PROVIDENCE: ENTREPRENEURIAL VENTURES ARE IN
When Rhode Island found itself in the recent recession with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, Providence decided to re-brand itself and make the transition from “Renaissance City” to “Creative Capital.” The hope was that prosperity would follow.
The rationale was like Manhattan turning its “Mean Streets,” Ad Men-style, into the charismatically approachable “Big Apple,” and later driving that point home with its “I Love New York” campaign. In the “Creative Capital” embodies word play in the cleverness of amalgamated meanings to interface the pursuit of art with entrepreneurial venture.
Tabitha Piseno recalls that in 2011, when she and Sam Keller were running RK Projects, everyone they talked to discouraged them from developing their gallery as a business enterprise. She was told the only way to survive in Providence was as a non-profit. Truthfully, at that time, Providence had very few progressive art collectors in its midst. Recently in conversation, Piseno spoke about the strangeness of having to close the doors of their gallery while simultaneously getting the news that RK Projects had received a seed grant from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, singling them out for having the potential to spark change.
Neal Walsh, director of galleries at AS220, forwarded the nomination of RK Projects to the Rauschenberg Foundation. Receiving this award made it possible for Piseno and Keller to decamp to Brooklyn, network in the avant-garde, express their curatorial views with exhibitions there and in Manhattan, and allow them the freedom to travel abroad, participating in an incubatorstyle art fair in Brussels. By autumn 2014, they returned to Providence with a new gallery concept for Proxy at 270 Westminster Street. Their plan is to create a significant impact in the city’s revitalization process.
Piseno explains that connection to friends within the RISD and Brown communities factored into their return. She also talks about loving narrative and zine culture, both emblematic genres in the city’s art. In 2015, Proxy will present fine art as dialogue in blended situations that can be contoured to progressively sell art.
When the city flat-lined into non-profit oblivion, a kind of shell game continued to suggest the illusion of creative vibrancy. Interestingly, in the midst of this, the Rauschenberg Foundation gave RK Projects the luxury of choice to develop contacts in art circles and strengthen their curatorial perspectives.