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RISD’s studio environment fosters curiosity, flexibility, empathy, imagination and expansive thinking. Passionate about their work, students devote a lot of time to pushing the limits of their own expectations and inspiring each other in the studio. RISD’s culture of critique is based on constructive and mutually supportive conversations, with students, faculty and staff interacting with openness, good faith and respect for individual differences.

Core values inform our work

Since its founding in 1877, RISD has consistently upheld its mission to educate the public about the vital role of art and design in society. Today, the RISD community remains committed to the belief that the arts and design are essential to human progress, well-being and the innovation needed to transform life in the 21st century.

Regardless of the discipline, certain core values and principles drive the work produced in both fine arts and design studios at RISD. Among these are:


Creative practice at RISD entails a strong connection between the hand, the mind and the heart. This critical approach to making demands clear conceptual thinking, along with the skills and craftsmanship to translate ideas into beautifully executed work.


Recognizing that everything an artist or designer makes impacts the planet in one way or another, RISD continues a long tradition of materials research and exploration in support of sustainable making and environmental advocacy.


No one at RISD makes work in a vacuum. Students and faculty share a commitment to contributing to the greater good, both through their studio work and engagement with their communities. An understanding of social responsibility and public engagement informs all work produced in RISD studios.


Although most people don’t readily speak of art schools in the same breath as research universities, in-depth research has always been essential to the development of new ideas, processes, materials and solutions—all aspects of what goes on in RISD studios. Growing recognition for the type of research artists and designers pursue is leading to interesting new partnerships between RISD and a wide range of organizations.


The ideas-driven critical thinking and making inherent to a RISD education is a natural starting point for entrepreneurial pursuits. As students learn to develop their ideas into tangible objects, systems, services and more, they often choose to capitalize on this way of thinking after graduation, whether they’re setting up self-sustaining studio practices or launching interesting startups—often creating satisfying jobs in entirely new fields.

Research, collaboration and cross-disciplinary conversation

RISD actively engages with the larger world through projects that integrate core educational experiences with global environmental, social, civic and business needs. Forward-leaning corporate, government, foundation and nonprofit partners recognize that art and design are central to innovation and that cross-disciplinary investigation and conversation provide fertile ground for engagement.

This often takes the form of a sponsored studio in which students come together from a single discipline or many to consider a specific question and wrestle with a challenge through hands-on research and experimentation. Rather than generate the next iteration of a product or refine existing ideas, RISD students and faculty harness their collective creativity to suggest alternative ways of approaching problems and discovering innovative ideas.

In addition, the RISD Research team provides students, faculty and staff with resources to help develop their ideas into fundable projects and guide them through a successful and insightful research process. Through these projects—whether undertaken individually, through small teams or in partnership with external sponsors—members of the RISD community learn about the unique challenges of collaboration, the professional and practical dimensions of their work and potential curricular opportunities.

Renewed focus on social equity and inclusivity

While diversity and inclusivity have always been highly valued at RISD, President Rosanne Somerson 76 ID has doubled down on efforts to further a diverse, inclusive and equitable environment on campus. Published in September 2017, a Social Equity and Inclusion Action Plan available on the SEI website details steps the RISD community is taking in support of these efforts.

Among the improved resources, support and opportunities emerging from this effort are:

  • curricular enhancements, such as support for faculty research that fosters cultural understanding, along with the introduction of a new master’s program in Global Arts and Cultures due to launch in fall 2018
  • additional resources devoted to bringing visiting artists, critics, speakers and cultural theorists to campus from historically underrepresented groups and/or whose work is focused on social inequity, power and difference
  • facilities improvements including upgrades to the Ewing Multicultural Center, the establishment of the Pride Room in Fones Cottage, an expanded Reflection Room, designated graduate commons space and other campus enhancements
  • expanded counseling and psychological services
  • new resources for students including funds to help with the expense of studio materials, internships and travel/study courses
  • new recruitment strategies and hiring procedures
  • focused trainings and workshops for faculty and staff
  • the establishment of a new Office of Social Equity and Inclusion, along with a vice president-level position to lead this effort (with a search underway during the 17/18 academic year)

RISDiversity: Community Narratives Project

Since 2011 the RISDiversity: Community Narratives Project has offered students, faculty and staff the opportunity to inspire others through their own stories. Refreshed each year, the website offers portraits of each person profiled accompanied by short personal narratives that convey each individual’s unique identity. A book of highlights from these narratives was produced in 2016.

Stories about our diverse community

Art or Sacred Object?

Two student projects exploring art and religious expression win Dorner Prize support from the RISD Museum.

Grad Student Refocuses the Narrative

Photographer Steph Foster MFA 19 PH reflects on racism in America and brings his stories of hope to Design Indaba 2019.

Painter on Being Old in Art School

Noted historian and author Nell Irvin Painter MFA 11 PT returned to RISD for a conversation about aging, ambivalence, ambition and starting over in art school.