Our History

One day in 2005, a group of boys from Providence’s Hope High School found their way to the basement of a Rhode Island School Design building at 20 Washington Place. Their struggling school had been placed under state control because of its low performance and high dropout rates, and the boys, who craved an artistic outlet, had heard something about an after-school program at RISD.

“I have such a vivid memory of those sophomore students kind of wandering in on their own and saying, ‘Hey, can we join?’” says Professor Paul Sproll, head of RISD’s Department of Teaching + Learning in Art + Design (TLAD). Professor Sproll typically teaches graduate students, but back in 2005 he had volunteered for a semester at the invitation of an art teacher to teach and after-school studio for students attending Feinstein High School, another low-performing Providence public school. It was this program that the Hope students had caught wind of and with their request Sproll says  “that’s when we knew we had something – something that could be really meaningful” both for artistically talented but under-served teens in the city's public schools and especially for RISD students interested in matters of public engagement and social change through the visual arts.

 Our Mission

Project Open Door (POD), a free college access program for urban teens is housed in the Rhode Island School of Design's (RISD's) Department of Teaching + Learning in Art + Design. POD supports not only the artistic development of students attending public high schools in Rhode Island's urban core cities of Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence and Woonsocket but also their access to and retention in higher education, increasing their chances to succeed in art and art and design.

Project Open Door has a dual mission: (1) to increase access to high quality arts learning and careers in art and design for under-served Rhode Island teens, and (2) to provide a learning community education platform for RISD students, alumni, faculty, and staff.

Long Range Goals:

  1. College Access and Retention: Urban teens from under-resourced public schools access high quality art and design education, develop admissions portfolios, make college applications and prepare to succeed in higher education.
  2. Public Engagement: RISD students, alumni, faculty, and staff access community-based experience as Rhode Island urban public schools benefit from RISD outreach.
  3. Diversity: With the help of inclusive programs like Project Open Door, the diversity of art and design education and professions comes to reflect America's diversity.
  4. Institutional Capacity: RISD's Project Open Door is sustained as an integral college program serving curricula, teaching, learning, and research.