FirstWorks Festival: On the Plaza in 2012 happens this Saturday, Sept. 29 at Kennedy Plaza.
Kathleen Pletcher, executive artistic director at FirstWorks, which began as First Night Providence and has evolved as a year-round arts presenter that partners with over 50 area organizations and businesses, has led the organization in a yearlong collaboration with the Providence Department of Art, Culture and Tourism and the Providence Downtown Parks Conservancy to produce a daylong arts festival that will include a performance by aerial troop Bandaloop dancing 30 stories in the air and Trinity Repertory Company performing Shakespeare on a wagon.
The project was helped made possible by a $200,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts
PBN: The FirstWorks Festival is the result of a year-long collaborative project. What initially sparked the idea?
PLETCHER: Our inspiration was envisioning the historic hub of Providence, Kennedy Plaza, as a vibrant town square. We were excited by the individual and collective efforts of community planners, artists, designers and our partners.
PBN: How will the festival contribute to revitalizing Kennedy Plaza even after it happens – what do you hope the long-term effect will be?
PLETCHER: On the Plaza is a pilot for a biennial tourism festival to showcase Providence’s incredible art and design riches alongside talents of world-class artists. We’re planning to continue building on the partnerships which were launched to realize the potential of Kennedy Plaza as the vital heart of our city.
PBN: The project is centered on the idea of creative place making. Why is this concept an important part of revitalizing the city’s and state’s economy?
PLETCHER: Animating public space with live arts and arts installations improves business viability, highlights the distinct identity of Providence as a creative capital and brings very diverse people together to celebrate and be inspired. FirstWorks put creativity at the epi-center of addressing civic needs.
PBN: Has the event attracted interest outside of Rhode Island and how will it impact that kind of attention?
PLETCHER: As the lead cultural partner, collaborating with the City of Providence, we were thrilled that the National Endowment for the arts awarded Providence a first round Our Town grant. Momentum is growing. We’re working with the Providence tourism community and the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau so that the festival and other major events in our season are part of a creative getaway weekends that draw visitors across the region.
PBN: What part of the festival are you most excited about?
PLETCHER: I’m excited about experiencing Kennedy Plaza animated like a pizza in Rome. The R.I. Public Transit Authority has worked closely with us to close Kennedy Plaza to bus and vehicular traffic for the day, allowing for people to move freely from stages to art installations to the Festival Beer Garden. The artistic mash-ups of this festival are fabulous. The festival is a feast for the senses that shows creative Providence bursting with potential.