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The People of WaterFire: Paul “PK” Kochanek

The time to act is now! Somebody go get the Director.
―Jarod Kintz

The WaterFire experience is very different from person to person, whether you are an international visitor, community member, volunteer, performer, staff member, vendor or board director. It’s a unique aspect of the artwork that each participant is able to have such a personal experience with what they see, smell, interact with, and hear. What it takes to create that “magic” often goes unrecognized and it comes from the people at the core of its creation. We’d like to introduce to you to our events and operations director, Paul “PK” Kochanek.

WaterFire Providence event days are strategically timed from sunrise to sunset (when the curtain goes up) until the twilight just before dawn. PK directs and oversees our team of 30 staff members, dozens of vendors, performers, sponsors, and volunteers. He has an unparalleled ability to perform an amazing balancing act to make the event come to life and through all that hard work the event always brings that magical feeling to all of those who experience it.

PK is an amazing performer, director, checklist maker, joke teller, and dancer! He knows how to connect with the people he is working closely with to create WaterFire. Whether he’s telling jokes that guarantee a good belly laugh, throwing down a little dance move at lunch, or giving you a nickname (that always seems to stick), he really makes sure to connect with his team. To him everyone on the team are actors in this performance called WaterFire that we put on for all to enjoy! In PK’s words:

You might go through a crazy rough day and long busy nights at our events; but I want my crew to remember these moments of laughter we shared together. After all, these are the instances you remember.”

PK Full Image (Photo by Erin X. Smithers)

PK grew up in a big family, being one of seven siblings there were many stories to remember. As a leader, PK talked about the importance of hard work, being reliable, and getting the job done. These qualities reflect PK’s memories of his late father, John, who was a WWII veteran. He shared that as his parents, John and Rose, grew older they both developed Alzheimer’s disease. Remembering those moments of laughter, PK joked about stories they told those later years that they probably wouldn’t have ever told! The last six months of his mother’s life, called PK “George”. George was the name of PK’s uncle, he said “it was sad she could no longer recognize her own son; but to me, she still recalled me as someone darling to her, and someone she loved and was happy to see.”

He has an amazing love of theater and stage performing saying, “I would go back to theater with a heartbeat!” He shared that he had a formal background in dance, taking four years of ballet. (I couldn’t help but to think it was a missed opportunity not having him in a twirling tutu for this shoot. Neon pink might just be his color!) He also happily talked about golfing and his plan to move south when he retires; a side job of mending green golf grounds and playing the occasional round (or twenty).

Interview and photo by Erin X. Smithers – Photographer and Jazz enthusiast
Photo taken at Slater Mill in Pawtucket, the awesome venue for our 2014 Volunteer Appreciation Party.


About the author

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Over the last 10+ years, alongside some incredible co-workers and volunteers, I've worked to build the organization that WaterFire Providence is today. As Director of Creative Services, my team and I work on visual communications, graphic design, the visitor experience, merchandising as well as project management for programming at the WaterFire Arts Center. Being a part of the 'Rhode Island' experience for tens of thousands of people is incredible and I have an intense pride in place for both Downtown Providence and the Valley neighborhood.

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