Rhode Island School of Design

The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD /ˈrɪzd/) is a private art and design school in Providence, Rhode Island. The school was founded as a coeducational institution in 1877 by Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf, who sought to increase the accessibility of design education to women.[3] Today, RISD offers bachelor's and master's degree programs across 19 majors and enrolls approximately 2,000 undergraduate and 500 graduate students.[2] The Rhode Island School of Design Museum—which house's the school's art and design collections—is one of the largest college art museums in the United States.[4]

Rhode Island School of Design
Rhode Island School of Design seal.svg
TypePrivate art and design school
Established1877; 144 years ago (1877)
Academic affiliations
AICAD, Space-grant
Endowment$347.7 million (2020)[1]
PresidentRosanne Somerson
Academic staff
181 full-time
421 part-time (2018-19)[2]
Students2,501 (2019-20)[2]
Undergraduates2,009 (2019-20)[2]
Postgraduates492 (2019-20)[2]
Location, ,
United States
13 acres (53,000 m2)
MascotScrotie (unofficial)
RISD short wordmark.svg

The Rhode Island School of Design is affiliated with Brown University, with which it shares a contiguous campus on Providence's College Hill. The two institutions share social and community resources and since 1900 have permitted cross-registration.[5][6] Together, RISD and Brown offer dual degree programs at the graduate and undergraduate levels.


Founding of the schoolEdit

The Venetian Renaissance Waterman Building (1893) was the first permanent home for the school

The Rhode Island School of Design's founding is often traced back to Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf's 1876 visit to the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. At the exposition, Metcalf visited the Women's Pavilion. Organized by the "Centennial Women," the pavilion showcased the work of female entrepreneurs, artists, and designers.[7][8] Metcalf's visit to the pavilion profoundly impacted her and motivated her to address a deficiency in design education accessible to women.

Following the exhibition, the RI committee of the Centennial Women had $1,675 remaining in funds; the group spent some time negotiating how best to use the surplus.[9] Metcalf lobbied the group to use the money to establish a coeducational, design school in Providence. On January 11, 1877, a majority of women on the committee voted for Metcalf's proposal.[8]

The 1885 Dr. George W. Carr House houses a student cafe and lounge

On March 22, 1877, the Rhode Island General Assembly ratified "An Act to Incorporate the Rhode Island School of Design", "[f]or the purpose of aiding in the cultivation of the arts of design". Over the next 129 years, the following original by-laws set forth these following primary objectives:[10]

The Rhode Island Hospital Trust Building houses dormitories and the school's Fleet Library
  1. The instruction of artisans in drawing, painting, modeling, and designing, that they may successfully apply the principles of Art to the requirements of trade and manufacture.
  2. The systematic training of students in the practice of Art, in order that they may understand its principles, give instruction to others, or become artists.
  3. The general advancement of public Art Education, by the exhibition of works of Art and of Art school studies, and by lectures on Art.

Metcalf directed the school until her death in 1895. Her daughter, Eliza Greene Metcalf Radeke, then took over until her own death in 1931.[11]


The school opened in October 1877 in Providence. The first class consisted of 43 students, the majority of whom were women.[8][12]

For the first 15 years of its existence, RISD occupied a suite of six rooms on the fourth floor of the Hoppin Homestead Building in Downtown Providence. On October 24, 1893, the school dedicated a new brick building at 11 Waterman Street on College Hill. Designed by Hoppin, Reid & Hoppin, this building served as the first permanent home for the school.[13]


After the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent closure of the RISD campus in March 2020,[14] RISD suggested a future of a hybrid of classes online and in-person.[15]

In July 2020, President Somerson began negotiations with the RISD faculty union over the avoidance of possible layoffs by suggesting cost-cutting measures.[16] The part-time faculty union, the National Education Association rejected the initial proposal.[16]

