WaterFire Staff Stories: Bess Butterworth

How long have you worked at WaterFire and what appeals to you about working for WaterFire Providence?

I am Bess Butterworth and I am the Development Associate here at WaterFire. I have worked with my colleagues on the development team since July of 2019. I just celebrated my work anniversary! I focus on grant writing and individual giving and advancing programs in order to fund our mission. My favorite part about working at WaterFire is knowing that my work directly impacts the economic vitality of Providence by creating jobs, filling hotel rooms and restaurants, and bringing a million people to the streets of downtown each year for a shared experience that brings us all closer.

What is something that most people might not know about WaterFire that you think is important?

I like to remind locals and visitors who make annual trips to PVD that WaterFire is a very unique experience that shouldn’t be taken for granted! I moved to Providence last year and have lived in river cities in both Washington state and North Carolina and studied abroad in Florence Italy, and there is something incredibly magical about a river coming to life the way the Providence River does on WaterFire nights. The first time I experienced WaterFire I walked along the river in awe at the number of people there were, the energy that was simultaneously introspective and communal. As someone who had just moved to Providence, WaterFire provided comfort in that it made me feel like I was immediately part of a community and was welcomed by the entire city. I can’t emphasize enough just how lucky Rhode Island is to have something like this and I wish other cities around the country would understand the countless ways in which investing in creative placemaking and accessibility to the arts can transform a downtown.

What was the first place you visited after the Rhode Island economy began to reopen?

My first experience at an establishment post-reopening was at Ogie’s Trailer Park. I live close by and decided to test the waters by walking over on one of the warmer days of the spring. I was impressed with their innovation and expansion of seating into the parking lot. They took all the precautions and made me feel safe having a drink there. A massive thunderstorm came through and poured on the patrons but few people left, I think we were all just happy to be out at a bar again.

What is a hidden gem in our community that you think people should know about?

As far as hidden gems go, I recommend checking out the record stores on Broadway. Armageddon Shop and Analog Underground are hole-in-the-wall spots that have pretty stunning collections.

Boat Procession at WaterFire. Photograph by Kevin Murray.
Boat Procession at WaterFire. Photograph by Kevin Murray.

About WaterFire Staff Stories

Welcome to the new email series from WaterFire Providence. Each week we will bring you stories of WaterFire from the perspective of our staff members. This series will feature short videos produced by each team member and they will be sharing stories and facts about our organization as well as their recommendations for places and activities around Rhode Island that you can enjoy.

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Support the WaterFire Relief Fund

For 25 years WaterFire has been transforming place and building community in downtown Providence with impacts that reach into every corner of Rhode Island. Unfortunately, we’ve had to indefinitely postpone the WaterFire season and shut the doors of the WaterFire Arts Center, losing the earned revenue on which our work depends. We need your help—now more than ever—to get us through this financial crisis.

About the author

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I've worked at WaterFire since 2003. For the first 9 years of my career here I worked in the Production Shop learning all of the details that go into the physical production of the event. I have recently transitioned to role of managing WaterFire's social media and web presence. I find it very rewarding working to increase engagement with our supporters both locally and globally.

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