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WaterFire Staff Stories: Laura Duclos

What do you do at WaterFire? How long have you been involved?

Hi! My name is Laura Duclos and I’m the Director of Creative Services at WaterFire Providence, I’ve been working for WaterFire for over 10 years – I started as an intern in 2009 – and it’s been an incredible journey!

What is ‘creative services?’ Well it’s our way of trying to best summarize the work we do. From visual communications (social, print + web) to retail management (at events, online + the store at the WaterFire Arts Center) and graphic design to hospitality and visitor experience (way-finding, visitor services + more!) We’re the ones you talk to on Facebook. 😉

What is something that people might not know about WaterFire that you think they should?

WaterFire, as well as many other non-profits, continue existing because of the people who live and breathe the mission and tirelessly work to ‘make it happen’; their staff (+ interns and volunteers!). WaterFire has always had hardworking, dedicated staff who rise to the occasion and continue to bring people together through art. Today, our small staff has been working creatively to transition to both virtual and alternative programming in the WaterFire Arts Center and beyond.

People don’t always stop and think about WaterFire. So I guess I think they should, even just for a minute or two. What is it? Who creates it? What does it take to put on just one event? What’s the impact – both economically and for the social well-being of the community?

When you go to WaterFire do you go to dinner, buy something at a shop or from a vendor, do you bring friends from out of state, is it a place you go to reflect or unwind, enjoy time with your friends and family, feel pride in your city and state? (side note) In Providence alone the non-profit arts and culture industry generates hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity each year and supports thousands of jobs.

I find that as soon as I start talking to people about these questions they quickly realize the importance of our work, the real resources it takes, and the impact it has.

We need everyone in the community to stop for a minute and consider supporting WaterFire in order for us to continue transforming place and building community. Donate to the WaterFire Relief Fund to help us continue this work.

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

I never really stopped getting take-out from local restaurants, at least once a week, since the pandemic began. Some of my favorites: Rasoi, Chilangos, Julian’s, Caliente Mexican Grill, Jade Tree Asian Bistro, Taste of India, TroopPVD, and Pizza J. I love local restaurants. Also, I’ve been taking full advantage of take-out handcrafted cocktails. I love stopping by the Courtland Club to get to go cocktails and ice cream – a win, win.  

I made a couple of trips to Rhody Craft and Craftland to get locally made gifts for a couple drive-by showers. I chose to order online and do in-store pick-ups. And of course I shop the store at the WaterFire Arts Center too! I’ve gotten quite a few books thanks to our curated collection by Symposium Books.

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

There’s so many! I’ll pick two: Farm Fresh RI and the Woonasquatucket River Valley Arts District. 

I was so happy when Farm Fresh RI opened up the Armory Farmer’s Market on Thursdays – it’s so accessible and safe to shop from local farms outside. Farm Fresh RI is essentially a hub for locally grown food for farmers and those who want to eat! Their mission is to grow a local food system that values the environment, health, and quality of life of the farmers and eaters in our region. I became more knowledgable about their organization when I was paired with Jesse Rye, their co-executive director as part of the Emerging Leaders Program at the RI Foundation a few years ago. Now they are soon to open (end of November) their brand new facility is in the Valley neighborhood, right across the Woonasquatucket River (the woony!) from us at the WaterFire Arts Center.

The Woonasquatucket River Valley Arts District. I knew that there were lots of artists working in old mill buildings in the Valley neighborhood; one day (maybe in 2015?!) I stumbled into a few and was instantly energized by the incredible artists that call the Valley neighborhood home for their studio spaces. A few artists that work in the Nicholson File building coined ‘The Valley Arts District’ and started Open Studio days twice a year to invite the community in to see the artists’ workspaces and buy art! When we opened the WaterFire Arts Center and started developing the visitor experience upon entering the building we knew we wanted to have a small store that had a unique collection of items – it was a perfect opportunity to consign one-of-a-kind products with artists who were making right in the neighborhood. (side note) The Steel Yard is also across the river and I’ve recruited resident artists from their to consign their work in the store!

People gather on the Bridge of Stars and surrounding bridges to watch a lighting. 2018.
Photograph by WaterFire Intern and Volunteer Photographer Jake Perrone.

About WaterFire Staff Stories

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, 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

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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