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

Founders Day | Video launch

President Rosanne Somerson kicks off a month of Founders Day celebrations with a brief, pre-recorded video address. Faculty, staff, students and alumni...

Monday, March 1, 2021 9am
Virtual Event
Founders Day | Museum gallery talk

The RISD Museum celebrates Founders Day with Women’s Spheres: Connections and Relationships, a close look at key paintings and sculptures in the collection...

Tuesday, March 9, 2021 12pm
Virtual Event
Founders Day | Indigenous Landscapes

Learning about Rhode Island history begins with understanding the ecological and cultural history of Narragansett homelands, settler colonialism’s...

Wednesday, March 10, 2021 7pm
Virtual Event
Founders Day | Alumni nonprofits panel

RISD alumna Lina Sergei Attar MArch 01, founder of the Karam Foundation for Syrian refugees, hosts a panel of alumni speakers who work in socially minded...

Wednesday, March 17, 2021 6pm
Virtual Event
Founders Day | RISD Archives & Special Collections tour

Alumna and New Urban Arts board member Lois Harada 10 PR hosts a live tour of RISD’s storied archives with digital archivist Douglas Doe and archivist Andrew...

Friday, March 19, 2021 12pm
Virtual Event
Founders Day | Alumni founders panel

Please join us for an all-female panel in honor of Women’s History Month featuring alumni design founders from RISD’s Founders & Entrepreneurs Affinity...

Monday, March 22, 2021 6pm
Virtual Event