The vitality of a city is evident from your first moments in it. Urban vibrancy comes from the synergy of different factors — economic opportunities; diversity in all its expressions; dense, concentrated centers with a variety of businesses and architecture where pedestrian traffic is facilitated and encouraged; and, most essential, a city government who sees the success of the arts and culture sector as a quality of life indicator.
Providence, Rhode Island is a vibrant city. Its long history of sustaining a creative economy began in its early days as a commercial port city, when the shipping industry was able to support the craftsmen who settled here. Providence continues to successfully attract and sustain artists, artisans, dancers, musicians, actors and innovative cultural entrepreneurs who, in turn, have made it one of the most culturally rich cities on the East Coast.
In the visual arts, the city buzzes with activity generated by several dozen commercial galleries, college and university galleries, artists’ work spaces and collaboratives and large exhibition spaces that accommodate today’s experimental works and multi-media installations.
Gallery Night Providence, now in its 22nd year, is an ideal way to experience the art scene here. According to Robin Tagliaferri, Gallery Night coordinator, “The tours are organized to showcase the arts community here and to provide participants with a sampling of what is available to see in Providence. Every month provides a different experience because the exhibits at the galleries change, and with 18 participating venues, visitors can come multiple times per season and never see the same artwork twice. Each tour presents a fresh experience.”
The perspective of many of the galleries was summed up by Michele Aucoin, gallery director at ArtProv Gallery, “Gallery Night Providence is a great introduction to the art scene in Providence. It makes exploring the city’s art a fun community event while exposing venues like ours to visitors who may not have come in on their own. Since we started participating, it’s definitely had a positive impact on our gallery’s visibility and awareness.”
Several years ago, Regency Plaza, a residential complex centrally located in downtown Providence, approached Gallery Night about partnering for the tours. Regency Plaza offers its lounge for participants to gather in before the tours and allows the Arts Buses to leave from its parking lot. In return, all tours are open and easily accessible to its residents. Four bus tours are planned for each Gallery Night with usually three to four stops per tour. Buses leave at staggered intervals through the evening. Departure times and the galleries in each time slot are listed well in advance on the Gallery Night website. Stops at each location last 20 to 30 minutes, making the bus tours about two hours long, without the headache of driving or parking. Galleries provide refreshments — a sure way to get the gallery-goers to relax, mingle and chat.