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BFA | 4-year program

The department’s curriculum and pedagogy encourage students to develop their work in ways that actively engage intersectional and relational thought and action through both Sculpture studio courses and extensive electives. This praxis-based community focuses on the co-creation of an environment in which all students feel supported, seen and heard, so that they benefit from the individually specific feedback from professors and peers so crucial to their development.

The Major Studio course forms the backbone of the student experience in Sculpture. As sophomores, students focus on basic skill acquisition, working across wood, metal, casting, performance, installation and video, while also learning about the histories of these skills. Junior year is geared toward developing a personal artistic voice and deepening skill acquisition through intensive studio electives. Students are asked to take command of conceptual and formal concerns and build skills on a project-by-project basis. By senior year, students incorporate skills, literacies and expertise into a final degree project, which culminates in a public group exhibition on campus.

Learning outcomes

Graduates are prepared to:

  • establish a rigorous artistic practice that engages in multidisciplinary pursuits
  • understand the role of artists on a local and global scale
  • engage in community arts practices that are well researched and tied to action plans
  • research and solve problems
  • utilize skills working with myriad materials and processes
  • demonstrate the conceptual acumen necessary to express ideas in tangible form
  • engage in inclusive dialogue about a wide range of art practices and ideas
  • use a clear artistic voice to articulate meaning visually, verbally and in writing

Inspiring community

Approximately 50-60 undergraduate and a dozen graduate students in the department are guided and challenged by professors committed to helping them push and refine his or her own expressive capabilities. Students show mutual respect for each other’s work, offering informal critical feedback and helping peers with projects as needed. The many visiting artists and critics who come to campus each semester provide exposure to a wide range of work and philosophies, and contribute to the caliber of critical dialogue.

Learning environment

Undergraduate Sculpture majors work in shared spaces in two locations: the historic Metcalf Building and the newly renovated Point Street Studios. Metcalf houses a foundry, a newly expanded woodshop and extensive metal fabrication facilities that are maintained by two full-time technicians. The state-of-the-art foundry allows for bronze and aluminum pouring and is equipped to support wax-working, patina and rubber mold-making. As sophomores, students are assigned large blue lockers that serve as a work bench and house personal tools during their three years as Sculpture majors. Each sophomore is also assigned home space in the lofty fourth floor of the Metcalf Building. Juniors and seniors maintain a locker room in Metcalf and have open plan areas with plentiful workspace at Point Street.


Entering the major as sophomores (after RISD's required Foundation Studies year), students focus on such skills as wood and metal fabrication, casting, drawing and figure modeling through classes that emphasize conceptual and technical development. Juniors begin to identify areas for serious conceptual and technical investigation, supported by greater choice of electives such as robotics, advanced fabrication methods and a seminar in contemporary sculpture issues.

Foundation year

Drawing I
Design I
Spatial Dynamics I
First-year Literature Seminar
Theory and History of Art and Design I: Global Modernisms
Non-major studio elective
Drawing II
Design II
Spatial Dynamics II
Topics in History, Philosophy and the Social Sciences
Theory and History of Art and Design II: Premodern Worlds


Sophomore Sculpture Studio I
Sculptural Practices I
Sophomore Seminar: Methods, Materials, Makers
Liberal Arts elective
Non-major studio elective
Sophomore Sculpture Studio II
Sculptural Practices II
Sophomore Seminar: Research Studio
Liberal Arts electives


Junior Sculpture Studio I
Junior Sculpture: Research Studio
Sculpture studio elective
Liberal Arts electives
Non-major studio elective
Junior Sculpture Studio II
Junior Seminar: Critical Issues
Sculpture studio elective
Liberal Arts electives


Senior Sculpture: Studio I
Senior Sculpture: Research Studio
Open elective
Liberal Arts electives
Non-major studio elective
Senior Sculpture Degree Project
Liberal Arts electives

Senior degree project

During their senior year, students become increasingly self-directed, delving into their own research methodology and integrating conceptual concerns with technical skills. Professional practices workshops during the fall semester and individualized guidance during the spring semester help seniors prepare for life after graduation. The final semester culminates in a thesis and degree project that articulates the central concerns behind each student’s art practice.

