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The Gordon School

The Britt Nelson Visiting Artist program

This program brings professional artists into Gordon’s classrooms. Students work alongside these artists, who lead them through projects that mirror the process of the artist’s own work. While learning new skills, students draw larger lessons from these professionals, individuals who have found a way to stay engaged in the arts, and in the world of ideas, throughout their adult lives.

As part of the residency, each visiting artist gives a presentation to all three divisions of the school. These presentations are open, so that parents, alumni and the general public can share the Gordon students’ experience.

The Britt Nelson Fund was established in 1996 in memory of Britt Nelson, the mother of three Gordon students and wife of a Gordon graduate. Income from this fund provides for an annual visiting artist, giving Gordon students an opportunity to immerse themselves in one of Britt’s quiet passions: the creative world of self-expression. The fund also provides for two annual faculty travel grants.


The twenty-fourth Britt Nelson Visiting Artist is Jazzmen Lee-Johnson

above: Ms. Lee-Johnson in class with Gordon sixth graders

Gordon is thrilled to welcome Jazzmen Lee-Johnson this year as the Britt Nelson Visiting Artist. She will be on campus this spring, working with students and drawing on her rich background in printmaking, painting, and textiles as well as performance and music.

This was the twenty-fourth residency sponsored by the Britt Nelson Fund, which was established in 1998 to support Gordon's commitment to hands-on art education.

Lee-Johnson is based in Rhode Island, with strong connection with present-day communities and deep roots in local history. She recently served as the 2020 Artist Fellow at the RISD Museum, creating work in response to the collection, and she has been a a Public History of Slavery Fellow at Brown University Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, a music mentor to teens at New Urban Arts and the inaugural Artist in Residence at the Rhode Island Department of Health utilizing the arts to confront health disparities and shape health equity. 

Her recent projects include a commission as the inaugural Fitt Resident artist at the Nightingale Brown House, reimagining the problematic historic wallpaper Vues d’Amérique du Nord, and a permanent installation for the Joshua Hempsted House—a historic house museum in New London—where Joshua Hempsted kept an extensive diary of Adam Jackson, an enslaved Black man who lived in the attic of the house and worked for and alongside Mr. Hempsted.

Her work can be explored at

The twenty-fifth Britt Nelson Visiting Artist is Rena X Rong

In the winter and spring of 2023, Gordon students will work with sculptor Rena X Rong on a collaborative project to be permanently installed at Gordon. Rong’s visit is coordinated in partnership with the Steel Yard, a public-access industrial arts center in the Valley neighborhood of Providence. 

Rong works in metal, ceramics and furniture, with a vision that is rooted deep in two-dimensional drawing. More on her work at Her visit will include hands-on demonstrations of the Steel Yard’s plasma cutter and their portable blacksmith set.

The residency will produce two metal collages, each approximately nine square feet, as well as three mobiles and a painted steel mural to hang in the Well, a three-story common space in the Gordon Middle School. The work will include designs from first to eighth graders, each remixed in an iterative process that will include every student’s ideas while allowing those ideas to evolve in parallel to the entire project.

Since 1998

Since its founding, the Britt Nelson Fund has brought the following artists to Gordon’s classrooms:

1998 Painter Melissa Miller
1999 Glass artist Ursula Huth
2000 Storyteller and illustrator Baba Wagué Diakité
2001 Architect Roddy Langmuir
2002 Textile artist Jeung Hwa Park
2003 Sculptor Allison Newsome
2004 Sculptor Kitty Wales
more about the 2004 program
2005 Photographer Marian Roth 
more about the 2005 program
2006 Puppeteers Dusan Petran and Aniece Novak
2007 Designer Gunnel Sahlin
2008 Painter and printmaker Joseph Norman
2009 Sculptor Ben Anderson
Illustrator Amy Bartlett Wright
Illustrator Julie Ann Collier
more about the 2009 program
2010 Illustrator Bert Kitchen
featured in this video 
2012 Metalworker Jim Reynolds
2013 Bookmaker Rebecca Goodale
more about the 2013 program
2014 Ceramicist Seth Rainville
more about the 2014 program
2015 Animator Hayley Morris
more about the 2015 program
2016 Textile artist Hiroko Harada
more about the 2016 program
2017 Designer Gunnel Sahlin
more about the 2017 program
2018 Textile artist Brooke Erin Goldstein
more about the 2018 program
2019 Goldsmith Steven Lubecki
more about the 2019 program