Rhode Island School of Design to Inaugurate 18th President Crystal Williams on October 7, 2022

September 20, 2022

Weekend highlights to include the investiture ceremony, a symposium, the RISD Craft art sale, open studios, free admission to the RISD Museum and more

PROVIDENCE, RI – September 20, 2022 – Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) will celebrate the inauguration of Crystal Williams as the institution’s 18th president October 7–8, 2022 beginning with an investiture ceremony followed by a series of public events and panels exploring the concept of new spaces in art, design, history, pedagogy, social justice and community. All events, which will take place across the RISD campus in Providence, RI, are free and open to the public with a ticket required for some. Details, including a schedule of events and information on how to register, can be found at risd.edu/new-spaces

A teacher, leader, advocate and poet, President Williams believes that education, art and design, and commitments to equity and justice are essential to transforming our society. She was named president by RISD’s Board of Trustees on December 16, 2021 following an extensive international search. After considering more than 100 candidates from around the globe, the 15-member search committee, which included RISD faculty, staff, alumni, parents and trustees, and an 11-member student advisory council, unanimously recommended that Williams become RISD’s next leader. She took office on April 1, 2022.

“President Williams brings to RISD the expertise and passion to educate and inspire artists, designers and scholars for a rapidly changing future, and the global vision to guide our community in helping to create a more just, fair and sustainable society,” notes RISD Board of Trustees Chair Michael Spalter. “As we celebrate her investiture as the 18th president, we look with joy and excitement to a future of unlimited possibility and promise.”

The investiture ceremony will take place on Friday, October 7 from 10–11:30 am under a tent at 220 South Water Street. Featured speakers include acclaimed television producer and RISD Trustee Ilene Chaiken ’79, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs of The New School Renée T. White, Brown University President Christina H. Paxson and author and poet Gabrielle Calvocoressi.

A community celebration will follow in Market Square. Later that day the New Space(s) Inauguration Symposium will kick off with an opening conversation between artist and RISD Trustee Shahzia Sikander MFA ’95, architect Michael Maltzan ’85 and Chaiken about the power and potential of new spaces in art, design and entertainment. Friday programming also includes open studios, symposium panels, a special WaterFire lighting and an evening block party in Market Square.

On Saturday, October 8, panel conversations and open studios will continue, and RISD Craft, the juried alumni and student art sale, will be held on Benefit Street from 10 am to 4 pm. The weekend’s festivities will conclude with a closing event featuring author, scholar and activist Ibram X. Kendi and President Williams in conversation about how art and design can help build an antiracist society. 

“Inauguration offers us the opportunity to come together to celebrate the power and potential of art and design to create a more socially equitable, sustainable, dynamic and beautiful world,” notes RISD President Crystal Williams. “My hope for this weekend and beyond is that we honor and amplify the potential of each person in our community and, with the inauguration theme of ‘new space(s)’ in mind, we challenge ourselves to always think critically, fully realizing our collective ability to make lasting and positive global impact.”

In celebration of President Williams’ inauguration, the RISD Museum is offering free admission on October 7 (12–7 pm) and October 8 (10 am–5 pm), and the RISD Store will offer an 18 percent discount from October 7–10 in honor of RISD’s 18th president.

Details about Inauguration Weekend can be found at risd.edu/new-spaces, and the investiture ceremony and select speaking programs will be available on the website after the event. Everyone is invited to join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #RISDInauguration, #RISDPresident and #RISDNewSpaces.

About RISD President Crystal Williams
Crystal Williams believes that education, art and design, and commitments to equity and justice are essential to transforming our society. Williams has more than two decades of higher education experience as a professor of English and has served in catalytic roles overseeing diversity, equity and inclusion at Boston University, Bates College and Reed College. Also an award-winning poet and essayist, Williams has published four collections of poems and is the recipient of several artistic fellowships, grants and honors. Her work regularly appears in leading journals and magazines nationwide. As RISD’s 18th president, Williams is helping to drive meaningful change centered on expanding inclusion, equity and access in order to enhance a genuinely rich learning environment that consists of diverse experiences, viewpoints and talents.

About Rhode Island School of Design
RISD (pronounced “RIZ-dee”) is a creative community founded in 1877 in Providence, Rhode Island. Today, we enroll 2,620 students hailing from 59 countries. Led by a committed faculty, they are engaged in 44 full-time bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and supported by a worldwide network of over 31,000 alumni who demonstrate the vital role artists and designers play in today’s society.

Beyond facts and figures, what is the spirit of this community? Through a cross-disciplinary curriculum of studio-based learning and rigorous study in the liberal arts, RISD students are encouraged to develop their own personal creative processes, but they are united by one guiding principle: in order to create, one must question. In cultivating expansive and elastic thinking, RISD seeks to activate a critical exchange that empowers artists, designers and scholars to generate and challenge the ideas that shape our world. RISD’s mission, at both the college and museum, is not only to educate students and the public in the creation and appreciation of works of art and design, but to transmit that knowledge and make global contributions.

Jaime Marland
Senior Director, Public Relations / RISD
401 427-6954