArt, SAIC, and MICA. It has shown as part of national conferences on art and pedagogy, most recently the AICAD Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Convening in November 2018, where the film was seen by faculty and students from over 30 schools.
Screening and reproduction of this film is free of charge. However, if you were moved by the piece or found it helpful, please consider compensating the organizers of “Not Your Token,” without whom this project would not exist:
Olivia Stephens, Venmo: @Olivia-Stephens-1
Utē Petit, Venmo: @BabeTone
Chantal Feitosa, Venmo: @cfeitosa
If attributing the work, please acknowledge the efforts of both B.A.A.D. and the organizers, in addition to myself. For example:
“The Room of Silence,” 2016, dir. Eloise Sherrid, in collaboration with co-producers Olivia Stephens, Utē Petit, and Chantal Feitosa, and the organizing efforts of the student group Black Artists and Designers.”