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We’ve received an ArtPlace Grant!


We are excited to announce that WaterFire Providence has received national recognition today by ArtPlace, a philanthropic collaboration of the nation’s top foundations in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and other federal agencies. We are embarking on exciting creative placemaking initiatives to strengthen the Providence community through the arts.

WaterFire is joined by Community Music Works as are the only two Rhode Island recipients  of this highly competitive award.  This year, ArtPlace awarded $15.4 million nationwide to 47 creative placemaking initiatives in 33 communities with grants ranging from $75,000 to $500,000.

“Congratulations to Waterfire and to Community Music Works for being nationally recognized by the celebrated ArtPlace Initiative,” said Mayor Angel Taveras. “I thank ArtPlace for its investment in two of our city’s leading arts organizations. This honor is further evidence that Providence is truly a leader in the Creative Placemaking movement and home to one of the most vibrant communities of artists and arts organizations in America.”

WaterFire will receive a $454,000 grant to launch a public art incubator to create new art works and public programs with a wide variety of arts and culture organizations to experiment with original ways to add vibrancy and economic impact to the city of Providence.  The intention is to build on WaterFire’s past success and develop new techniques to present the arts to a wide audience to further engage the city and build community. A second focus of the grant is to advance the national understanding and foster dialog about the most effective uses of the arts in creative placemaking.

 “We are deeply honored to be selected by ArtPlace for inclusion in this important program and for their recognition of how successful WaterFire has been in bringing new vibrancy and vitality to downtown Providence.” said Barnaby Evans, Executive Artistic Director.  “Over 15 million people have made the trip to Providence over the past 18 years to see WaterFire.”

The ArtPlace grant will allow us to create two new programs.

  • Public arts incubator – We will create new public art elements and will also partner with a range of artists and cultural organizations across Providence to collaborate on new art installations and experiments with innovative placemaking techniques.
  • Creative placemaking learning lab – We will collect and share the latest and best practices from WaterFire, Providence and around the United States and globe. We plan on developing a series of workshops, symposiums or even a conference as well as online resources that will feature some public art and creative placemaking

From Barnaby Evans, WaterFire creator and executive artistic director:

“Providence is the ideal city in which to further explore creative placemaking. It has a perfect walkable scale, deep resources of world-class artists and design talent, beautifully preserved architecture, a cluster of superb universities, and city and state leadership that fully supports and understands creative placemaking through the arts. Our goal is to inspire the city and its residents, to make Providence a more vibrant place and an international model to demonstrate the power of the arts for creative placemaking.”

WaterFire has assembled an ArtPlace Advisory Panel that includes:

ArtPlace, a new national collaboration of 11 major national and regional foundations, six of the nation’s largest banks, and eight federal agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts, works to accelerate creative placemaking across the U.S. To date, ArtPlace has raised almost $50 million to work alongside federal and local governments to transform communities with strategic investments in the arts.

ArtPlace launched last year, but this was the first open and competitive application process for the program.  Art Place received almost 2,200 proposals from organizations nationwide with projects seeking funding from the $15.4 million available this year for grants. A listing of all the ArtPlace awards can be found at

“Across the country, cities and towns are using the arts to help shape their social, physical, and economic characters,” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. “The arts are a part of everyday life, and I am thrilled to see yet another example of arts organizations working with city, state, and federal offices to help strengthen and revitalize their communities through the arts. It is wonderful that ArtPlace and its funders have recognized this work and invested in it so generously.”

“These two projects (WaterFire and Community Music Works) receiving ArtPlace funding exemplify the best in creative placemaking,” explained ArtPlace’s Carol Coletta.  “They demonstrate a deep understanding of how smart investments in art, design and culture as part of a larger portfolio of revitalization strategies can change the trajectory of communities and increase economic opportunities for people.”

From an article in the June 12, 2012 Providence Journal Bill Van Siclen reports that Carol Coletta, ArtPlace CEO states “We’ve been singing their (WaterFire’s) praises for so long, we thought we should finally back it up.” WaterFire’s plans for a creative placemaking learning lab to explore and promote best practices and ideas she finds particularly interesting. “Personally, that’s something I’m really looking forward to. We think Providence has a lot to share in this area.”

In September, ArtPlace will release a new set of metrics to measure changes over time in the people, activity and real estate value in the communities where ArtPlace has invested with its grants. You can check out their current Vibrancy Metrics on their website at “Measuring the Impact of ArtPlace.”

Thanks to all of the participating foundations including Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Ford Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Rasmuson Foundation, The Robina Foundation, The William Penn Foundation and an anonymous donor who make this program possible. In addition to the NEA, federal partners are the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Education and Transportation, along with leadership from the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Domestic Policy Council.

Congratulations to all of the other ArtPlace grant recipients!

We look forward to expanding our work in using art to make Providence a great place to live, work and visit!


About the author

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Peter joined the WaterFire Providence team in March 2011 to co-lead the organization with Barnaby Evans, founder and executive artistic director. Previously, Peter served as executive director, ceo and board member of the American Sail Training Association (Tall Ships America). In 2006, he founded Sea-Fever Consulting LLC, a management consulting firm focused on strategy, communications and leadership development and launched the Weekly Leader blog and podcast. Prior to that he had a 20 year career in financial services working in New York, Boston, San Francisco and London. Life long mariner, photographer, hockey player and art fan, he lives in Fall River, MA with his dog Zane. Peter proudly serves as a board member of the Fall River Museum of Contemporary Art.

5 thoughts on “We’ve received an ArtPlace Grant!”

  1. Congratulations to Barnaby, Peter, and the rest of the staff! Thanks for all of your hard work in applying for this grant and for the incredible work you do each day to inspire and transform the city of Providence.

  2. Huge Congrats to the entire Waterfire team!!! Your work is truly an inspiration to all of us who strive to better ourselves and those around us through our own artistic visions. Bravo! and Well done!

  3. Why not stop polluting the air with the burning of wood which is in violation of the Kyoto Protocol which Providence has been a member of for at least 10 years. Bring life to Providence in other ways the environmentally friendly. The smoke travels up river the ash and particulate matter are a danger to pulmonary health the CO2 and CO released certainly is unfriendly to our atmosphere. To believe burning wood at Waterfire is healthy to the lungs of the people of Providence is a joke and unscientific.

  4. FANTASTICO !!! BRAVISSIMO Barnaby + all the Pyromaniacs…. I have always loved Waterfire as a beautiful model for bringing people and community and artist together in a lively mix. I am proud to have introduced Waterfire to the City of Rome in 2000 and am thrilled that Waterfire will finally happen after so much ground work has been laid for you there by myself and my Roman colleagues ! AUGRI Barnaby.. I look forward to seeing you on the Tiber this September. Kristin Jones

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