Our Mission

RISD’s Center for Arts & Language fortifies and amplifies artists’ and designers’ voices, fostering efficacy and agency in written, spoken, and visual communication.

What We Do

The Center for Arts & Language (A&L) is a college-wide resource offering academic support and advocacy for effective and expressive communication at the many intersections of arts and language. We provide three primary services:

– tutoring for all RISD students in writing, public speaking, and visual communication
– English language support for multilingual students
– advising and infrastructure for student publications

We also research and consult with RISD faculty on all of the above, produce and share print and online resources, offer workshops, and program lectures and events.

How We Do It

A&L’s twenty peer tutors and five professional staff provide about 2,000 one-to-one, one-hour consultations and about thirty workshops each year. We work with all RISD students on all forms of communication for all kinds of purposes — academic, creative, professional, and personal. We are skilled and reflective communicators who take part in ongoing research and education.

We approach our work as collaborators, with respect for each individual’s voice, experience, and goals. We ask questions, listen, and reflect back, share skills, strategies, and resources, exchange ideas across disciplines, and provide fresh perspectives. We are process-oriented, recognizing that any composition is often hazy before it is clear, that words are tools for sense-making as well as end results.


Tutors take part in a kind of critique, where the community becomes a sounding board, asking questions of texts, bearing witness to critical thinking as it happens.
— Phoebe Stubbs, MFA Glass, 2011, former tutor


While our training and services distinguish between various forms of communication — written, vocal, visual; in a native or non-native language; digital and print; for an audience of one or many — in practice we often move between these forms, activating several modes at once. In composition studies, the ability to interpret and create various and hybrid texts is known as “multimodal literacy” or “multiliteracy.”

Multiliterate communication is part of everyday, interconnected, intercultural work and life, and it is very much a part of a RISD education. At RISD, you might produce a multi-media blog post for a sociology course; write notes for an artist’s talk, then perform the talk while projecting images and video clips; or write and design a text-and-image book on your thesis work. Even an academic research paper starts with consulting a range of print and electronic and written and visual sources, so that’s multimodal too.


At RISD there’s writing writing, but there’s also the vocabulary of forms, the grammar of the grid, writing in typography, with paint, with string, with microprocessors in pay phones.
— Dylan Grief, MFA Graphic Design, 2012

The Work & the World

RISD students are fluent in many languages; A&L strives to deepen and strengthen that fluency. We believe that expressing through words as well as work is empowering and edifying, enabling artists and designers to tell their own stories of art and design and make vivid and significant contributions to community and public discourse.