As the result of a strategic planning process focused on capacity-building, long-term sustainability and the transition from an artist-led improvisational activity into a cultural institution, WaterFire Providence purchased the Center in 2012 and began fundraising and rehabilitation for the vacant, historic, industrial building in the underserved Olneyville/Valley neighborhood of Providence. Initially built in 1929 for the US Rubber Company as a multi-purpose manufacturing facility, WaterFire Providence completed renovation of the WaterFire Arts Center in May 2017. The 37,000 sq. ft. multi-use arts center has become WaterFire’s first permanent home in the community.
The WaterFire Arts Center serves as our headquarters, production complex, and multi-purpose arts venue as well as a social enterprise platform strengthening the organization’s long-term financial sustainability. One of the unique features of the WaterFire Arts Center is the Main Hall which provides 15,000 sq. ft. of uninterrupted exhibition, performance, and production space with a 40 ft. ceiling. Previous activities in the building have included the production and performance/exhibition of Megan and Murray McMillan’s Coal Bin Project (2013) which was featured in MassMoCA’s Explode Every Day: An Inquiry into the Phenomena of Wonder exhibition (2015), the 5 day Providence Fringe Festival (2017-18), and “The Rosa Parks House Project” art installation by Ryan Mendoza (2018).
While Rhode Island is rich with cultural assets and resources including art museums and galleries, there is currently no contemporary art center in the state that can host large installations or surveys. The WaterFire Arts Center is a flexible venue that will fill that void. Work exhibited in the WaterFire Arts Center will align with WaterFire Providence’s mission to inspire Providence and its visitors by revitalizing the urban experience, fostering community engagement and creatively transforming the city while valuing contributions of all artists, reflecting true diversity of the contemporary art field, and highlighting women, artists of color, and underrepresented practitioners. The WaterFire Arts Center will further our agenda of providing arts and culture opportunities and experiences for all, regardless of social, cultural, or economic background.
At WaterFire Providence, our mission is to inspire Providence and its visitors by revitalizing the urban experience, fostering community engagement and creatively transforming the city by presenting WaterFire for all to enjoy. The WaterFire Store allows visitors to bring a piece of their experience home with a WaterFire inspired gift. Find handmade glass ornaments and custom tea light holders from our neighbors Gather Glass, apparel designed by WaterFire staff and interns that are locally screen printed by SWG Promotions, and a curated book collection from Symposium Books.
All proceeds from your purchase at the WaterFire Store are used to support the continuation of this free event within our community. Go here to find more ways to get involved.
I love it. The potential in there is endless, you can do anything from a small, intimate performance to some really epic stuff… It’s completely flexible — the kind of thing you look for in any space.
We use the Creative Capital moniker when we sell our destination to both meeting and leisure visitors, and quite frankly, that WaterFire Arts Center fits right into our branding. They have a venue there for a large event but also a place where they’ll be able to tell the WaterFire story…
They’re going to bring the community into the building and that’s why we were attracted to this project–connecting to the community and being a resource for the community. There are intangible benefits of drawing people into the projects. It will be amazing.