Racial diversity and equityEdit

In the summer of 2020, after the Black Lives Matter and George Floyd protests, RISD students and alumni came forward to voice outrage at the institution for failing at social equity and inclusion.[17][18] They formed a student-led RISD Anti-Racism Coalition (ARC) alongside BIPOC faculty.[17][18] As a result, in July 2020, RISD announced they would hire 10 new faculty members that would specialize in "race and ethnicity in arts and design", the RISD museum would return to Nigeria a sculpture that was once looted, expand and diversify the curriculum, and the school would, "remain committed to reform".[17][19]


Dave Proulx 2021[20] – present (interim president)
Rosanne Somerson 2015–2021[21]
John Maeda 2008–2013
E. Roger Mandle 1993–2008
Louis A. Fazzano 1992–1993 (interim president)
Thomas F. Schutte 1983–1992
Lee Hall 1976–1983
Talbot Rantoul 1969–1976
Donald M. Lay, Jr. 1968–1969 (interim president)
Albert Bush-Brown 1962–1968
John R. Frazier 1955–1962
Max W. Sullivan 1947–1955
Helen Metcalf Danforth 1931–1947
Eliza Greene Metcalf Radeke 1913–1931
Isaac Comstock Bates 1907–1913
William Carey Poland 1896–1907
Herbert Warren Ladd 1891–1896
Alfred Henry Littlefield June 11–27, 1890 (resigned)
Royal Chapin Taft 1888–1890
Claudius Buchanan Farnsworth 1877–1888

Rankings and admissionEdit

In 2014, U.S. News & World Report ranked RISD first amongst Fine Arts programs.[22] In 2021, RISD was ranked 4th by the QS World University Rankings of Art & Design programs.[23] The school's undergraduate architecture program ranked 6 in DesignIntelligence's ranking of the Top Architecture Schools in the US for 2019.[24] In 2018, the institution was also named among Forbes’ America's Top Colleges[25] and the Chronicle of Higher Education's Top Producers of US Fulbright Scholars.[26]

RISD's 2020 acceptance rate for admission applications received in the fall of 2020 was 20%.[27] In August of 2019, the school announced it would be adopting a test-optional policy for admissions.[28]

RISD MuseumEdit

The RISD Museum houses the school's collections of art
The Chace Center contains both exhibition and studio space

The RISD Museum was founded in 1877 on the belief that art, artists, and the institutions that support them play pivotal roles in promoting broad civic engagement and creating more open societies. With a permanent collection numbering approximately 100,000 works, the RISD museum and is the third largest art museum attached to an educational facility.[29][30]


RISD has many athletic clubs and teams.[31] As might be considered fitting for an arts school, the symbolism used for the teams is unique. The hockey team is called the "Nads", and their cheer is "Go Nads!"[32] The logo for the Nads features a horizontal hockey stick with two non-descript circles at the end of the stick's handle.

The basketball team is known simply as the "Balls", and their slogan is, "When the heat is on, the Balls stick together."[32][33] The Balls' logo consists of two balls next to one another in an irregularly shaped net.[34]

Lest the sexual innuendo of these team names and logos be lost or dismissed, the 2001 creation of the school's mascot, Scrotie, ended any ambiguity. Despite the name, Scrotie is not merely a representation of a scrotum, but is a 7-foot tall penis,[35] with scrotum and testes at the bottom.[36] In 2016, the school reported that the 2009 incarnation of the mascot had been deemed not appropriate for younger fans, and so the mascot would return to its earlier, "more cartoonish" appearance.[37]

Notable peopleEdit


Notable RISD alumni in the fine arts Kara Walker (MFA 1994),[38] Jenny Holzer (MFA 1977),[39] Dale Chihuly (MFA 1968),[40] Nicole Eisenman (BFA 1987),[41] Do-Ho Suh (BFA 1994),[42] Julie Mehretu (MFA 1997),[43] and Janine Antoni (M.F.A 1989) Graduates in photography include Francesca Woodman (BFA 1978),[44] Deana Lawson (MFA 2004),[45] and Todd Hido.[46]

Among the school's alumni in illustration are Brian Selznick (BFA 1988),[47] Chris Van Allsburg (MA 1975), Roz Chast (BFA 1977), and David Macaulay (BArch 1969).[48]

