1966: Half a Century ago… graduating from RISD – Rhode Island School of Design

by Alden Cole on June 8, 2016 · 0 comments

1966-RISDGraduation72It’s Cap and Gown time of year again, and this morning I reflected on the fact that 50 years ago – a half-century – on 3 June 1966 – a Friday that year as well – I graduated from RISD with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Apparel Design. And it’s been an uphill climb ever since. I served a couple years in the Air Force, then headed to NYC, full of expectation laced with a little fear and trepidation (I hadn’t reached the “fear and loathing” part yet). My career on 7th Avenue was brief, necessitating some reassessment of life skills as well as goals, which led me into a career as a fashion illustrator instead of designer, which led into a career as a graphic designer, which led me into a career as an advertising production artist, and beyond. But at the time these photos were taken, all those life changes were still an unwritten chapter just waiting to happen in the future.

1966AC&JD@72For now I was a starry-eyed, scared-shitless, student wondering what the hell I was going to do with my life when I grew up. And at the time, despite turning twenty-two in mid-June of that year, I felt anything but grown-up. Little did I know it was going to be a long haul to maturity. At
1966VIvienJannsen&ACWPleft, a snapshot from earlier that year in which friend Joyce Conlon Dunn comforts me into gleefully posing for the camera (presumably operated by Joyce’s roommate, Judy Goodwin) and not worrying about the future, which will take care of itself, as they say. Tippling a bit to celebrate
1966RISD-TABweekendWPour upcoming freedom? most likely. Certainly it looks that way in the next two photos taken at RISD’s Take-A-Break Weekend, an annual February event designed to revitalize students caught in the winter doldrums. Seen above with Vivian Janssen, it
1966DualPortrait-MichaelCoxGSWPwas my first time in formal attire, which did not become a habit. Nor did dating Vivian, or anyone else for that matter. But that’s another story. In the second photo, Vivian and I are joined by Amy van Gilder, who was also a fashion major, a year behind me, and Henry ??, a visiting Argentinean friend of Michael Cox, the student
1966-PortraitbyMCoxWPphotographer of the black & white photos at left. It was my first time ‘being photographed’ semi-professionally, with the intent to arrive at a senior portrait to share with the family. Didn’t everyone have formal graduation portraits taken for family and
1966-MargueritePendergast&ACWPposterity? Mine proved to be hardly formal, but I convinced myself that the plan was what mattered. Being photographed was an interesting process that brought up certain issues of being ill-at-ease in front of a camera, issues which are better understood now, than when the photos were taken. For an optional composition, Michael paired me up with Marguerite Prendergast, another Maine-iac, who grew up in Kennebunkport. My final solution for a senior portrait for the folks was to take two of Michael’s photos of me sitting on the granite steps close to my apartment, then splice them together as seen above, a very Gemini kind of thing to do. Had I had Photoshop at the time, I could have done a seamless job. But that digital revolution was almost another thirty years in the future.

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