"I was intrigued by the fact that so many artists exist in Rhode Island, internationally recognized and groundbreaking within their field, yet many were not documented."
By Patricia Daddona PBN Staff Writer
Holly Gaboriault is a board member and second vice president of the Art League of Rhode Island. She is also an author, published illustrator, and designer working in Providence. She has worked on collaborative and community projects, while exhibiting her own work throughout New England and New York. Graduating from Rhode Island School of Design with a bachelor of fine arts in 2001, she has independently designed for numerous clients, created public art installations, curated exhibitions, and served on the boards of directors for several non-profit art organizations, including the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative. In 2012, she created the Rhode Island Art Archive Project, producing and directing the documentary film series that explores the vibrant arts community in Rhode Island.
PBN: What is the most effective way for the Arts League of Rhode Island to foster community support for artists? Give an example of the ways the nonprofit has done this most effectively.
GABORIAULT: The Art League of RI provides a supportive environment for artists, while sharing the experience of the arts with the community through education and exhibition. Encouraging the development of each individual artist with the knowledge that there is a community existing to support them is crucial. The league creates awareness amongst the arts community by sponsoring programs and providing outlets for professional development for its membership through workshops, opportunities for critiques, networking and creating visibility for artists through exhibitions. Recognizing its great responsibility to the educating the community, each exhibition accompanies various programming ranging from panel discussions with artists and curators in galleries and museums to collaborative projects within local schools. There are no limitations to what the next year will bring for the league, which provides it with real refreshing energy.
GABORIAULT: Iona B. Dobbins was a special part of the Rhode Island arts community and her passing affected many who felt that her legacy needed to live on through the two scholarship funds that were created: The Iona B. Dobbins Visual Arts Scholarship Fund started by the Art League of Rhode Island and The Iona B. Dobbins Art Fund, held at the Rhode Island Foundation. The Art League was selected as the host organization because Iona was their president for two years and the scholarship fund has already existed.
The original intent was to hold the event every other year highlighting a different non-profit organization to host and raise funds for its organization and the Art Fund. An organizing committee was formed by individuals from various artistic genres, who had a relationship with Iona and had worked with her in the past, with a goal to hold an event that would embody Iona's great energy and love of the arts, which could contribute to supporting emerging artists. This year included a New Orleans-style procession through downtown Providence and a block party at Roots Cultural Center with entertainment, food trucks, live auctions and the presentation of the IF Award, an award presented in Iona’s honor for excellence in supporting the arts.
PBN: What is the RI Art Archive Project and why did you create it?
GABORIAULT: I was intrigued by the fact that so many artists exist in Rhode Island, internationally recognized and groundbreaking within their field, yet many were not documented. Several projects had begun to profile these individuals, but I wanted to extend that conversation into the scope of how these artists relate and thrive both in and amongst each other as a community.
In June 2012, I created the documentary film series exploring what makes the state fertile in the arts through films and an online Vimeo channel with its visual artists, curators, gallery and museum directors, historians and art collectors. I proposed the project to the league’s Board of Directors, asking for its support as a fiscal agent and an opportunity to tell these stories of the arts community. The mission of the project is to archive, educate and inspire, while capturing a moment of time here in Rhode Island.
Last month “Film:1,” featuring 14 internationally recognized and accomplished artists who have found Rhode Island to be the best place to be an artist, premiered at the Rhode Island School of Design’s Museum of Art, in addition to an exhibition at Rhode Island College’s Bannister Gallery. The talented team of Christopher Kelley, Christopher O’Brien and Eric Sheridan were incredibly devoted to making this a reality and the tremendous response for the RI Art Archive Project is beyond what we anticipated. Film:2, to begin filming next year, features several multigenerational women artists in Rhode Island and how they see their role as mentors in this arts community and explore the concept of being an emerging artist.
PBN: How many members does the Art League have and what are you doing to increase membership?
GABORIAULT: The league has about 200 members total ranging in a wide variety of media and age. By offering two forms of membership, elected and associate members, an artist can join and take part in programs and exhibitions. Every March, the league encourages applicants for elected membership to submit their work for review to a rotating juried panel of Rhode Island art professionals and the membership grows. Associate membership is open to all artists and those who support the arts. Many associates become elected members, allowing different exhibition opportunities.
PBN: Which of the visual arts is the most neglected by the public and what is your organization doing to change that?
GABORIAULT: It’s less of an issue of neglect and more an issue of finding funding for arts projects and promoting awareness within the arts community as a whole. Despite its tiny stature on the map, Rhode Island has a multitude of resources for artists and it can be overwhelming for an artist to find which art group is a good fit for them. It’s fragmented, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The spirit in Rhode Island seems to be the attitude that if something isn’t happening or doesn’t exist, then you create it and make it happen.
Artists have been creating their own arts groups and organizations to add to the existing art scene and have gained national recognition in doing so, which is something not to be neglected. Art League of RI and its artists recognize the need to create more venues to see art and intend to build new audiences of young artists and patrons by embracing that same Rhode Island pioneering spirit.