Alumni Rachelle Beaudoin sends her best via the RISD D+M listserv:
May 18, 2012
Dear James Franco,
I am writing this letter to you as an alum of RISD D+M, as I reflect on my time at D+M, now five years ago, and on your impending graduation. A lot has changed in the program since I finished (do they still us the +? ) Well, I will use it throughout this letter in deference to Bill Seaman.
Perhaps this is odd, because we have never met, but there are so many things that I wish for you as you graduate that I felt I needed to share them with you. I suppose I could have tried to email you privately but I guessed that wouldn’t have worked. I figured that you would have some special email address or would not use the RISD Gmail to avoid getting random emails like this one.
It is my assumption that school is like this for you. I believe people tell you they are treating you normally, and they tell you that everything is the same for you as is it for others, but really there are many accommodations that need to be made for you or that have been made. It reminds me of an experience from undergraduate school at Holy Cross, when this 7’6” basketball player Neil Fingleton transferred in. Basically, we all just tried desperately to treat him normally and pretend that he wasn’t 7’6” and not to stare. However, when I saw him getting into a modified Volkswagen Golf, I couldn’t help but call my friends to come gawk at this man. He also was given a special longer bed. To make matters worse, he couldn’t run the offense. I believe he is trying to break into acting now. So, as I said, people probably try to act cool around you but that is not my thing. I love awkwardness so I will not try to be cool or to pretend that I have ever been cool. I can feel some former classmates of mine cringing as we speak.
Let me also say that I consider this a piece because I will be printing it out and showing it to people. Yes, I just said that this email is my art. For a six-month period last spring I wrote 24 letters to Vito Acconci about our relationship and connection to each other, which basically consists of going to the same undergraduate school (the afore mentioned Holy Cross.) I wrote about art, my life, and I may have mentioned you in one of the letters after the Oscars. He never responded. If I had Bruce Nauman’s address I would write him letters too. Someone once told me I was like a young female Bruce Nauman but they said my work reminded them of that piece when he installs a fence post for, like, an hour. So I didn’t really know whether or not it was compliment or rather like saying “Your work is like watching someone else do yard work on video.” Once, along with another woman, I fictionally married Cory Arcangel. So you can see a theme developing.
I was also inspired to write this letter because I have seen several articles that you have written for Huff Po while in New Orleans. Although these were pleasant enough, I was amazed you could write something other than your thesis at this time. As I was writing this letter (yes I actually wrote it over several days and slept on it before sending it out) you wrote yet another piece regarding commencement addresses. That is great because it fits the tone of my letter quite well. Also, people are really remarkably mean to you in the comments. I hope my tone is softer and you can see my intentions are good.
Because you are doing so much, I became concerned that you weren’t getting the full D+M experience—from hanging out in the cubicles, down to the arbitrarily long thesis that seeks to make sure that everyone knows Digital+Media kids are, in fact, smarter than painters. Now, I can’t speak to your time management skills or your experience, but the HuffPo articles mention a lady named Nana who does your hair. So I concede that our realities are quite different. Our experiences of the program will be vastly different partly because so much has changed in the past five years. Despite all that has changed there are certain things that represent a D+M education to me.
So, James Franco, here are my hopes and dreams for you as you graduate with a D+M degree from RISD:
I hope that you used words like “unpack” “juxtapose” and “hyper-(insert word here.)
I hope that you stop using those words the minute you leave school.
I hope that you bought a used three-speed Huffy during your second year only to realize that riding it home to Hope Street was nearly impossible.
I hope you knew the sheer joy and God-like sensation of getting an LED to blink with an Arduino.
I hope you know the crushing defeat of your project literally not working, as in failing to turn on, failing to video track, play a sound or whatever inane thing you spent 4 months programming it to do.
I hope this happened during a final critique.
I hope that you took a class with Paul Badger and that he assigned an electro-BDSM book as required reading.
I hope you went to a Nads game, if only to cheer “Go Nads” and then leave.
I hope that you got to meet Bill Seaman.
I hope that your class had at least one Korean woman who consistently made more interesting projects than you because she consistently worked harder than you and is most likely smarter than you.
I hope that some crazy ass (but relatively small) catastrophe happened while you were at art school like a mercury spill or a fire to remind you that know matter how important you think you and your “work” are other things are happening in the world.
I hope you have come to appreciate the dry wit and resourcefulness of Ms. Sue Mazzucco.
I hope that you went to Lorraine Fabrics, the RI Recycling Center for education or some other local gem like the office furniture store to get supplies for your work.
I hope that while finishing your written thesis that you slept so little and ate so poorly that your skin turned slightly green.
I hope that you met a RISD undergrad and their talent frightened you.
I hope that if someone told you that your project was a non-starter, no matter how “important” that person was, you told him to fuck off and did the project anyway.
I hope you took a wood shop class with Tucker. (I didn’t and I wake up each morning with filled with regret.)
I hope that you went to the hot shop since the guys there are generally attractive and wear chaps (which somehow turns a generally attractive person in a more attractive person.)
I hope that someone dropped out or got kicked out of the program. True, it sucks for them, but it shows we have standards and we kinda had a thing going.
I hope that you got to know your classmates well, so well, that when one of them has a baby, (yes, they will have babies) you will actually want to meet said baby.
I hope that you danced… in the “lounge” area in the studio late night at something that may or may not still be called “Tomahawk.”
James, the next few years will be tough. Many people who graduated from the program go through intense stages of rage, depression, withdrawal and eventual acceptance. You may find some bitter alum out there, but not I. I have come to realize the most important part of your MFA is the people you meet and connections you make. That being said, you may think that opportunities will come your way simply because you have a degree from RISD. That is not the case. Don’t despair. I suggest finding another outlet to pour some of your energy into like home canning, restoring old canoes, or learning how to hem your own pants. I suggest getting a dog. I have attached several pictures of my dog Theo as a reference since he is the perfect size and is a good example of a cute rescue dog.
Difficult financial times may also lie ahead. Although I did not have to go on food stamps as some newly minted PhD’s do, this was simply because I got married and got insurance. That being said, teaching adjunct is one possible method to make a living but you will not really make enough to live on unless you teach over 5 classes a semester and then you are not really living. You may have to make decisions in support of your art that no logical person would consider rational or good choices. For example, if you asked Suze Orman, should I pay my own way to London to do an 8-minute performance as my alter ego giving herself a bikini wax in front of a live audience? She’d say no. But I would say, “Do it.” Perhaps someone will see your bare ass, like your work, and give you another opportunity.
Finally, as I said before, you should value the friendships, connections and people you’ve met at RISD most. Working with them makes you better. Thinking about successful D+M people and projects, I always come back to collaboration. The ideas get vetted, each person’s talents serve a unique role and the overall piece is stronger. I wish you the best of luck in the future and I hope you have a restful and productive summer.
P.S. I realize I may be banned from the listserv for this email but that is a risk I am willing to take.