Meet Karen Harris



Karen Drysdale Harris is a Jamaican-born watercolorist and oil painter based in Rhode Island. She attended Rhode Island School of Design where she earned her BFA. Karen attended I-Park Foundation’s artist residency. Was published in RISD’s XYZ Magazine. And most recently Harris has had recent solo exhibitions at Suon Gallery, AS220, BankRI Turks Head Gallery, and Johnson Wales University Bridge Center Gallery along with multiple group shows throughout Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Karen is currently the Internship Manager at Rhode Island School of Design- but is also a graphic designer, jewelry designer, has dyed yarn and worked for printing presses…. last but not least KAREN IS A BOARD MEMBER OF THE STEEL YARD!

SY: Hello Karen! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

Not sure where to start…as an artist? or RISD person?

SY: How about what pronouns do you use? 

She / her /hers

SY: Where are you from?

 I am from Jamaica

SY: Can you tell us about your awesome full-time gig? 

I am RISD’s Internship Manager and Career advisor. I work with students, employers, and companies identifying opportunities for student artists that match up with employer desires! I also research and look for these opportunities. I work with the whole RISD population… RISD has close 500 internships per year and they all funnel through me, Internships are all over the world and country so I work very closely with our Office of International Student Services.

SY: Can you tell us a little a bit about your role on the Board. How long have you been a member? 

One year 

Do you have a specific role? 

I am on the Governance and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion committees and also freelance into the financials. I’m enjoying learning more about grants and fundraising.

 What does this mean to you? 

I am a cheerleader and I truly like people. I get the chance to work with others who are on the front line of effectively making changes, honor their hard work and set standards for the community’s future.

I am passionate about the voice of inclusion in all situations. I hope that I can always see the blindspots and honor the hard work of the staff.

SY: We get this question a lot… how would YOU define Industrial Arts?

 As a form of making that uses industrial tools such as welding, jewelry making, and ceramics. Some time ago these were practical skills that had good-paying salaries but had limited accessibly to all.

SY: What are you working on these days?

My fulltime work is keeping me extremely busy during the COVID19. But I find hope when hope feels lost. Student internships are being canceled and students cannot find work or finish their projects. Lately, it’s important that I stay positive and sensitive. So I’ve been thinking a lot about community- and how community holds us up during uncertain times like this. For our students, that is reminding them that Career Services is still there for them during this time.

SY: What’s your inspiration?

My inspiration is to stay calm and carry on. (My husband says this a lot) I am also very excited for it to get warm again.

SY: Can you tell us a little bit about your artistic practice?

I am a painter. My artistic practice is incredibly personal. It’s really about nature and my memories. My community advocacy is informed by my past. I am an immigrant, I’ve learned to speak a different way. My art reflects my experience, my childhood, and all of the things that I went and go through. I have a show coming up in May in two weeks. Here’s the link to the gallery.

SY: How did you find The Steel Yard? 

I have been connected to TSY when it first started. I would invite TSY to participate in Career events or programs.

 What were you doing before you joined The Steel Yard Board?

I was on the board for I-Park Foundation! (SY: That’s an understatement, read her bio!)

SY: Have you ever taken a Steel Yard course?

 No, I have not but I am looking forward to it when we reopen.

SY: Have you ever attended a Steel Yard event? Can you tell us about your experience? 

YES!!! Very enchanting, exciting and warm!

SY: What do you like to do in your free time? 

I spend as much time as I can in my studio practice

SY: We talk a lot about ‘Yardies’ here- curious, what does YARDIE mean you to?

Being a part of a really cool forward-thinking group.

SY: What are you MOST excited for this upcoming year? 

I am most excited to do my best to stay positive and to listen with deep empathy and care during this time.

SY: What do you think will be your greatest CHALLENGE?

Having enough time to make things perfect!


SY: Favorite food? 

I am an active grazer so most meals are in small amounts…snacks… almonds.

SY: Favorite movie?

Movies are incredibly intense for me. If its too sad, too scary, too romantic, too anything- I sit on the end chair so I can run out of the theatre. I made my husband watch Trolls last week.

SY: Favorite book? 

The Secret Life of Bees

SY: Favorite artist/maker? 

Many of the classics watercolors like Turner, Rosetti, etc…Georgia Okeeffe, Tom Sgouros, Enrique Martínez Celaya, most recent Tomoko Kawao and  Rebecca Louis Law

SY: What skill would you like to master?

 I’d love to answer fundraising-it’s one Id like to, as well as grant writing. As far as making, I’m always working on how I look at things.

SY: Favorite tool in the shop? 

Not sure yet

SY: Annnnnnnd finally, is there anything else you’d like the Yardie community to know about you? 

I am passionate about inclusion and access to the arts. I also, just want us all to stay involved and stay hopeful AND POSITIVE! We can do this.

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