Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf


RISD was founded and nurtured by a small group of women more than 40 years before women in America gained the right to vote. In 1877, Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf urged 34 members of the Rhode Island Women’s Centennial Commission to invest their group’s surplus funding of $1,675—which they had raised for RI’s contribution to the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876—in founding a school of art and design.

Founders Day celebrates RISD’s founding on March 22, 1877 and its mission “to educate its students and the public in the creation and appreciation of works of art and design, to discover and transmit knowledge and to make lasting contributions to a global society through critical thinking, scholarship and innovation.” This milestone is a moment in time to celebrate RISD as an institution, its history, accomplishments and future.

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.

For more fun ways to get involved and show your RISD pride, go to