Born in Providence, Rhode Island, John Dunnigan earned a B.A. degree in English literature in 1972 at the University of Rhode Island and an M.F.A. in furniture design in 1980 at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied with Tage Frid. Dunnigan was a part-time instructor of furniture design from 1980 to 1996, when he became a full-time professor in the school's newly established Department of Furniture Design.
Dunnigan's refined and elegantly crafted studio furniture has been inspired by seventeenth-and eighteenth-century American pieces. His work displays a sensitivity to the wood he scuplts for his furniture, which is embellished with beautifully upholstered fabrics or inlaid wood.
Dunnigan was the recipient of two awards from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts in 1990 and 1994.
Kenneth R. Trapp and Howard Risatti Skilled Work: American Craft in the Renwick Gallery (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998)