Updated March 28 at 4:32am

Waterfire finalist for grant to expand offerings


(Updated, 10 a.m.)

PROVIDENCE – WaterFire Providence and Community MusicWorks, also of Providence, have been named finalists in the competition for financial support from ArtPlace, a Chicago-based collaboration of foundations, federal agencies and the nation’s largest banks.

ArtPlace expects to distribute $15 million in 2012 to arts organizations across the country, with recipients announced in May. In 2011, 34 organizations shared a total of $11.5 million. WaterFire and MusicWorks were the only two finalists from Rhode Island; in Massachusetts, The Boston Foundation of Dorchester is in the running for a grant.

“We are tremendously honored to be a finalist for this prestigious and innovative grant from ArtPlace,” said Barnaby Evans, founder and artistic director of WaterFire. “If we get this grant, ArtPlace is interested in us experimenting with new ideas and concepts to advance public art. We have so many ideas we would love to try and we look forward to working with artists and partners all across the community.”

Evans, who had alerted the public to financial woes at WaterFire in November, indicated that the group has rebounded. WaterFire, which now rents space at a former Providence school, is working to establish a permanent home, he said, “to assure the flames will continue to light up downtown.”

An ArtPlace grant, he added, would allow him and his staff to share “the lessons we learn in Providence about successful place-making and bringing vibrancy and life to our cities.” Cities from across the country and the world have invited Evans to put on a WaterFire production in their communities.

Heath Marlow, managing director of Community MusicWorks, said his organization is “excited” and “hopeful” about receiving ArtPlace financial support, which he said would be used to promote the group’s mission of using music “as a vehicle for community building.” A season-long series of “interesting, innovative” musical events would be presented with the funds which would be aimed at bringing West End neighbors together.

The finalists represent the best of more than 2,000 applications, ArtPlace said in a prepared release. Finalists were chosen for their potential to have a “transformative impact on community vibrancy,” the group said. Proposed projects in the running for funding include temporary art spaces, permanent performance venues, music festivals, art walks and artist residencies.

Participating foundations include Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Ford Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Rasmuson Foundation, The Robina Foundation and an anonymous donor.

Federal agencies are the National Endowment for the Arts, the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Education and Transportation, along with the White House Office of Management and Budget, and the Domestic Policy Council.

ArtPlace is also supported by a $12 million loan fund capitalized by six major financial institutions and managed by the Nonprofit Finance Fund. Participating institutions are Bank of America, Citi, Deutsche Bank, Chase, MetLife and Morgan Stanley.

Updated with comment from Heath Marlow.


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