Application requirements

  1. Common Application

    You’ll begin and manage your RISD application process by completing the Common Application. There is a non-refundable application fee of $60 to use this service; eligible students may apply for a fee waiver.

  2. Academic transcripts

    Applicants must provide official transcripts of all secondary academic work through the most recent grading period. Your counselor may submit your transcript through the Common Application, Parchment, email or mail. If your academic credentials are not written in English, they must be translated into English by an approved translator prior to submission.

  3. Tests

    SAT or ACT

    All applicants are required to submit the results of the SAT or the ACT (American College Testing program). RISD will superscore your results. Subject tests are not required.

    RISD’s institution code number for the SAT is 3726; for ACT the code number is 003812.

    English language proficiency tests

    All applicants who speak English as a second language, including US citizens, must submit results from any one of these three options: TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or Duolingo (an online English test). Since proficiency in English is a prerequisite for acceptance, applicants must attain an acceptable score on their chosen test; RISD requires a minimum result of 93 on the TOEFL, a 6.5 on IELTS or a 63 on Duolingo.

    Plan to take the TOEFL or IELTS well in advance of the application deadline since it may take three weeks for your scores to be sent to RISD by the test agency. Duolingo test results may take up to four days to be received by RISD.

    The language test requirement may be waived for applicants who have studied in an institution where English is the language of instruction. You must contact the Admissions Office to explain your school history and determine if you are eligible.

  4. Portfolio

    You will upload your portfolio in SlideRoom through the Common Application.

    Your portfolio should present 12–20 examples of your most recent work that showcases your thinking and making. The work should reflect a full range of your ideas, interests, experiences and abilities in the arts. This can include work in any medium, in finished or sketch form, and can be the result of an assigned project or a self-directed exploration.

    We recommend that you include some developmental research and/or preparatory work for one of your submissions. It is helpful to show your process of thinking and investigation so we can see how you develop your ideas. A sketchbook or journal page may be an appropriate way to share your process. Consider also including the finished piece and preparatory work(s) in a single image. There is an area in SlideRoom where you can include brief text descriptions for your submissions.

    We strongly discourage the submission of works in PDF format that include multiple pages, especially when there are numerous elements on a single page. These are difficult for reviewers to view and assess and are likely to exceed the allowed limit of 20 work examples.

  5. The Assignment

    Choose one of the following three prompt options and create two responses using any medium (no restrictions).

    • error
    • verify
    • forge

    Each of these prompts has more than one meaning or usage. You might want to begin by referring to dictionary sources to expand your initial reaction and inform your direction. We consider this assignment to be as much about process as presentation. We encourage you to consider your submissions as exercises in experimental thinking and risk-taking more than final presentations or examples of technical proficiency. No mode of expression is valued more than another, so feel free to explore the full range of possibilities.

    Upload your responses in the specific section of SlideRoom dedicated to these works. Do not include them in the Portfolio area of SlideRoom.

    If the file size of either response exceeds 10MB, embed a link to direct us to another viewing platform such as a personal website, YouTube, Vimeo, etc.

    Along with these works, reflect on the two responses you are sharing and provide a brief, written response to this question: What are the other directions or ideas you would explore as a next step?

  6. Writing sample

    Submit one example of your writing, up to 650 words. Remember, this is the limit, not a goal. Use the full limit if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so.

    You will find the writing prompts in the Personal Essay section of the Common Application.

    While we encourage you to adhere to the rules of good writing, we look for applicants who are not afraid to take risks in their expression. Please don't hesitate to use a writing style or method that may be outside the mainstream as you express a distinctive personal position in the samples you submit.

  7. Letter(s) of recommendation

    Although not required, these letters can be very helpful to your application. One letter is suggested, although as many as three may be submitted. Recommendation letters should be written by teachers or other professionals who have firsthand knowledge of your art or academic achievements and can comment on your potential as a student.

    Please use the Common Application to invite your recommendation writers to submit letters through that service. Letters may also be sent directly to our mailing address (see below) or emailed to