Local artist has raised more than $150,000 for Alzheimer’s research

Local artist has raised more than $150,000 for Alzheimer’s research

Paul Cote, a Woonsocket native and Cumberland-based artist, shows the series of paintings he will display at the upcoming “Driftwood” fundraiser at the Museum of Work and Culture on Nov. 10. Over the past six years, the event has raised more than $150,000 for Alzheimer’s research. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)
Next ‘Driftwood’ event to be held Nov. 10

WOONSOCKET – For Paul Cote, a Cumberland-based artist and native of Woonsocket, art has always been about giving back.

In 2013, Cote was sitting on a hill at Chase Farm when he got the idea to organize the first arts-based Alzheimer’s fundraiser, an event that took place at Hearthside House. Cote’s father and five of his aunts have had the disease, making it a difficult but important issue close to his heart.

Now in its sixth year, the event has since raised more than $150,000 for Alzheimer’s research and treatment, rallying the local arts community around the cause. Four years ago, Cote began calling the event “Driftwood” and holding it at the Museum of Work and Culture, where this year’s fundraiser will take place on Saturday, Nov. 10. The name came from a piece of driftwood he observed on the shoreline at India Point Park in Providence and how its movement on the tide resembled the experience of the disease.

“It just reminded me quickly of what an Alzheimer’s patient goes through. The ebb and flow, the in and out,” he said.

The event brings together artists from a variety of media, all of whom donate their time and artwork to ensure the proceeds benefit the cause. This year, attendees can expect performances by the State Ballet of Rhode Island, Blue Man Group, Antonio Forte Consort and living statues from TEN31 Productions, among others. Cote’s art features prominently in the lineup, with a centerpiece display of driftwood artwork and, this year, a new series of paintings based on the progression of the disease.

“It’s about art, music, culture. It’s about living. That’s been my premise and every year it just got bigger and bigger,” said Cote.

A self-taught artist who previously worked at tennis clubs, Cote discovered painting in 2009 as an expressive outlet and within a year was exhibiting his work in New York. Today, he lives in a combined townhouse/studio he shares with his dog, Jackson (named for Jackson Pollock), and works in a basement studio, where he typically has between 15 and 20 paintings going at once. His style is bold and abstract, involving explosions of color and carefully crafted layers of paint, a physical expression of the life-affirming spirit he aims to celebrate at the event.

In recent years, he’s incorporated a live performance of his painting – accompanied by music and the State Ballet – into the fundraiser. Attendees can also purchase his artwork or receive it as part of a VIP package, with all proceeds supporting the Alzheimer’s Association of Rhode Island and the Memory and Aging Program at Butler Hospital. Cote’s father, who now lives at the Rhode Island Veterans Home in Bristol, once participated in a study at Butler Hospital, and Cote maintains a close relationship with the program, headed by researcher Dr. Stephen Salloway.

While the disease has taken a toll on his family, Cote and his relatives remain united in the fight for a cure. His volunteer committee is made up of cousins who have been closely affected by Alzheimer’s. While it’s a long process, one made more difficult by the societal stigmas around mental health, Cote said he and his family are determined to continue their efforts to raise awareness and funds.

“There’s a taboo associated with it because it’s mental health. With cancer, it’s tangible. You attack it. With Alzheimer’s, it’s a process,” he said.

“Driftwood” will take place on Saturday, Nov. 10, and begin with a VIP hour at 5:30 at Millrace Kitchen and Event Center followed by the Driftwood Gala at 6:30 at the Museum of Work and Culture. Tickets and more information are available by visiting www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3612144 or contacting the artist at paulmcoteart@hotmail.com.


To think this idea came to Mr. Cote “out of the blue”, that he taught himself to be an artist, and to commit himself to this cause is truly God’s work at hand.