Audrey Mae SpencerSpencer Historical CemeteryHenry Straight / William Spencer Family Cemetery
Vaughn Historical CemeterySpencers of East Greenwich, RI
Life as a RISD Student
10 July 2002

Heather: How did it happen that you decided to go to the R.I. School of Design?

Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI

Audrey: Maisie Kenyon said to me “Let’s go to the School of Design. They have free scholarships.” She was a beautiful girl; she was nice to me. She flunked after the first session! She married Art Harpen and that put her out of my category; the minute she married Harpen, she was out of my class. She didn’t want me to visit her.

10 July 2002

Heather: Was it difficult leaving R.I.S.D. after attending for three years?

Heather Dale MacDonald



Audrey: I enjoyed having Spen so much…

When you were born, I argued with the Doctor, I said “no no”, it can’t be a girl born on the 9th! All the males in my family were born on the 9th. Dad’s the 9th; Spencer’s the 9th; Douglas’ the 9th!

10 July 2002

Heather: Sorry about that, Mother. (Laughter)

Crystal Gay MacDonald



Audrey: Oh, but I loved all my babies! … Crystal couldn’t wait to get up and get into mischief…

30 October 2002

Heather: Mother, where did you keep all your artistic work from RISD and the large rolled up diploma from West Warwick high school all those years?

Audrey Mae Spencer R.I.S.D. Student


Audrey: I had two black cases to put things in. The smaller pieces went in the smaller case and I slipped both cases under my bed. The big papers that couldn’t be folded were put in the larger black case. The painted fruit on the oil canvas, we hung up.

Oil Painting,Drape,Pitcher Apple and Bowl

30 October 2002

Heather: How did you get to the School of Design in Providence from Coventry? After all, those were the Great Depression Years.

Audrey: I went (both ways) on the train.  We would get off the train and walk to school. We would cross over the bridge that was right before the School of Design. We went to the edge and there was a door there to go in the School of Design.  On my way home to the train, I would buy an apple for five cents from a handsome young man standing there selling apples.

I’ll never forget the time, Maisie and I walked home from the School of Design. We did it! We went along. We tried it!*

*The distance between RISD and 742 Washington Street in Coventry, R.I. where Audrey lived was around 15 miles.
10 April 2004

Heather: What do you have the artistic display stand opened to?

Audrey: The painting of the blue teapot and the pink rose.  Elise Gardner was the teacher when I painted the teapot and pink rose (watercolor).  She kept one picture of every artist that she had as a student.  She would have Exhibitions of Elise Gardner’s Student Artists.  She asked me if she could keep my drawing of a calf.  Of course, I said yes.

I had drawn a calf from the farm. I remember my father was standing there. The calf was sleeping, a little calf, all curled up and sleeps.  She liked my calf because it was different.  It was different because as a farmer then there were no artists.  Everybody (students at RISD) was from Providence. There were no farmers there.  They were all from Providence.  The little calf was just lying there. Grandpa was there looking at the calf.

10 April 2004

Heather: Did you draw Grampa (William J.B. Spencer) also?

Audrey: No, I just drew the calf, but I remember Grandpa just standing there looking at the little calf.  I wonder what has become of Miss Gardner’s exhibitions (that had) the work of all her students. Of course, she is dead now as she was older when I was a student.

3 July 2004

Heather: What was your favorite food as a child’?

Audrey: Macarone and Cheese! Grandma made it in the oven. And, of course, Jonnie cakes! (While a student at RISD), I took my lunch and drink from home. I was never much of an eater.


17 July 2004

Heather: Did you travel much as a child or a young adult?

Audrey: (As a child) East Greenwich, West Warwick and West Greenwich. As a young adult, I went to Providence.

Maisie said let’s go the Statehouse. At the Statehouse they had (on the wall) all these places to go. (We went) in an office and they told us what to do. Maisie said “Let’s go there (RISD)”. You could go the first year whether you had talent or not.

I could see Maisie work was not good. Her stuff was so terrible. I felt so bad for her, but I couldn’t help her and I couldn’t tell her. She did the best she could. Nobody complained. The second year her name wasn’t there on the list. I stayed there and that was it.


17 July 2004

Heather: Did you miss Maisie?

Audrey: Yes. I liked Maisie. We had a lot of fun. …