Founders Day

students work at drawing tables in a black-and-off white photo

RISD, always something of a maverick, was founded and nurtured by a small group of women more than 40 years before women in America gained the right to vote.

RISD was founded on March 22, 1877

In 1877, the Rhode Island Women’s Centennial Commission, led by Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf, had a surplus of $1,675. They decided to use the funds to found an independent school of art and design (instead of building a public fountain—one of the other options on the table), a bold and somewhat controversial choice at the time. Despite the fact that only a few such schools existed in the US at that time and many people publicly doubted that the endeavor could be successful, Metcalf and her peers forged ahead. Nearly 150 years later, Rhode Island School of Design is still a place for innovation and experimentation.

Students trained in arts and design since 1877


Pre-College Program alumni since 1971


Visitors to RISD Museum 2022-2023


2024 events

In honor of its entrepreneurial founders and rich legacy, RISD celebrates Founders Day in March with a series of events and service activities that reflect and carry forward the institution’s mission.

Alumni Days of Service events

In honor of Founders Day, many of our regional clubs participate in activities supporting their communities. Take a look at what events are happening this year, and get involved where you can!

RISD Alumni Days of Service Events