Meet Butler Hospital and Kirsten Volness

Butler Hope Healing Community ExhibitionArts in Healthcare
Organization: Butler Hospital
Project Name: Multi-Disciplinary Healing Arts Residencies
Project Coordinator: Wendy Grossman and Laura White Carpenter
Participating Artists: Len Cabral, Christopher Johnson, Teri Pimley, and Kerri Peterson Weaver

Project: Butler Hospital’s Healing Arts 2017-2018 Multi-Disciplinary Residencies Program, a nine-month project (September 2017 – May 2018), will host a variety of artists and expressive arts therapists for a series of workshops and short-term residencies on each of the hospital’s eight inpatient units. The goal of the residency is to provide quality arts experiences to our inpatients, their caregivers and staff, which help patients move forward with their treatment.

Through a series of groups in movement, music, visual arts, creative writing and storytelling, we strive to create a comfortable space for creative self-expression to take place. This in turn allows for connection, joy, a sense of peace and hope.

More concretely, we also will use the arts as a tool for engagement in treatment for mental illness and addiction recovery during the short stays that our patients experience, which typically last from five to 10 days. This allows for a broad integration of the arts into the culture of Butler Hospital and permits us to serve as many patients as possible.

About the Organization: Butler Hospital treats psychiatric, substance use and neurological disorders and serves as the flagship mental health teaching hospital for Brown University’s medical school. Butler is a member of Care New England Health System. The hospital’s mission is to: Provide treatment for psychiatric illness in an atmosphere of dignity and respect; Contribute to knowledge through education and research; Continuously improve the ways we serve our patients and our community.

Kirsten Bio picProject Grants for Individuals
Artist Name: Kirsten Volness
Project Name: Verdant Vibes New Music Concert Series
Project: Verdant Vibes is a new music ensemble and concert series bringing together artists and musicians creating new work in a variety of genres and media, acoustic and electronic. This season we will present a three-concert series of music selected from our international call for scores, local and regional guest artists, and collaborations with young writers from the Manton Avenue Project, an afterschool playwriting program based in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence. We will work with the students on composition and performance of a new project, Olneyville: the Operetta!

18055642_776072662571353_6649634511345034880_oThis summer we posted our public, free, and inclusive call for scores for all types of new music that fits our core ensemble’s instrumentation, regardless of style or genre. We encouraged submission of electroacoustic and multimedia works, as well as proposals for collaborations from artists of all disciplines that do not fit the mold of a standard call for scores. opened this summer and received 750 submissions from around the world. We received over 750 submissions from around the world, and have been very fortunate and successful in attracting fantastic local, national, and international composers and other collaborative artists to work with us and present their work to local audiences.

We will continue to emphasize the work of RI artists (one show will feature local composer/performers) while including music from composers from all over the world. We believe combining local music with music from outside Rhode Island on our concerts helps expose our growing audience to exceptional new music from a variety of communities. We will encourage composers from out of state, who are able and willing, to attend our rehearsals and concerts, with the aim of providing a fruitful exchange between these creative communities.

Artist Bio:
Kirsten Volness is a musician, composer, and teacher who has been involved in the creative community of Providence and greater Rhode Island for eight years. She is co-founder/director and pianist of Verdant Vibes, plays piano with NYC-based ensemble Hotel Elefant, collaborates on unique multimedia projects such as Meridian Project (astrophysics+new music/media), Tenderloin Opera Company (homeless advocacy music/theater group), and is an affiliate artist of Sleeping Weazel. As inaugural Composer-In-Residence, Kirsten also curates the First Fridays chamber music series at the Music Mansion in Providence. She teaches privately and at the University of Rhode Island.

The mission of Verdant Vibes is to present opportunities for a diverse group of composers, performers, and audience members to come together to experience new music. We aim to accomplish this not just through our call for scores and performances by our core ensemble, but through our collaboration with unique and diverse guest artists, accessible and eclectic performance venues, talented students, and curious and enthusiastic audience members. We hope to grow on the successes of this project thus far, and to continue to strive toward the goal of a strong and inclusive new music community in Rhode Island.

