Joy Hallihan in her office
Nov 2021

Turning Heartbreak into Hope

Years after leaving RISD for financial reasons, Joy Hallinan makes a legacy investment in future generations of RISD students.

A love of art and design runs deep for Joy Hallinan of Atlanta, Georgia. Her career has included working as a graphic designer, serving as a Junior Studio art instructor at the Corcoran School of Art, and helping to strengthen the Phillips Collection, Museum of Fine Arts/Boston, Harn Museum of Art and over a dozen PBS stations through fundraising and consulting. She is an avid photography collector and still maintains a studio working on painting, design and artist book projects.

“I am creative daily because of my time at RISD,” she says. “I still vividly remember a 3-D class where I stood up and used a hot wire to boldly create a Gaudi-style building out of a block of Styrofoam. That was a creative leap forward for me that my professor recognized in front of the entire class. RISD gave me the confidence to trust my instincts.”

Hallinan took an unexpected path to RISD. She had already earned a bachelor of art history at another institution, but her interest in making art was undeniable and she wanted to earn a bachelor of fine arts. “I had just returned from a solo trip to Helsinki, Finland, to study glass, jewelry, textiles and ceramic design,” she recalls. “I spent a year working on a portfolio and submitted it to RISD to see if I would be accepted. I thought it was a long shot since I already had a bachelor degree and was an older student who had mainly learned art and design on my own. I remember the excitement I felt when I received my acceptance letter and still have it in my studio.”

But, unfortunately, her time as a RISD student was brief. “I was heartbroken when I realized that I couldn’t afford to stay after the summer transfer program. There were no scholarships or financial aid for students who already had a bachelor’s degree.”

“I love RISD and hope that my story might make a difference with someone else considering adding their favorite RISD program to their will.”
Joy Hallinan

Hallinan has decided to improve the situation for this small but important cohort of students. She has generously made a $100,000 bequest in her Trust to establish the Joy Kurts Hallinan Scholarship Fund for undergraduate students who already have a bachelor’s degree from another institution. If there are not any such students in a given year, the fund will support an undergraduate transfer student. “I want to make a small difference by helping support the dreams of students who realize that art and design are their passions and RISD is where they want to study,” she says.

Her generosity is another layer in a deep engagement with RISD over the course of her life. She returned ten years after her student time to serve as the director of development for the RISD Museum. “I worked on the capital campaign and helped raise funds for the museum’s first education endowment, secured sponsors for exhibitions and worked with donors expanding the collection. It was different being back at RISD as a staff member, and it felt like I had never left,” she says. “I also was fortunate to study jewelry design with RISD Continuing Education courses throughout my four years on staff at the museum.”


Cover image: CatMax Photography