Graciela Batista 24 IL
May 2024

Into the Community

Graciela Batista 24 IL connects with artists of all ages through volunteer work and internships. 

When Graciela Batista 24 IL was in high school, she took art classes and followed the lead of her teacher, who encouraged her to experiment with painting, drawing and collage. She attended a pre-college art program and enjoyed it, but still had doubts. Was she an artist, or simply a person who liked to draw? 

“When I was accepted to RISD, it was extremely validating. I was like, ‘Wait a damn minute! Maybe I can be an artist.’ The fact that RISD saw something in me gave me the push I needed,” she says. 

Her decision to major in Illustration was motivated by her desire to write and illustrate Spanish-language children’s books, something she felt was lacking in her childhood. Born in Chicago, Batista spent most of her childhood in Orlando before moving to Puerto Rico at age 10. 

Batista, who receives scholarship support, realized there might be a different path to her goals after an internship at a publishing company. “I realized that when I thought of children’s books, what I really wanted was connection with my community,” she says. 

“It was fun to work with kids and share what I’ve learned at RISD. . . And through ¡CityArts!, I’ve met many super cool Providence artists and been able to see how people actually live and make art here.”
Graciela Batista 24 IL

Remembering her move, Batista says, “I refused to speak Spanish for two years. I hated it. But then, it started to feel really important to be from Puerto Rico and I realized it was unfair to myself to neglect my heritage.” 

She adds, “I always felt I had a home in the States and moving back for school felt right. Here, I can really connect with both cultures and inform others about how Puerto Rico shaped my being and personality.” 

Batista found the ability to connect with people in courses that allowed her to design for hypothetical community solutions and another that focused on woodworking and building toys. She designed the program for Super Art Sunday, an annual RISD Museum event that hosts art-making activities for children and their families, free of charge. 

Through internships and volunteer positions, Batista has worked with local artists and community members in Providence and farther afield. The summer after completing her freshman year, Batista began volunteering with ¡CityArts!, an organization that provides free in-school, after-school and summer arts education to Providence students ages eight to fourteen. She loved it so much she was able to secure a work study position to continue on through her sophomore year. “It was fun to work with kids and share what I’ve learned at RISD,” she says. “It also gave me a community that I didn’t have on College Hill; I was able to connect with Puerto Rican and Dominican kids and really feel like I was giving back. And through ¡CityArts!, I’ve met many super cool Providence artists and been able to see how people actually live and make art here.” 

Batista has also worked with Project Open Door, a RISD program that provides free programming to Rhode Island teens in underserved communities, and with RISD Art Circle, a group of young artists who promote community collaborations and hands-on activities in the museum’s galleries. In spring 2024, Batista taught a creative writing class with Project Open Door. 

Batista also completed an internship at 826LA, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center with chapters across the country, with the support of a Maharam STEAM Fellowship in Applied Art and Design. 

The fellowship program supports RISD students pursuing work that advances sustainability and social justice. 

She says, “826LA hosts a two-week summer camp for teens and I got to be there as they planned the curriculum and recruited, welcomed and taught students. It was awesome. And it feels really important. When you work with kids, you can make a difference in their lives.” 

Reflecting on being accepted to RISD and receiving a scholarship, Batista says that those things were a bit of a surprise. They made her reconsider her assessment of her own talent and ability to excel as an artist. But receiving the Maharam STEAM Fellowship felt different. That, she says, felt just right. 

“I’ve continuously demonstrated my interest in working with nonprofits and it was special to me that RISD recognized that commitment,” she says. “I’m proud to share my community work because I want to push more people to consider it. This work is important for our communities and for our artistic practice—it both grounds us and keeps us going.” 

Graciela Batista 24 IL

To learn more about supporting scholarships and fellowships at RISD, contact Vice President of Institutional Advancement Amanda Clark MacMullan at 401 454-6532 or