Meet Cathren Housley and Nancy Brown-Garcia

Twice a year RISCA awards grants in a number of categories. Over the next few months, we will be profiling the amazing artists and organizations that received grants at our April 1, 2017 deadline, two at a time.

RISCA_Cathren2Project Grants for Individuals
Artist: Cathren Lee Housley
Project: Multidisciplinary artist and writer Cathren Housley has created the Maker’s Box Workshop series, designed to kick start young imaginations with a variety of art mediums. Each week a different mystery box is provided with raw materials where kids can explore drawing, sculpting, writing and more! While the fun doesn’t stop there, they will develop solid problem solving skills as they take their ideas from thought to form.
For each session, Housley will bring a mystery Maker’s Box, along with a variety of adhesives and tools that kids may need to complete their project. We will have a different theme to start from every week. How they decide to express their ideas is up to them.
In addition to license to create at will, kids will also get instruction on how to use age appropriate tools and materials. At the beginning of each session, students will each be asked to decide what they make, and then follow through. Their ideas can change as they work- but they must complete them. At the end of each workshop, we will talk about the projects. Did the end result differ from what they intended? Why? What were some of the difficulties they encountered and how did they solve the problems? Would they do things differently next time?

1jpg.jpgFolk Arts Apprenticeship
Project: Traditional Native American Regalia
Master: Nancy Brown-Garcia
Apprentice: Misheshau Garcia-Perry
Artist Bio: Nancy Brown-Garcia is a Mishawomett/Meshanticut Narragansett of the Pawtuxet Falls Band in Warwick, Rhode Island. Nancy learned 1897traditional arts at an early age and continued her interests in leather, feathers, beads, wampum, weaving, and print making. Nancy can bead with the smallest beads in the world. Her work has been exhibited in Europe. Nancy has shared her skills with schools, colleges and universities throughout the United States and Europe. Nancy enjoys beading when she is not protecting ancient ancestral graves as the Narragansett Indian Tribe’s, Chief Deputy Historic Preservation Officer.

After You Hit Submit

Here’s what happens in that murky time after you hit the submit button on your RISCA grant application and before you get a letter in the mail with the results (and why it takes so long).

Each program’s process is a little different, so this is what happens in the Fellowship and Project Grants for Individuals programs.

Step One: Screening for Eligibility

Staff start by reading every single application- for the April 1st deadline, about 215 applications were submitted for the fellowship and PGI programs alone, this week I am working my way through 187. At this point, I just check that each application meets our eligibility requirements and is complete, and I take some notes about content, genres represented, and style for step two.

Step Two: Central Casting

For the April deadline, I gathered nine grant review panels with 31 total panelists from six states. We recruit panelists that are working in a wide variety of art forms and styles. Our panelists are artists, arts administrators, and people working in arts-adjacent fields or serving artists. With the exception of the Fellowship program, they are Rhode Islanders. This is similar to casting a play- we need specific skills, experience, and knowledge and each person fits together like a puzzle piece. We gather totally new panels for each deadline, you can only serve on a RISCA panel once every three years, so we are constantly updating spreadsheets and making notes about people we think would be great panelists.

Step Three: Panelists Evaluate Applications

Panelists for all of the grant programs, except a few of the fellowship categories, then review the applications at home, and give them a preliminary score. So, your applications and supporting materials are first viewed by panelists at home, on their personal computers. We estimate that panelists spend about 30 minutes reviewing each application, so, depending on the number of applications, this is a 12-18 hour time commitment before the in person panel review day. We try to give panelists at least a month to do this work. At this point, in addition to submitting a numerical score via our online grant system, they also take notes and make comments about each application in preparation for the panel review day.

