Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design

Address: 224 Benefit Street
Providence, RI 02903
Phone: 401-454-6500
Fax: 401-454-6556

Our Mission and History

The RISD Museum acquires, preserves, exhibits, and interprets works of art and design representing diverse cultures from ancient times to the present. Distinguished by its relationship to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the Museum educates and inspires artists, designers, students, scholars, and the general public through exhibitions, programs, and publications.

The development of the Rhode Island School of Design and the RISD Museum is tied to Rhode Island’s emergence after the Civil War as the most heavily industrialized state in the Union, and to the growing desire for better design in manufacturing. With the region’s prosperity based on the production of silverware, jewelry, machine tools, steam engines, files, screws, and textiles, leading manufacturers and civic leaders felt the need for industrial-arts education and exposure to examples of fine art.

Even before the war, the Rhode Island Art Association, chartered in 1854, determined “to establish in Providence a permanent Art Museum and Gallery of the Arts and Design.” In the absence of either state funding or private donations, however, the creation of a design school and art museum in Rhode Island did not occur until 1877. Faced with a choice between erecting a drinking fountain in Roger Williams Park or founding a school of design—the latter proposed by Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf (1830–1895)—the Rhode Island Women’s Centennial Commission in that year voted to establish the Rhode Island School of Design by allocating to it the modest $1,675 remaining from its fund-raising for the Women’s Pavilion at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.

Local Calendar

Recent News

  • Exhibition - Nancy Chunn: Chicken Little and the Culture of Fear

    Inspired by the fear and panic engendered by the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, Nancy Chunn: Chicken Little and the Culture of Fear is a series of paintings that represent the media sensationalism that infects our current political and cultural landscape, feeding ou...

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  • Exhibition - Jeremy Deller: Manchester Tracks

    Cultural traces from the city of Manchester, England, are viewed through the lens of contemporary British artist Jeremy Deller.Manchester Tracks highlights the Museum’s 2011 acquisition of Deller’s Shaun Ryder’s Family Tree (2008), along with a selection of materials d...

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  • Exhibition - Building Blocks: Contemporary Works from the Collection

    Architecture engages with space, planes, surface, and volume, and artists have strived to depict these spatial characteristics realistically since as early as the Renaissance. In recent decades a wide range of artists have created works that represent or borrow from architec...

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  • Exhibition - Distant Climes: 18th-Century British Views of Italy

    Around 1750, British artists began to travel to Italy to visit its ancient sites and idyllic countryside. Distant Climes assembles Italian views by some of these early travelers, including Richard Wilson, Richard Cooper II, and John "Warwick" Smith.Watercolor, then...

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