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WaterFire Accelerate! Meet our inaugural cohort of artists!

In 2017, after 5 years of fundraising, planning, and construction, we moved into the WaterFire Arts Center as part of our strategic plan to diversify our mission and revenue streams in an effort to sustain our nonprofit organization long into the future. Our plan has always been to develop the WaterFire Arts Center as a world-class fine and performing arts center for all Rhode Islanders. Since opening, we’ve had some amazing exhibitions including Berlin-based artist Ryan Mendoza’s The Rosa Parks House Project (2018) and British artist Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon (2019). Over the past two years, due to the coronavirus pandemic, we refocused our attention and resources on activities in and around the WaterFire Arts Center as we waited for health conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic to improve so we could resume our iconic WaterFire event downtown Providence. In 2021, we’ve presented a series of extraordinary exhibitions including THE LET-OUT, a Vanta Guild Exhibit; Private Visions, Public Ideals – The Legacy of Howard Ben Tré; Down to Earth: Robert Rohm Sculpture, 1963-2013; Mary Beth Meehan: EYE TO EYE: Photographs and Projects with Jonathan Pitts-Wiley and CHAZAN Unfiltered which opens Wednesday, September 15, 2021.

In addition to presenting inspiring work by local and international artists, we have been developing additional arts programming in the WaterFire Arts Center. 

We are pleased to announce the launch of WaterFire Accelerate, a year-long professional development program for an inaugural cohort of five (5) artists under 30 years of age working in a variety of media.

Accelerate artists (left to right): Julio Berroa, Ysanel Torres (on laptop), Kiara Costa, Sydney Sousa, and Jared Winslow

Julio E. Berroa (BER ROH-uh) was born in Salcedo (s-aa-l-s-EH-d-oh), Dominican Republic, and a Providence resident since 2012. Berroa earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Digital Media Curriculum and a minor in Photography from Rhode Island College. His passions include the Arts, Sex and HIV Education, and Youth Advocacy. All of this drives him to share his experiences through Art to help advocate for young aspiring artists of color. He hopes to inspire and influence his viewers. Known for his multi-faceted approach to the field of art and design which weaves both the analog and digital, Julio is often creating hyperreal and immersive scenes of intense experiences using vivid colors and organic shapes and textures depicting very intimate moments. Julio was an Andrew W. Mellon intern in Creative Production at the RISD Museum in summer 2020 and 2021 Rhode Island College Senior Art Award Recipient. Instagram | linktree

Kiara Costa is a multimedia artist living in Providence, RI. Self-taught, her colorful artwork is inspired by pop culture and graffiti. Using mediums such as acrylic paint, watercolors, spray paint, and markers she creates bold portraits and images that sometimes elicit a feeling of nostalgia. Kiara’s portraits bring about the individuality of one’s color palette and social background while maintaining a sense of joy. Her references to pop culture, (past and present), explores how her generation has been heavily influenced by icons, brands, and politicized events. While also begging the question, “How have millennials influenced pop culture?” Instagram

Sydney Sousa is a Rhode Island based artist who earned her bachelor’s in art with a concentration in painting along with a bachelor’s in psychology from Rhode Island College. Sydney creates abstract paintings that are motivated by moments and experiences that evoke an emotional response. She strives to take something intangible and make it tangible in the form of a painting. Her color choices and mark-making are often influenced by memories of places visited, seasons, and the atmosphere around her. Sydney is constantly investigating what it means to be human with personal experiences and emotions through painting. Her goal is not to make a perfect painting but rather hopes to gain an emotional response from the viewer. Instagram


YSANEL Torres is a young Afro-Caribbean artist who learned to “fly” through manipulating her materials. YSANEL started as a poet and became primarily a public artist in her historic hometown of Providence, Rhode Island. She grew up in the South Side of Providence alongside a large population of people from the Dominican Republic, where both of her parents were born and where most of her family is from. YSANEL developed a voice for justice, especially racial justice and anti-gun violence movements. Eventually, her interdisciplinary work began to soar from public art to music, and from sculpture to theatre. Today, she experiments with a personal collection about her identity that she will exhibit in the month of September 2021 (opening Sept 11th) at the Aborn Gallery, 95 Empire st (second floor). YSANEL performed as a background for Spike Lee’s Netflix Film called “She’s Gotta Have It”. One of her most known Public Art projects is a series of portraits on outdoor utility boxes of some inspirational women for a female empowerment project that was featured in Providence Monthly’s August 2019 issue called The Faces of Street Art. In Early 2017, the City of Providence also awarded her the Public Art Fellowship. Instagram | website

Jared Winslow is an artist based out of Providence, Rhode Island. He earned Bachelor’s Degree in Graphics, Multimedia, and Web Design from the New England Institute of Technology (2018), which he feels has equipped him with a variety of outlets to explore. Street Photography has become his medium of choice. He’s always been a curious observer, loving to search for the beauty in the mundane, which has led to his genuine pursuit of photography. For him, wandering with his camera has been his favorite way to escape, reconnect, and express himself. His work has been featured in Motif, PVD Monthly, RI Monthly, and Hey Rhody magazine. Jared is also the owner and designer of pvdluv, a clothing brand that was created to share his love for the city of providence and its community. He’s had the pleasure of being a volunteer photographer for WaterFire during the 2019 season, and a graphic design intern with their media department in 2017. He hopes that seeing the world through his eyes, it’ll make you stop, and feel the beauty of life that’s right in front of us. Instagram | YouTube | website

Accelerate artists participate in monthly peer group meetings with artists including Scott Lapham (One Gun Gone), Harry Gould Harvey IV and Brittni Harvey (Fall River Museum of Contemporary Art), Jordan Seaberry and Jeremy Schilling as well as creative industry professionals on a variety of topics about the business of art including accounting, finance, taxes (Erica Guartieri, CPA) and marketing (Michael Rose Fine Art Consulting). Accelerate artists will also be collaborating on a number of community initiatives (PVDFest Sims Ave “Summer Camp” Block Party) and events (FireBall 2021) throughout the year. The experience will culminate with a group exhibition at the WaterFire Arts Center (June 15 – July 24, 2022).

Anyone interested in donating or supporting WaterFire Accelerate should contact Nicole Nehiley, community relations manager ( | (401) 443-5543. Applications for the next cohort of Accelerate artists will be available in the Spring of 2022 on the WaterFire website. 

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.

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