Step Four: Panel Review Day

The panelists come to RISCA offices in Providence for an all day panel review meeting. This is the big day for your application. Facilitated by the program director, the panelists discuss each application in detail, returning to supporting materials, asking questions of each other, and looking at each project’s budget. Each panelists updates their score for each application, and once we have discussed each application, the program director ranks the applications by their total score. The panelists then make funding recommendations for each application, based on the total amount of money available to award.

Step Five: Distilling Feedback

During the review day, both the program directors and other staff take notes on the feedback from the panelists. Then, the program director distills this feedback into a concise paragraph for the applicant. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide feedback or critique in our fellowship programs, partly because of the number of applications.

Step Six: Council Approval

Our council, which is the governor appointed group that oversees RISCA’s activity, reviews the panel recommendations and comments, and then approves the grants. We do our best to give them at minimum a week, usually two, to review the comments before the council meeting.

Step Seven: Notification

Once the grants have been approved, we send out notifications via mail to each applicant. With the exception of the fellowships, each applicant receives feedback on their application regardless of whether they were funded. From submission to notification typically takes about 2 and a half to three months, and a lot of spreadsheets.

Meet Jose Maldonado and Providence Community Library

Twice a year RISCA awards grants in a number of categories. Over the next few months, we will be profiling the amazing artists and organizations that received grants at our April 1, 2017 deadline, two at a time.

AltComicCon_comicsArts Access Grant
Applicant Organization: Providence Community Library
Project: The Comics Consortium, led by artist Walker Mettling, will teach a month-long, 8-session course (each session lasting 2 hours) at 4 different PCL libraries, focusing on communal sketchbook games to generate strange characters and build up energy to channel into each kid’s individual story.
The PCC has developed a curriculum that is unique from traditional school and art classes with its emphasis on collaborative mind bending creativity and story-telling. Drawing inspiration from a variety of sources, including improv theater and creative writing workshops, the PCC has at least twenty drawing games and countless permutations that are the cornerstone of its philosophy. The games serve many purposes in class: icebreakers, group bonding, entertainment, productivity, getting warmed up, shaking off anxiety around drawing, and getting to a less self-conscious place. The gamesAltComicCon_Walker generate an abundance of characters and stories that anyone is free to run with. Everyone’s ideas inspire everyone else’s.
About the Organization: Providence Community Library (PCL) serves more than 54,000 registered patrons. Through its nine library locations, PCL provides access to a wealth of knowledge, resources and opportunities to the people of Providence. Additionally, PCL’s mobile library takes the joy of reading and lifelong learning out on the road to schoolyards, city parks and special events. PCL offers books, DVDs and other lending materials; free access to computers, WiFi and the Internet; ESL, GED and Spanish language courses; homework help and afterschool clubs; music and arts events; book clubs; meeting space for community groups, and more. For information about the library and to find out what’s happening at any PCL location, visit

rolling-marley.pngProject Grants for Individuals
Artist: Jose Maldonado
Project: Project 401 founder and leader Jose “Facce” Maldonado will organize, complete outreach for, and execute Project 401’s fourth annual Summer Jam Series. This is a comprehensive Hip Hop programming initiative consisting of instruction and mentorship in Hip Hop elements, facilitated discussions on pertinent socio-political issues, and bi-weekly Jams at various parks in the Providence area.
The Summer Series initiative was established to create safe, respectable, vibrant, and inter-generational spaces where people of all ages and backgrounds can engage creatively with each of Hip-Hop cultures four elementswork out pic (MCing, Breaking, DJing, and Graffiti) with the guidance of experienced practitioners of each art form. Giving participants the means to further their physical, intellectual, and emotional development utilizing Hip-Hop culture’s fundamental principles (Peace, love, Unity, and Having Fun) as they apply lessons learned to their everyday lives. Empowering themselves and the communities they dwell. The same transformative process the original founders and architects of the culture and Project 401 members from similar circumstances are still currently engaged. Besides instruction in the basic Hip Hop elements, Project 401 will continue a healthy discourse on matters such as physical and emotional health, the history and current state of Hip-Hop Culture, women in Hip-Hop, their numerous and invaluable contributions to Hip-Hop culture, the Black and Latino experience in America, and socioeconomic issues prevalent to our communities.
jose picArtist Bio: Jose Maldonado has been dancing and submersed within Hip Hop culture for over 20 years, and is the founder of Project 401. Over the last six years Project 401 has become one of the most influential and well known Hip Hop performing arts groups in the State of Rhode Island. Since starting off with 3 core members in 2010, Project 401 has 6 core staff members with a diverse network of students, supporters, and affiliates . In addition to our programming work, Project 401 is also a performance group, and for the past few years have consistently averaged 1 community show a week in the State of Rhode Island. We try to perform everywhere, to truly show our community how committed we are to empowering our youth and elevating our common cultural heritage. Jose currently coordinates programming at 6 arts-educational institutions in the State of Rhode Island, and his group currently works with 130 students at our varied locations.

