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Nadine Zaza ’12 Builds Her Dreams at RISD

Nadine Zaza ’12 is only in her second year at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence, but her excitement about design and her passion for art are rapidly growing with each stroke of her brush.

The architecture major is loving every bit of the rigorous program at RISD, from the intense five-hour long studio sessions to liberal arts classes to community service opportunities outside the classroom.

“I’ve always wanted to go to RISD, ever since the eighth grade,” she said. “Art school is different. You’re held to a higher standard . . . you’re pushed to think more conceptually.”

But for Nadine, there’s more to design school than just learning how to build flashy structures; it also provides a means to address social and political issues through art.

Inspired by the artists who have emerged from the Middle East during its most turbulent times and the impact they’ve made – expressive graffiti in Egypt during the Arab Spring, Palestinian poetry that came out of the Palestine-Israel conflict and the effect of media and photography are just a few examples – Nadine hopes to represent the Arab world with her own creations someday.

“Art can change people’s minds,” said Nadine, who also serves as an executive member of Global Initiatives, a cultural club recently established at RISD aimed at bringing awareness on issues outside “the bubble of the studio.”

Nadine helps run the Middle Eastern part of the club in which students engage in intercultural dialogue while enjoying traditional Arab cuisine, an experience that tantalizes both taste buds and minds.

While she has kept busy immersing herself in new experiences – a collection of her artwork was recently selected to be showcased at RISD’s accreditation exhibition (for its architecture program) and she has plans to cross-register at Brown University – Nadine has also remained faithful to activities near and dear to her heart, chiefly community service.

“At King’s I was very involved in community service, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to function in any university without doing community service there as well,” she said.

In addition to working at a local children’s museum as an exhibit educator, Nadine tutors the daughter of a local Jordanian family in Arabic and spent her spring break working with incarcerated youth in New York City. She will also be returning to Jordan this summer to participate, once again, in King’s Summer Enrichment Program (SEP).

Nadine, who is minoring in Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies, also credits King’s for inspiring her to use her talent to benefit others, and she aspires to work as an architect with people and programs that serve the community.

“Sustainability is the way of the future, and I really want to take advantage of that,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever make a skyscraper but ask me to build a refugee camp . . . I’d rather do that.”

As every artist has a muse, for Nadine memories of home (Jordan) are what help her forge ahead.

“I’ve created about 100 drawings of the abraj (towers) in Amman all from memory,” she said. “[The towers] are a prominent work but they remain unfinished. They serve as a reminder for me that whatever I do in my work or in life, I can’t just leave it and forget about it. I don’t want to be unfinished.”

Art school for Nadine is as challenging as it is rewarding and while there’s still a long way to go, she looks forward to continuing the journey she’s embarked on and she thanks King’s for helping pave the way.

“King’s isn’t an art school but I had the keys to the art room. That trust they gave me, letting me do whatever I wanted . . . I’m living my dream and I couldn’t have done it without King’s.”