March 1, 2023
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Brett P. Smiley, Joe Wilson Jr., Director of Providence’s Department of Art, Culture and Tourism (ACT), Vanessa Whang, Lead Designer/Manager of Cultural Strategists-in-Government Program in Oakland, CA, and community members today launched ACT’s new cultural plan at the City’s annual Pell Lecture on Arts & Humanities. The plan outlines strategies and recommendations for strengthening arts, culture, and creativity in Providence.
The plan, titled “PVDx2031: A Cultural Plan for Culture Shift,” serves as a living blueprint for public policy, private initiative, and strategic investments in Providence’s creative life. PVDx2031 identifies seven major themes, each of which addresses a unique aspect of art experience and stewardship, including topics like “Art and Well-Being,” “Creative Economy,” and “Resilient Nonprofits.” The plan further breaks down these themes by suggesting specific strategies like “address artists’ basic needs” and “dismantle barriers for arts businesses and organizations to grow at a sustainable pace and to build resiliency.” Through the identification and analysis of these themes and strategies, the City and its partners are setting the course for a more equitable, resilient, inclusive, and connected community that will move these strategies forward.
“It brings me great pride to know that we prioritize art and our local arts community, and that’s precisely what we’re doing today,” said Mayor Brett P. Smiley. “As Mayor, I recognize the need for a plan like this, one that asks the tough questions and poses realistic, measurable solutions that can be implemented by both the City and the community.”
The plan was created over the course of two years by arts and culture practitioners who employed a variety of facilitation tactics, including deploying surveys, hosting virtual planning studios, and organizing focus groups. Furthermore, the Department’s collaborative model of engagement allowed for stakeholders to participate in multiple topics simultaneously, promoting a constant and ever-evolving exchange of ideas. This method helped decentralize the conversations taking place, allowing the City to welcome organizations and individuals to contribute in a myriad of ways that suited them best.
‘The vision for the creation of the Pell Lecture Series was seeded by the desire of the Department of Art, Culture and Tourism to create space for critical conversations that build upon Senator Pell’s vision for our nation, while inviting the Providence Community to come together and celebrate, but to also interrogate our shared histories of art, culture, and creativity,” said Joe Wilson Jr., Director of the Department of Art, Culture and Tourism. “I am thrilled that this event will serve as the launch of our new culture plan which will exist as a blueprint for how we do our important work moving forward.’
ACT has already started implementing parts of the plan by supporting teaching-artists in new and innovative ways, funding Providence’s creative nonprofits to rebound and rebuild, laying the groundwork for making changes in the commemorative landscape, and working towards implementing new ways to support our gig workers and the City’s life at night.
“The work of arts and culture is deep community work. Beyond events and festivals, it is community development, jobs, wellbeing, racial and environmental justice, youth education, and so much more,” said Shey ‘Rí Acu’ Rivera Ríos (they/them), Artist, Cultural Worker, and Arts Administrator. “The new Cultural Plan for the City of Providence reflects all of this deep work that is part of nurturing sustainable and just cities. In Providence, we held sessions with residents, artists, cultural practitioners, and arts administrators who poured their experiences and hopes for the future into this plan, so that the City can make real investments in the arts in ways that our community truly wants and needs. This plan is a transformative policy, a labor of love and intentional work. This is an important moment.”
Appropriately, today’s lecture featured keynote speaker Vanessa Whang of Oakland, CA. Whang is a researcher, program designer, evaluator, and strategic thought partner to funders and organizations engaged with arts and cultures, and their role in social justice. She is currently the lead designer/manager of Cultural Strategists-in-Government Program and senior project advisor for the Just City Cultural Fund, both based in Oakland, CA and lead designer for the San Francisco Foundation’s Bay Area Creative Corps Program in partnership with the CA Arts Council.
“After all we have been through as a country and in particular, people in the public sector – including the health crisis and ongoing reckoning with structural racism – we need people to be willing to take a stand on their values and the actions they want to take to bring us together, all of us, respectfully and with dignity,” said Vanessa Whang, Lead Designer/Manager of Cultural Strategists-in-Government Program. “I think Providence’s new cultural plan seeks to do just that.”
Today’s launch was the subject of the City’s annual Pell Lecture on Arts & Humanities, an annual lecture series that honors Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell, who is best known for his Pell Grant legislation that provides direct federal funds for low- and middle-income students seeking higher education.
The City of Providence’s Art, Culture and Tourism Department ensures the continued development of a vibrant and creative city by integrating arts and culture into community life while showcasing Providence as an international cultural destination. ACT commissions public art and produces public programming in all 25 of the City’s neighborhoods, facilitates education partnerships in schools and libraries, and produces multiple flagship festivals, an annual arts and humanities lecture, and other dynamic public programs while stewarding a small portfolio of grants.
For more information on PVDx2031, please visit the City’s website.