Rose Weaver: The arts help us to heal, in community

When art conveys an aspect of human experience, it can touch people’s lives in profound and meaningful ways. Rose Weaver tells a story of how her artistic work helped her and others to deal with difficult and complicated family losses.

Writing plays, storytelling, composing songs, and singing are analogous to food and water for me. Without them I would not have survived an abusive past living under Jim Crow laws or gender discrimination since birth. Looking forward, I know I cannot endure the future if being an artist and receiving artistic grant support is forever taken from me.

Spruced physically, spiritually, and mentally in their abundant guises, performing and writing provides me the artistic means through which I find personal and professional freedom and salvation.

“Memories are the lifeblood of a family’s identity.” My play, Skips in the Record, a RISCA 2004 Fellowship winner, is a tragic comedy about a southern black American family coping with Alzheimer’s disease. Through three generations of women, it focuses on the fear of losing memory, history, thoughts, ideas, recognition and the urgent desire to preserve all of these. I witnessed my grandmother’s steady decline and death from complications of Alzheimer’s. I saw my mother’s struggle as a caregiver who could barely read prescription labels.  A few years later, as my friend and colleague Sylvia Ann Soares’s mother moved deeper into Alzheimer’s disease, again I saw first hand how devastating the disease is to the caregiver, the patient, the whole family. I needed to write and capture my experiences in order to better understand, ease my fears, heal, and to help my community comprehend the scope of Alzheimer’s whole body deterioration.

Skips in the Record was one of my thesis plays at Brown University as a mature MFA student of fifty years old. A one-act play in the beginning, it was not until I was awarded the RISCA Playwriting Fellowship in 2004 that I was able to have the time and resources to create focus groups, do extensive research, and expand the one-act play into a full length script. Performances were welcomed by hospitals, churches, community organizations and even First Night Providence at Trinity Rep.

A few months ago, another dear friend, Pamela Lambert, who acted in Skips in the Record along side Sylvia Ann Soares, confided in me that as a result of her acting in the play over the years, she is presently able to better care for her own mother who is losing the battle to the disease.

An executive who worked with an Alzheimer’s organization said, “Skips in the Record is successful and highly regarded by the audience as an excellent and innovative approach to educate the community about Alzheimer’s disease.” Education using the arts allows a person with no education or one with multiple degrees to benefit on a visceral as well as intellectual level from the messages in artistic representations.

ROSE WEAVER is a playwright, vocalist, and performer. She is currently Artist-in-Residence at Brown University’s Rites & Reason Theatre.
To read more art stories, visit Rhode Island Art Stories. To contribute your own, email: mka [at] mkimarnold [dot] com.

Meet Wickford Art Association and Sara Azriel

Twice a year RISCA awards grants in a number of categories. Over the next few months, we will be profiling the amazing artists and organizations that received grants at our April 1, 2017 deadline, two at a time.

