Get outside with Pawtucket Arts Festival

Get outside with Pawtucket Arts Festival

PAWTUCKET – The Pawtucket Arts Festival returns next month, and, with a theme of en plein air, will feature several block parties, an outdoor painting event, and family-friendly activities throughout Slater Park.

“With the uncertainty of COVID-19 and given the picturesque backdrop of the Blackstone Valley, we had some great reasons to continue keeping our events outside in the open air of warm September afternoons,” Festival Director Anthony Ambrosino, pictured, said.

The 23rd annual Pawtucket Arts Festival, presented by the Pawtucket Teachers’ Alliance and the city of Pawtucket, runs Sept. 10-19 and will offer more events and activities than last year’s scaled-back version including the return of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra on Sunday, Sept. 19, at Slater Park.

Last year’s Pops at Slater Park event was canceled due to the pandemic, but the annual performance, courtesy of Bristol County Savings Bank, will be back, preceding the fireworks display at dusk.

“We’re very excited to not only highlight the incredible art and extremely talented artists of our city, but to once again bring the community together to celebrate all our city has to offer in a safe environment,” Mayor Donald Grebien said.

Opening weekend will take place downtown, while the second weekend will be based at Slater Park with events throughout the week in the middle, Ambrosino said. With COVID-19 numbers on the rise again, he said organizers had already planned to keep most events outdoors, so they hopefully wouldn’t have to make last-minute changes.

The whole festival, including an en plein air event, embodies the theme of being outdoors and creating outdoors, he said. “I’m just excited about the en plein air because of its beauty and simplicity,” he said. “En plein air is the essence of what the festival is to me. I’m big on people watching art being created.”

Artist Nick Paciorek, who owns the historic Pitcher-Goff House in Pawtucket, will be staging en plein air painting events in the heart of downtown Pawtucket on Sept. 10, 11, 12, 18, and 19.

“I’m constantly inspired by the unique beauty and atmosphere of this area. I can literally stand on my roof, look in any direction and find an incredible scene to paint,” he said.

Paciorek has invited 12 renowned artists to come to Pawtucket and create pieces, which will feature everything from historic landmarks to classic architecture and breathtaking skylines, states a press release. People can watch the artists at work, and their art will be compiled into the first of what will be called “The Pawtucket Collection.”

Ambrosino said this event is the festival’s crowning jewel this year, taking art and making it very tangible and accessible to people. He said he hopes people will walk around the city, enjoy the September weather, and watch these artists create, and maybe even bring their own easels and participate.

Kicking off the festival on Friday, Sept. 10, at 6 p.m. is Lorraine Mills Fest, one of several block parties to take place throughout the festival. Stop by Lorraine Mills, 560 Mineral Spring Ave., on Friday for food trucks, drinks from White Dog Distilling and Crooked Current, shopping, and live performances. Return on Saturday, Sept. 11, for Cars and Coffee in the morning. Grab a coffee and stroll among vintage cars. Enjoy breakfast or lunch from Lorraine Diner or the food trucks.

Alecia Catucci of White Dog Distilling, who’s coordinating the event, said, “This is our first in what I hope to be an annual event. Here at Lorraine Mills we have over 100 different businesses … and we’re working on getting them all together for a celebration of our collective talents, passion and to just let our hair down a bit and have some fun.”

Jan Brodie, executive director of the Pawtucket Foundation, had the idea to host several block parties throughout the city with the goal of “getting people outside to meet their neighbors, to meet the small business owners down the street and for the many and varied business owners that occupy our fabulous repurposed mills to meet one another,” she said.

In addition to Lorraine Mills Fest, join the YMCA of Pawtucket Block Party on Saturday, Sept. 11, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Y, 20 Summer St. The event will feature an inflatable obstacle course, various play areas, a rock climbing wall, and YMCA staff will be grilling hot dogs and offering other refreshments.

The next block party, Blackstone Block Party, takes place Tuesday, Sept. 14, from 4 to 8 p.m., in the parking lot adjacent to 80 Fountain St. and will include food trucks and local food popups as well as R.I. Spirits and Blackstone Cafe selling food and drinks. There will also be music and activities.

The last block party takes place Friday, Sept. 17, at The Guild, 461 Main St., and will feature all the local breweries and distilleries, Ambrosino said.

Also during the first weekend, The River Bend East Songwriters Festival returns on Saturday, Sept. 11, at Slater Mill, 67 Roosevelt Ave., from noon to 5 p.m. and will feature a diverse line-up of singer-songwriters performing outside on the grounds of the museum.

The second weekend of the festival, Sept. 18 and 19, will be based at Slater Park with the return of an arts marketplace that was launched in 2019. The marketplace will feature more than 100 crafters, artisans and creators of original handmade items as well as food trucks, living art from Ten31 Productions and musical performances.

Family Fun Day at the park will be Saturday, Sept. 18, and will include bounce houses, face painting, and more, all free of charge.

On Sunday, opening for the Philharmonic will be a performance by Pawtucket’s Mixed Magic Theatre, Ambrosino said.

“Both days at Slater Park are going to be pretty jam-packed,” he said.

Also taking place during the festival is Pawtucket/Central Falls Restaurant Week, running from Friday, Aug. 27, through Sunday, Sept. 19, which is hosting the Ultimate Empanada Fest. For $10, people can sample empanadas from 10 restaurants in Pawtucket and Central and vote on the best.

For more information and a list of events, which is still being added to, visit www.PawtucketArtsFestival.org .