Alumni in graphic design include Shepard Fairey (BFA 1992)[49] Tobias Frere-Jones (BFA 1992).[50] Among the alumni of the school's architecture department are Hashim Sarkis (BArch 1987)[51] Deborah Berke (BFA 1975, BArch 1977),[52] Preston Scott Cohen (BArch 1983),[53] and Nader Tehrani (BArch 1986).[54]

Prominent RISD graduates in film and television include James Franco (MFA 2012),[55] Seth MacFarlane (BFA 1996),[56] Jemima Kirke (BFA 2008),[57] Bryan Konietzko (BFA 1998), Michael Dante DiMartino (BFA 1996), Gus Van Sant (BFA 1975),[58] and Robert Richardson (BFA 1979).[59]

Among the school's alumni in business are Airbnb co-founders Joe Gebbia (BFA 2004) and Brian Chesky (BFA 2004).[60][61]

Graduates in music include bassist Syd Butler (BFA 1996) and the three founding members of Talking Heads: David Byrne, Tina Weymouth (BFA 1974), and Chris Frantz (BFA 1974).[62]


Notable RISD faculty include photographers Diane Arbus and Aaron Siskind,[63] sculptor Simone Leigh,[64] architect Friedrich St. Florian,[65] designer Victor Papanek,[66] and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri.[67]


