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Providence art projects receive national recognition

ArtPlace selects AS220, Trinity Square proposals as two of 90 finalists for funding

Out of a pool of nearly 1,300 applicants, ArtPlace America listed two Providence art project proposals among 90 finalists for its 2015 National Grants Program.

The proposals, put forward by AS220 and the Rhode Island Local Initiatives Support Corporation, will undergo review by ArtPlace America, which will announce the winners in June. In 2014, the National Grants Program awarded nearly $15 million in grants covering 55 proposals, and in 2015 approximately 40 winners will receive funds, according to the program’s website.

AS220, a nonprofit arts organization located in downtown Providence, proposed a project titled “The Interactive Center of Creativity,” or ICC. Shey Rivera, director of programs for AS220, said that the project was envisioned as “a visitor’s tour center, but with a retail gallery component” and emphasized its “alternative model” nature.

The project aims to identify and attend to the growth and needs of the AS220 program and the people it serves, Rivera said. Members of AS220’s staff and board, who proposed the project, raised the need for more space, and others suggested additional resources for artists, she added in a follow-up email to The Herald.

The proposal seeks to “actively help artists,” particularly by cultivating ways for artists to sell their work in a meaningful and “genuine” way, Rivera said.

The project will benefit a range of groups, such as industrial artists who often leave the state in search of work, underrepresented folk-traditional artists and members of the AS220 Youth program, Rivera added. The team is still working to find an ideal space for the project, and accessibility is critical for the ICC to be “very active and very dynamic,” he said.

ArtPlace America also selected “Illuminating Trinity,” a project proposed by the LISC in partnership with the Department of Art, Culture and Tourism. Carrie Zaslow, program officer for LISC, said the project, a light installation at Trinity Square, is designed to provide “beauty and a sense of place” as well as a sense of safety to downtown Providence.

The collaborators for “Illuminating Trinity” began by exploring what community members identified as challenges surrounding Trinity Square, particularly the busy bus route and nearby transportation hubs, as well as  homelessness, prostitution and the generally unsafe nature of the area, Zaslow said. There has already been a tremendous fiscal investment in the neighborhood, and  LISC and Department of Art, Culture and Tourism hope this project will act as another tool for full “neighborhood revitalization,” she added.

The proposed  installation includes both “pop-up” and permanent pieces, Zaslow said. It also incorporates members of the community to perpetuate the project long after the grant money has been used, she added.

The National Grants Program seeks proposals that incorporate several important criteria, said Prentice Onayemi, director of partnerships and communications for ArtPlace America. For example, the proposal should delineate a specific space for the project and identify a challenge that engages the community and serves as a “conduit for the community’s goals,” Onayemi said.

Onayemi commended both proposed projects for their central locations, organizers’ ability to collaborate and strong community relations overall. Onayemi highlighted the ICC’s incorporation of folk and traditional arts and praised the number of players who worked together on “Illuminating Trinity.”

When whittling down the year’s many qualified applications, Onayemi said certain themes among the projects emerged, such as civic engagement, public participation and community planning.

Ultimately, the mission of ArtPlace America’s National Grant Program is to “position art and culture as a core sector of comprehensive community development,” Onayemi said, adding that the grant aims to expand the role that arts and culture can play in addressing community issues.


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