David Vieira: The experience of community

One of the co-founder of The Arctic Playhouse Theatre in West Warwick, David Vieira wants to share his love of live performance and community.

Art — in particular, theatre and live music — has always played a pivotal role in my life, starting when I was a teen through now in my 60s. I learned about the world through plays and music. Even if I wasn’t always aware of it, I was learning about life and about living with other people as I was being entertained.

Now that I am older, I am trying to pass on the importance of live entertainment and the arts by being part owner of a community theatre. With two partners, I founded a non-profit theatre in West Warwick three years ago. Seeing the responses of the patrons and the dedication of the hard-working actors and performers has convinced me even more about the value of the arts.

More than ever, it is important to get people together to experience live music and theatre. With our cell phones and computers, and video games, we can be very isolated. The theatre does not only entertain, it gives us the shared experience of being together.

DAVID VIEIRA is part owner of the The Arctic Playhouse Theatre, a nonprofit community theatre in West Warwick. He is a husband, father, and grandfather.
To read more art stories, visit Rhode Island Art Stories. To contribute your own, email: mka [at] mkimarnold [dot] com.

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.

RISCA Applauds Federal Announcement of Support for Arts Programs in Rhode Island

Community_Musicworks

Community MusicWorks, one of the Rhode Island recipients of a recent grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts today announced that five Rhode Island organizations, including the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, will receive $878,700 in federal grants through the National Endowment for t­­­he Arts (NEA). These grants will support activities in communities throughout Rhode Island that affect our state’s economy, quality of life and educational programs.

Governor Gina M. Raimondo expressed appreciation for the federal investment in Rhode Island’s cultural sector. “We’re grateful for the NEA’s support of arts programming and activities in our state,” said Governor Raimondo. “Every dollar that goes to support the arts results in more jobs for Rhode Islanders, an economy and cultural life that makes our state an exciting destination for visitors and business alike, and innovative arts education programs like RISD’s Project Open Door, that helps Rhode Island high school students prepare for exciting opportunities in the arts.”

In announcing the grants, National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu said, “The American people are recognized for their innovative spirit and these grants represent the vision, energy, and talent of America’s artists and arts organizations. I am proud of the role the National Endowment for the Arts plays in helping advance the creative capacity of the United States.”

Randall Rosenbaum, Executive Director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, applauded the federal arts funding agency for its support. “We have seen clear evidence that the arts contribute dramatically to the Rhode Island economy and to the education of our children,” Rosenbaum said. “This federal support, matched with state dollars, helps to ensure that we continue to be a creative state, able to compete on the national stage with young people who learn through the arts to be the imaginative thinkers and problem-solvers of the twenty-first century.”

Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation is also very supportive of the federal investment in the arts in Rhode Island.

Senator Jack Reed said, “I am pleased to have led efforts to secure this federal funding to support arts education and boost our arts economy.  By combining federal grants with state and local funds and private donations, we can ensure that more Rhode Islanders have access to free and affordable concerts, performances, and opportunities for cultural enrichment.” Senator Jack Reed is a member of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the NEA’s budget, and he brought NEA Chairman Jane Chu to Rhode Island on two separate occasions.  Reed noted that White House budget for FY 2018 calls for an elimination of the NEA, among other cultural agencies like the National Endowment for the Humanities. “The arts may not have a place in the President’s budget, but they have a home in Rhode Island and I will continue to champion federal support for the arts nationwide.”

“Rhode Island punches well above our weight in the arts, thanks in part to smart federal investments like these,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.  “While funding for the arts and humanities represents only a small sliver of the federal budget, those dollars are put to work creating jobs and contributing to the quality of life we enjoy in Rhode Island. I’ll keep fighting to protect our creative sector from the extreme funding cuts proposed by President Trump.”

Congressman David Cicilline also expressed his support for the NEA and its work in Rhode Island. “The arts are critical to our quality of life and play an essential role in Rhode Island’s economy,” said Cicilline. “These grants will help students and artists across our community develop their talents and enhance our state’s reputation as a center of creativity and entrepreneurship. I am proud to be a strong supporter of these types of federal investments to help make Rhode Island more vibrant and economically prosperous.”

“Rhode Island is known for its arts community, and this federal investment will enable local organizations to continue building our state’s vibrant, world-class arts scene,” said Congressman Jim Langevin. “The arts enhance the quality of life for Rhode Islanders and serve as an important economic driver within our state. I’m pleased these funds will be used help to support jobs in the arts, bolster education and ensure the Ocean State remains an exciting place to live, work, and visit.”

A list of the projects receiving funding is below:

Rhode Island State Council on the Arts

$718,700 Providence, RI

Partnerships (State & Regional)

To support Partnership Agreement activities associated with carrying out your NEA-approved State strategic plan.

Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre (aka The Gamm)

$50,000 Pawtucket, RI

Our Town – Design

To support The Gamm’s design of a cultural anchor for Pawtucket. The project will center on the community engagement and design phase of a plan to restore a Pawtucket building into a cultural facility that will be the new Gamm Theatre. The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre will partner with the City of Pawtucket and additional community partners on the design process. The facility will serve an estimated 71,000 residents of the city as an anchor for a newly revitalized downtown.

Community Musicworks (aka CMW)

$65,000 Providence, RI

Art Works – Music

To support free music educational and performance programs for at-risk children and youth. Resident musicians in the program will provide instrumental lessons as well as instruction in subjects such as music theory and improvisation. Other activities will include a leadership development program for advanced students, performance opportunities for students, and professional concerts by resident musicians.

FirstWorks

$30,000 Providence, RI

Art Works – Presenting & Multidisciplinary Works

To support a series of multidisciplinary presentations and accompanying outreach activities. Participating artists including Bandaloop, Chick Corea, Betsayda Machada, and Qryq Qyz will perform. FirstWorks will offer related engagement activities including local artist showcases, panel discussions, master classes, films, social dance events, experiential learning, and performances in community spaces.

Rhode Island School of Design (aka RISD)

$15,000 Providence, RI

Art Works – Arts Education

To support Project Open Door. The free, after-school and summer visual arts education program is intended to serve high school students and teachers from underserved communities. Participating youth will develop technical skills in the visual arts and prepare competitive college entrance portfolios. Graduate students supervised by RISD faculty will provide arts instruction in a variety of artistic media. Students will have the opportunity to work in an open studio, build portfolios of creative work, and make museum and gallery visits-including an annual visit to New York City.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Endowment is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts.

About the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts

The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts is a state agency, supported by appropriations from the Rhode Island General Assembly and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. RISCA provides grants, technical assistance and staff support to arts organizations and artists, schools, community centers, social service organizations and local governments to bring the arts into the lives of Rhode Islanders. For more information on RISCA and its programs, please visit www.arts.ri.gov.

RI Congressman Langevin Organized Floor Speeches in Support of NEA

On April 6th Rhode Island Congressman Jim Langevin (RI-02) organized an hour-long “Special Order” in the U.S. House of Representatives, with speeches from several Members of Congress centered around protecting the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities from elimination in President Trump’s budget outline for the coming year.

Here is the video from that hour-long event. Many thanks to Representative Langevin, his colleague Representative David Cicilline (RI-01), and others.