Polly Spenner 10 T X, right, standing with guests in front of the jacquard loom in the Metcalf Building at RISD Weekend 2019.
Nov 2021

A New Day for Metcalf

Philanthropy kicks off the renovation of this making and learning hub serving hundreds of students each year.

The much-beloved building at the heart of campus on North Main Street has long been a vital part of the RISD experience. Thanks to an anonymous $4 million gift, the Jesse Metcalf Building is about to undergo transformative renovations. The building was named in honor of Jesse Metcalf Sr., husband of RISD founder Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf. Ceramics, Furniture Design, Glass, Jewelry + Metalsmithing, Sculpture and Textiles—nearly a third of RISD’s academic departments—call it home.

RISD is excited to begin work to turn the building into a state-of-the-art modern art-making complex. Upgrades will better support Metcalf’s glass furnaces, ceramics kilns, woodshops, sculpture foundry, casting facility, jacquard loom and other essential tools and maker spaces. Notably, the project also is a step forward in RISD’s commitment to sustainable practices and adaptive reuse. The project is scheduled to take several years to be completed, and work will begin in the spring of 2022.

“Metcalf Building is essential to students’ technical development and creative exploration,” says Polly Spenner 10 TX, technical assistant for Textiles who operates and maintains the industrial jacquard loom housed on the first floor. “The iconic process of students designing fabric and having their designs woven on a professional loom is a stepping stone in their careers. These renovations will secure the high level of RISD’s artistic education, its longevity and the continued success of our students, technicians and professors.”