URI students WAF 2017 IMG_8971Arts Access Grant
Applicant Organization: Wickford Art Association
Project: This year the Wickford Art Association (WAA) holds its 55th Annual Wickford Art Festival.  In keeping with our Mission: …to educate, encourage and inspire… the WAA will broaden the experience of new, aspiring artists from Rhode Island’s colleges and universities by showcasing their work to more than 40,000 visitors on “College Row”.
July 8 and 9, 2017 the Wickford Art Association (WAA) held its 55th Annual Wickford Art Festival on the streets of historic Wickford Village. Over 200 fine artists, both domestic and international, displayed and sold their work to over 40,000 attendees. The WAA’s Mission – to educate, encourage and inspire – took on added meaning at this Festival through the introduction of an expanded College Row. At the 54th Festival in 2016 the WAA invited art students from the University of Rhode Island to have a booth and participate in the show. It was so successful that URI returned this year with more students. Selected by faculty, the students were located in a special section of the show URI students at WAF 2017 IMG_8970designated as College Row, incorporating special signage, banners, and a distinctive full-color insert in the Festival program, all designed to showcase these young, aspiring artists. The students had the opportunity to present and sell their work to a large and diverse audience, and the benefit of meeting professional artists, having their work juried by a team of experts, and gained insight into their creativity and dedication to their vocation. Included among the artists displaying on College Row will be four high school artists; the winners of the 55th Annual Wickford Art Association Scholarship Competition.
About the Organization: The purpose of the Wickford Art Association shall be to educate, encourage and inspire its membership, the local arts community and the general public and to promote fine arts in the community.

project pic finalProject Grants for Individuals
Artist: Sara Azriel
Project: MARS Camp (Music-Arts-Recording-Songwriting) is a songwriting and recording program intended to empower and educate at-risk youth. Our purpose is to foster a trusting, supportive, challenging, and rewarding learning environment; to provide a safe space for students to explore and express their lives through music; to allow time and provide guidance for students to advance their abilities and learn the discipline of practice; to introduce students to the basic elements of being an independent artist in the information age. The camp is available free of cost for up to 20 high-school-aged participants.
Our desired outcomes are fully – written, produced, and recorded songs, a listening party at the school, and an online space where their songs can be streamed and downloaded. We will also take advantage of all school and community performance opportunities for the students to perform their songs in front of a live audience. Furthermore, our hope for each student is that they deepen their love of music, expand their skill- set, and gain confidence and trust in their own unique skills and capabilities.
Artist Bio: Sara Azriel is an eclectic songwriter whose music combines the universality of pop, the sincerity of folk, and the richness of soul music. “Romantically heavy and elusive as moonlight, Sara Azriel’s music defies boundaries, brightens the heart, and casts like on a young woman painfully in love with the world around her” (Eric Smith, Providence Monthly). Sara was born and raised into a large musical family near the sara bio pic finalshores of Lake Michigan and is currently based in Providence, RI. In 2013, she released her debut self-titled EP, which was mixed by Grammy award winning mix engineer James Wisner (Amy Winehouse, Justin Timberlake), and includes musical, writing, and production contributions from Davy Nathan (Christina Aguilara, Babyface), Andrew ‘Moon” Bain (Snoop Dogg, Major Lazer), and Mike Feingold (Erykah Badu, John Legend). Sara has performed her music at revered venues such as  Hotel Café (Los Angeles), Knitting Factory (Los Angeles), Narrows Center for the Arts (Fall River), House of Blues (Boston), and The Veterans Memorial Auditorium (Providence).

RISCA is hiring an Education Director!

RISCA’s Education Director manages and oversees the agency’s support for education. The Education Director manages granting, professional development, and policy programming initiatives that support the arts as integral to K-12 education and the daily lives of Rhode Island children and youth. The Director works within state government, and in partnership with community-based arts and education organizations, to carry out the program’s vision. Click here for a more detailed description of the duties and responsibilities, and to apply.