Nicolas Bauta co-founded the Steel Yard in Providence with Clay Rockefeller. The redeveloped steel-fabrication facility, which serves as a campus for arts education, workforce training, and small-scale manufacturing, recently nabbed a silver Ruby Bruner Award for Urban Excellence and is the venture for which Bauta is best known.
Anne-Marie Lubenau, director of the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence for the Bruner Foundation in Cambridge, Mass., describes the Steel Yard as a bustling, creative center that bridges industry and the traditional arts.
Also a sculptor, a former real estate developer, and self-described “creative entrepreneur,” Bauta has several other “irons in the fire” entrepreneurially, including his newest project, Fete, a live-music venue in Providence’s Olneyville neighborhood, and a new venture, SymBionX, in development.
PBN: You identify as an artist first and an entrepreneur second. Why is the identity of sculptor so important?
BAUTA: Sculpture has always been my passion. I discovered it at Rhode Island School of Design when I took my first 3-D class. The entrepreneurial part of my life has all been a means to the end of supporting myself as an artist. I asked myself: What do I need as an artist to be here – an affordable place to live, a studio I can continue growing with; a good place to converse and work with contemporaries; a place that’s sociable to meet new people. The real estate I started with, Firehouse 13, was my first foray into being an owner, then a business owner. It took me away from my passion for a while, but I’ve been building a very good skill set for my sculpture.
PBN: You founded the Steel Yard in 2001, with Clay Rockefeller, repurposing an industrial complex as a nonprofit to help artists teach one another in the industrial arts. What’s the relationship like?