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City gets creative with arts plan

Editor's Note: This story contains material similar to text that appeared in other published work. An Editor's Note was published in the Nov. 13, 2009, Herald. That Editor's Note can be found here.

It's been a busy year for the arts in Providence. The city's Department of Art, Culture and Tourism has been working to draft, present and implement "Creative Providence," an ambitious, 10-year cultural plan designed to boost local arts-related activities and investment.

The plan, which was publicly released in June, is the product of initiatives put in place by Mayor David Cicilline '83 last fall. Since last September, the Creative Providence team, composed of five members of the arts, culture and tourism department, has sought the input of more than 3,000 citizens, according to its Web site. The official report — which examines the city's arts scene in all forms, including visual arts, music, theater and dance — was produced with the help of two regional consulting firms and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, said Lynne McCormack, director of the art, culture and tourism department.

McCormack said the plan outlined programs and goals for the next decade, but the current focus is on a handful of initiatives proposed by the mayor earlier this year. Following the June release of the plan, Cicilline outlined 10 "priorities for action" to be addressed by the end of 2010.

Cicilline's priorities are based on the official report, McCormack said. They include promoting the city as an arts and cultural destination and increasing arts-related programming in local schools, as well as positioning Providence as a leader in creative disciplines like filmmaking and graphic design.

McCormack said the department has been guided by Cicilline's proposals since June — and has already found much success.

"We've been pacing with those priorities," she said. "I think we're hitting the mark."

She pointed to a summer youth employment program as one initiative in which the department was able to quickly and effectively carry out the mayor's proposals.

Funded largely through federal stimulus dollars, the program provided summer jobs in the arts community for needy young adults, aged 14 to 24. The initiative created more than 300 temporary jobs, and students worked at local creative establishments such as the Steel Yard and AS220, McCormack said.

McCormack cited the city's "Buy Art" initiative as another successful outgrowth of Creative Providence.

Launched last winter, the program supplies participating artists, arts retailers and vendors with Buy Art pins. The venues distribute pins to customers who purchase original art, and supporters wear the pins as a symbol of support for the arts market. The pins feature works by five different local artists.

Though both of these programs have been relatively successful, McCormack said Creative Providence still has much more work to do.

She said the group's primary focus in the coming months will be to "look into different sectors" and to "seek to establish a nonprofit, downtown cultural authority," an organization for arts groups.

"A lot of other cities have them," McCormack said, mentioning Pittsburgh as an example. She said the authority would aim to align smaller arts events "under one roof" and help to determine "how to fund organizations while having them accountable to some larger, outside group."

And in a smaller way, Creative Providence has already taken steps to bring local artists together, McCormack said. Just last week, the department sponsored a social event for all members of the creative community.

"We've made the decision that we want to have networking events for people to gather and just talk," she said.

And McCormack said in the end, the realization of Creative Providence will be in the hands of not only the department, but also the citizens.

"This is not a plan for the department," she said. "This is a working plan for the community."


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