At the helm of exhibition programming at URI Feinstein Providence Campus Gallery, Steven Pennell presents art shows about various topics from everyday life. “Coordinator of Urban Arts and Culture,” Pannell delivers art programming brimming with ideas and social issues as gallery experience to enjoy, consider and be challenged by.
The floor plan of the gallery runs the full length of a city block in a landmarked Beaux Arts building. Formerly Shepherd’s Department Store, it has many large display windows. The space itself is a very long, wide corridor where lots of art is shown with a nookiness akin to the casbah layout of New York’s Bloomingdale’s on 59th Street.
I spoke with Pennell about this spring’s exhibit schedule and when he told me of the number of artists showing in March and April, I jokingly responded, “a cast of thousands?” and he answered, “Exactly.” Pennell is a masterfully unflappable, confident impresario and under all circumstances is committed to the premise that “the show must go on.”
The gallery on the ground floor is an easy block-to-block walk-through situation, punctuated by art, and feels like what it is: a substantial time-tested workhorse in which students move class-to-class and where pedestrians often walk when they want to avoid the rain. Pennell’s rationale is to have a plethora of art on view to maintain a lively balance between artists’ voices in relation to the building’s ongoing momentum. Students congregate, traversing the space and study and unwind there. It is more than a gallery; it is an artery used by the university and the city and definitely not of the white cube sensibility. Rather, it’s a familiar spot with an opening in progress on Providence Gallery Night and a place where friends meet friends, and so on.
(To read more, pick up a copy of our latest issue! Find a pick-up location near you or Subscribe Here.)