New creative initiative provides window on Pawtucket’s downtown

New creative initiative provides window on Pawtucket’s downtown

One of the empty storefront windows, at 42-45 Summer St. in Pawtucket, that’s a potential site for an upcoming art installation as part of a new program, Windows on Pawtucket, hosted by the Pawtucket Foundation and Art League Rhode Island. 

PAWTUCKET – Local artists and creative types are being called on to add colorful installations to vacant and unadorned storefront windows in downtown Pawtucket for a new program dubbed Windows on Pawtucket.

The organizers of the project, the Pawtucket Foundation and Art League Rhode Island, are describing the event as an “outdoor, downtown-wide open studio.”

“I think it’s going to be a wonderful opportunity to see what the artists can create and bring to these storefronts,” Ellen Matesanz, executive director of Art League Rhode Island, which is based at Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket, told The Valley Breeze.

“We have a fair amount of vacancy in the downtown core of Pawtucket, which makes the downtown look more abandoned than it necessarily is,” said Jan Brodie, executive director of the Pawtucket Foundation. “It’s not inspiring pride.”

With a train station in the works and more riverfront activity, she said people are working hard to make the downtown active, attractive, and safe. She said she believes color and creativity help significantly.

Brodie, who’s part of the city’s art commission, has been working as a liaison with city officials and building owners on this project who have agreed to let artists use their window space.

While they have 20 buildings to consider using this year, she said they expect to use about half and hope to use more in the future as they grow the program. Multiple buildings are on Main, Broad, Exchange, and Summer streets.

Available windows come in all shapes and sizes, Brodie said. Some are large storefronts while others are little side windows.

The goals of Windows on Pawtucket are to get people out and about and finding new gems in the city while also promoting local small businesses and creative professionals, she said.

Matesanz added that objectives are to help revitalize and reinvigorate the spaces by “creating something lively and interesting” for people walking or driving past and to create a sense of community and pride in the city. “We hope that it brings a lot of pleasure and joy to people who are currently housebound who can’t get out to the same places they used to,” she said.

The call for installations will be announced this week or next. Pieces will be placed in September and left up until May 2021.

Those answering the call are encouraged to incorporate a textile theme into their work to “underscore the rich history of textiles and textile manufacturing in the city,” Matesanz said, adding that they’d like to see a loose connection to textiles, threads, fibers, “anything that ties the community to their history.”

Work needs to be original but it can be pre-existing, meaning it wasn’t created specifically for this event, Brodie said. Organizers will give preference to creators from Pawtucket and Central Falls.

Work can take many forms from being created directly on the glass or sculptures if there’s a bay for them to be placed, Brodie said. They should be “eye-catching and interesting for people to walk by and look at.” Matesanz said she’s hoping they’ll receive a diversity of pieces.

Creators can also note if their installations are for sale, which is an added bonus since the coronavirus crisis has financially hurt artists of all kinds, Brodie said.

Jurors will award prizes, and there will also be a people’s choice award, allowing the public to vote for their favorite installation. “It’s exciting to see how the public is going to react to this,” Matesanz said. “We want to hear from the people who see it.”

In the future, Matesanz said, organizers hope the exhibition can lead to community events when folks are allowed to gather in large groups again. She said they may create a map for people to go on a scavenger hunt and might put QR codes on the front of the buildings so people can have interactive experiences with the art.

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