An Open Letter to the Mayor of Warwick:
Support the Arts! Save the Warwick Center for the Arts!
As an artist, a long-time resident of the City of Warwick (just over a mile away), an Artist member, an exhibitor, a volunteer, and supporter of the non-profit Warwick Center for the Arts, I implore you to reconsider your position on the WCFA, and support the center remaining in it’s home of 42 years.
Allow the continuation for the usage of the grants awarded to update some main concerns to the building, its access and for its growth and welcoming curb appeal. Allow this Cultural Arts Center to continue to bring in artists of all levels of experience from beginners to award-winning, from local to international, to learn, to teach, to perform and to exhibit.
Maybe you have not been to an opening reception of an exhibit, or walked through a class of children creating works of art, or an adult class or workshop, or a performance on a Friday evening, but if you had you would see the beautiful brick walls filled with art, you would see children (budding artists) enjoying being creative, you would see the adult population finding a sense of joy, exploring their creative side. Have you seen the children outside during art camp in the warmer weather, or artists of all levels with their easels painting on the grounds of the center? If you have not witnessed any of these than you are missing out on a portion of what makes the arts a vital part of the community. This is also about lifting the human spirit!
As an Artist Member, I am also aware of the finances of the center. The public needs to understand that the WCFA is a non-profit organization and is its own entity. Its livelihood is also based on its being housed in this historic Kentish Armory. For its $1 lease, it has accepted the responsibility for all maintenance, care, upkeep, and the preservation of the historic site. Their ability to survive is based on memberships, workshops and classes, exhibits, performances, rentals, donations, business partnerships, and as a major part, awarded grants from foundations to help with important items such as accessibility and structural needs. So much has been done to upgrade the function and aesthetic of the center that anyone walking in the door is in awe of what has been created under its roof and in this location. Last year with a close to year-ending surplus of $1,000, that small amount quickly disappeared when the air conditioning needed to be repaired leaving the WCFA in the red.
Do you know that students from the Warwick schools have helped with improvements to the functioning of the space? Or that the board, staff, teachers, volunteers, local businesses, and the general public all offer their time and expertise in whatever capacity then can?
Your promise to “advance Warwick's economy, reinvigorate its neighborhoods and boost the performance of its school district” creates a perfect partnership in keeping with the Warwick Center for the Arts Mission “to serve as a center dedicated to uniting the community through the arts, connecting people of all ages and abilities to a variety of arts activities through exhibits, educational programs and cultural experiences.” For example, the WCFA works with Warwick’s schools and teachers to develop exhibits, arts programs and much more, as well as the Boys and Girls Clubs creating after-school arts programming. The WCFA is the perfect organization, in the perfect
location, already advancing your goals.
Partnerships help build communities. The WCFA and the Warwick Schools, the Boys & Girls Club, West Bay Open Studios (WBOS), the Gamm Theatre, Warwick businesses, and the public at large also help advance your goals. We need our local government to partner with us to complete the circle.
In late September of last year, the WCFA opened the gallery for a one-day sneak peak of the works of the artists’ who would be opening their rarely seen studios on the West Bay Open Studios Tour (WBOS) for 2018. This tour annually runs through this section of Warwick. It was a beautiful day, the doors were wide open and in walked visitors who not only support the arts, but who had never been in the building. They were fascinated by the history and beauty of the brick gallery walls as the backdrop for the artists’ works. That event introduced visitors to the unexpected delight to not only a place in Warwick’s history, but to all the events being offered by the WCFA.
Millions were spent on the “round-a-bouts” (some dangerous, traffic build-ups, and confusing as they can be) in an effort to create and revitalize Apponaug “Village.” What is a village without a place for the community to come together and enjoy? Turning a beautiful, historic building filled with creativity that is enjoyed by the community at large into office space? Where does that come into creating a thriving village?
In the ever-changing landscape of Warwick and the state of Rhode Island, both physically and economically, take pride in the fact that you have a well-known Cultural Arts Center in the city that has remained for 42 years. Mayor, you should be proud and honored to have such a treasure in the City of
Warwick, and as an anchor for the revitalization of Apponaug Village. A home to an arts center that has not only stayed the test of time, but is flourishing, bringing award-winning local and international artists together for not only Warwick residents, but for individuals from all of Rhode Island, the region, nationally and internationally.
In closing, please sign the lease immediately for the WCFA at the continued $1 per year and allow them to continue to thrive as a center and resource for the taxpayers of Warwick. Allow the WCFA to move forward and use the already awarded grants to make the necessary upgrades to the building and grounds, and continue to grow and be the community based Cultural Arts Center in the heart of Apponaug Village. Let this be your shining moment to the residents of the city of Warwick,
to the state, and to the arts community as a whole. Let us continue to flourish and the Warwick Center for the Arts be a beacon for the city of Warwick.
Sharon D. Eisman