Cities help artists find right fit

‘You can’t afford to run into any delays.’

DOG’S HOUSE: Anna Rae Fleischer shows off ceramics work at Mad Dog studios in Pawtucket.
Posted 7/23/12

(Updated, July 25, 9 a.m.)

Picture this: You’re a Providence-area artist seeking studio space to rent near your neighborhood. Or maybe you’re a developer looking to open a studio or gallery where others could make and display their work.

In either case you’ve got two major options, each with similarities, benefits and downsides.

“The plus in Pawtucket is price. The plus in Providence is name recognition,” said Len Lavoie, owner of Rhode Island Commercial Industry Realty in Pawtucket. “Other than that, it doesn’t really make any difference.”

While Lavoie, who has more than 20 years of experience helping building developers and artists choose between the two cities, may be able sum up the most polarizing difference in opening a studio in Pawtucket versus Providence, the decision for artists often goes deeper.

And it isn’t always an easy one.

Pawtucket’s Mad Dog Artist Studios and Gallery, run by the Garnett family, a foursome who between them are artists and salespeople, is the most recent addition to the growing number of studios in the two communities.

“There are so many groups around here and Pawtucket is extremely supportive of new businesses, especially if you’re in the arts and entertainment [industry],” said Christina Garnett, 32. Earlier this month she opened Mad Dog studios with her father, Norval, mother Karen, and sister, Amanda Amoroso, 27, a ceramics artist. “As a new business owner, you can’t afford to run into any delays. They want new businesses and they get it.”

Garnett, with a background in sales, is running marketing efforts. An offer on Living Social, the popular coupon website, for a free month of membership, brought her family’s Blackstone Avenue business five new members within 24 hours.

But the Garnetts are relying largely on word-of-mouth within the city’s arts community, which was a major draw in their decision to locate the business there.

Anchor, a partnership between Matt Grigsby, a Rhode Island School of Design grad, and Asher Dunn, a woodworker, opened last year in Providence’s West End.

“When we were looking, we looked at 16 or 18 spaces and places in Pawtucket, too,” Grigsby said. “[How we chose] is a good question.

“I think the community in Providence is just stronger. People look out for each other more,” Grigsby said.

The price also happened to be right for Grigsby and Dunn. They leased their space in early 2011, getting in “while it was still cheap,” Grigsby said.

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