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2020. U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2020 Endowment Market Value and Change in Endowment Market Value from FY19 to FY20 (Report). National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA. February 19, 2021. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e "About". Rhode Island School of Design. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  3. ^ "RHODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF DESIGN". Supply Rhode Island.
  4. ^ Ganesh, Preeti (2020-01-30). "RISD Museum collection expands with 33 gifted works from collectors". Brown Daily Herald. Retrieved 2021-05-02.
  5. ^ University, Brown (1900). Annual Report of the President to the Corporation of Brown University.
  6. ^ "RISD + Brown".
  7. ^ Austin, Nancy. "Towards a Genealogy of Visual Culture at the Rhode Island School of Design, 1875–1900". Dissertation, Brown University. Ann Arbor: ProQuest/UMI, 2009. (Publication No. 3370099.)
  8. ^ a b c Grzyb, Frank L.; DeSimone, Russell J. (2014-07-22). Remarkable Women of Rhode Island. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-1-62585-069-0.
  9. ^ Austin, Nancy. "What a Beginning is Worth". Infinite Radius. Ed. Dawn Barrett and Andrew Martinez. (Providence: Rhode Island School of Design, 2008) 170–196.
  10. ^ Austin, Nancy. "No Honors to Divide". Infinite Radius. Ed. Dawn Barrett and Andrew Martinez. (Providence: Rhode Island School of Design, 2008) 197–217.
  11. ^ Kirk, Laura Meade (2004-03-21). "From bonnets to baccalaureates". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
  12. ^ Austin, Nancy. "Chapter 3: A Place for Design: RISD at the Hoppin Homestead, 1878-1893". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. ^ "Infinite Radius: Founding Rhode Island School of Design | Archives | Rhode Island School of Design". digitalcommons.risd.edu. Retrieved 2020-09-29.
  14. ^ Borg, Linda (March 16, 2020). "RISD becoming blank canvas as students leave". ProvidenceJournal.com. Retrieved 2020-07-06.
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  16. ^ a b Borg, Linda (July 1, 2020). "RISD president: 'We are continuing to have conversations to avoid layoffs'". ProvidenceJournal.com. Retrieved 2020-07-06.
  17. ^ a b c Fitzpatrick, Edward (July 21, 2020). "Responding to activism, RISD is hiring faculty, boosting diversity, returning looted artifacts". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2020-08-10.
  18. ^ a b "Rhode Island School of Design releases open letter promising social equity action". The Architect’s Newspaper. 2020-07-27. Retrieved 2020-08-10.
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  20. ^ Poitras, Nicole (May 19, 2021). "Dave Proulx named as RISD interim president". ABC 6.
  21. ^ Nesi, Ted (June 25, 2021). "RISD president, soon to retire, reflects on 7-year tenure". WPRI.com.
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  23. ^ "QS World University Rankings by Subject 2019 - Art & Design". QS World University Rankings. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  24. ^ "The Best Architecture Schools in the U.S. 2019". 3 September 2016.
  25. ^ "Forbes - America's Top Colleges".
  26. ^ "Brown, RISD again among top Fulbright producers". Providence Business News. February 21, 2018.
  27. ^ "Rhode Island School of Design - About". risd.edu. Retrieved 2021-05-23.
  28. ^ Borg, Linda. "RISD to drop SAT, ACT as admissions requirements". providencejournal.com. Retrieved 2021-01-30.
  29. ^ Ganesh, Preeti (2020-01-30). "RISD Museum collection expands with 33 gifted works from collectors". Brown Daily Herald. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  30. ^ Stamp, Elizabeth. "The Best University Art Museums in America". Architectural Digest. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  31. ^ "RISD Clubs and Organizations".
  32. ^ a b "10 Weirdest College Mascots - RISD mascot, university mascot".
  33. ^ Zeigler, Cyd (11 July 2012). "Rhode Island School of Design students love their Nads and Balls". Outsports.
  34. ^ Molinari, Jessica. "Scrotie The Penis & More Wacky College Mascots". Bustle.
  35. ^ "The Story Of Scrotie, The College Sports Mascot Who Was A Dick And Balls". 22 September 2016.
  36. ^ "Scrotie Responds to Hands-on Attention". www.risd.edu.
  37. ^ "A Costume Change for Scrotie". Our RISD.
  38. ^ "Kara Walker | Biography, Art, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-09-14.
  39. ^ Jenny Holzer Tate Collection, London.
  40. ^ "Dale Chihuly to open RISD Museum". Providence Daily Dose. 2007-12-28. Retrieved 2020-09-14.
  41. ^ "Biography of Nicole Eisenman - Susanne Vielmetter, Los Angeles Projects". vielmetter.com. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  42. ^ "Do Ho Suh - Artists - Lehmann Maupin". www.lehmannmaupin.com. Retrieved 2019-03-21.
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  48. ^ "The Way Macaulay Thinks". www.risd.edu. Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  49. ^ List, Madeleine. "Providence welcomes back renowned street artist Shepard Fairey". providencejournal.com. Retrieved 2020-09-14.
  50. ^ Consuegra, David (2011-10-10). Classic Typefaces: American Type and Type Designers. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-62153-582-9.
  51. ^ "Hashim Sarkis named curator of 2020 Venice Biennale Architecture Exhibition". MIT News | Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
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  55. ^ Ellin, Abby (2012-04-13). "Failure Is Not an Option". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  56. ^ Lenburg, Jeff (2006). Who's who in Animated Cartoons: An International Guide to Film & Television's Award-winning and Legendary Animators. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1-55783-671-7.
  57. ^ Laster, Paul (2017-12-12). "Jemima Kirke, Painter of Brides, Thinks There's One Good Excuse to Get Married". Garage. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  58. ^ "Filmmaker Gus Van Sant has always been a painter at heart". Time Out New York. Retrieved 2020-09-14.
  59. ^ "Interview with Robert Richardson, ASC". Global Cinematography Institute. Retrieved 2020-09-14.
  60. ^ "Forbes Billionaires 2020". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-09-14.
  61. ^ Busulwa, Richard; Birdthistle, Naomi; Dunn, Steve (2020-01-29). Startup Accelerators: A Field Guide. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-119-63859-9.
  62. ^ Cutler, Jacqueline. "Talking Heads drummer doesn't miss a beat chronicling a life in rock and roll". nydailynews.com. Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  63. ^ "Diane Arbus". International Center of Photography. 2019-03-17. Retrieved 2021-01-30.
  64. ^ "No Fear of Failure". Our RISD. Retrieved 2021-01-30.
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  66. ^ "Victor Papanek". Oxford Reference. Retrieved 2021-03-18.
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External linksEdit

Coordinates: 41°49′33″N 71°24′28″W / 41.82583°N 71.40778°W / 41.82583; -71.40778