Ra Ra Brunonia is back with another exciting installment about our slightly more creative/hip counterpart down the hill, RISD (pronounced riz-dee). Though a journey to the Rhode Island School of Design does require a bit of a trek, the school holds an incredibly deep-rooted history that is rightly overlooked by the impressive work that is regularly pumped out of the institution. While Brown does indeed pride itself on the being the ‘Creative Ivy,’ the buck stops right around Benefit Street, where scores of students with drafting boards will literally etch out the artistic dreams of Brunonians. I’m sorry, someone had to say it.
Despite the seemingly mysterious aura it exudes, RISD serves as an unbelievable resource for Brown students and should neither be overlooked nor avoided. Yes, RISD may be notorious for its cutthroat critiques, six-hour studios and Olneyville Warehouse parties, but at the end of the day, we are all children of the great city of Providence and should get along as such. Reading through the sarcasm, the city of Providence is quite relevant to RISD as an institution and truly provided the backbone for its establishment.
Due to a boom in textile, jewelry, and silverware production in New England in the 1850s, civic leaders in Providence “felt the need for industrial arts education and exposure to examples of fine art,” and created the Rhode Island Art Association to establish a permanent art collection in the city. As a result of Civil War, the creation of the Rhode Island School of Design and its respective museum was delayed until 1877. While a seemingly smooth process, the Women’s Centennial Commission debated tirelessly between the establishment of an art institute and…. putting a water fountain in Roger Williams Park. Yes… a water fountain. This. Though additional hydration stations are always a plus, I think they made the right choice.
With $1,675 in funds, the Rhode Island Women’s Centennial Commission founded the Rhode Island School of Design on March 22, 1877, more than 40 years before the passage of the 19th Amendment. Brown soon entered the picture and in 1902, the two schools entered into an agreement that allowed Brown students to take courses for credit at the RISD and permitted RISD students to take applicable courses at Brown. Brown Professor William Carey Poland crafted and taught a specialized Art History course for RISD students and would later go on to serve as President of the Rhode Island School of Design until 1907.
Though the details of RISD’s establishment are somewhat bland compared to the institution it has become today, it’s quite interesting to understand its place within Providence and its somewhat revolutionary and progressive framework. I know one thing’s for certain: the Rhode Island Women’s Centennial Commission, as hip as they were, would not approve of the school’s athletic mascot. That’s an entirely different story. Ra Ra RISD Brunonia!