Peter Bramante joined FirstWorks as managing director in 2010, bringing more than 28 years experience to the nonprofit as an executive, manager, artist and educator. Previously, he served as executive director of the Arts & Business Council of Rhode Island for10 years, where he created innovative audience development tools and broadened the scope of nationally funded resources aimed at building Rhode Island’s cultural capitol. He is deeply involved in developing FirstWorks’ arts-learning program. A 2004 graduate of Roger Williams University with bachelor’s degrees in dance performance and arts management, he received a Master of Fine Arts degree in dance science and performance studies in 2009 from Connecticut College. He has held adjunct and associate professorships at Brown University’s Trinity Repertory Consortium, Rhode Island College, Roger Williams University and Connecticut College.
PBN: You came to FirstWorks as managing director in 2010, targeting a need to strengthen the organization's partnerships with other groups. Have you achieved that goal and if so, how?
BRAMANTE: FirstWorks has the good fortune of working with more than 75 partners across the arts, business, education and civic sectors. Our ongoing, open dialogue with these partners allows us to work together to provide value to the community, which is most evident at our performances, where FirstWorks audiences have up-close access to innovative world-class artists and thought leaders. It is also particularly important for FirstWorks to provide value through arts education to help close the skills gap in our schools, and to continue our work with the city of Providence as we partner to establish the FirstWorks Festival on the Plaza as a biennial signature event that will bring growth and economic vitality to our state.
PBN: You deal first-hand with the artists who perform for FirstWorks. What strengths of yours play into those relationships, and what is your favorite memory of working closely with an artist in a way that yielded a memorable result?
BRAMANTE: We offer Rhode Islanders access to some of the most exciting artists of our time, including Yo-Yo Ma & the Silk Road Ensemble, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Wynton Marsalis and the Joffrey Ballet. So, there have been quite a few memorable moments! One that stands out is the deeply engaging experience we had throughout the community with Sweet Honey in The Rock. The profound connection these multiple Grammy award-winning artists made with our community during their performance and residency here was unforgettable. It was most amazing when communities of faith, social justice groups, K-12 students, and the wider community joined together for a sold-out night at The Vets. That evening, the audience became completely engrossed in a sing-back, call and response performance led by the artists. That was the cherry on top for my most memorable moment! It powerfully demonstrated how the arts unifies communities and makes anything possible. It was truly uplifting.
PBN: What are the realities of financial planning for an artistic enterprise like FirstWorks? How do you 'keep it real'?
BRAMANTE: It’s all about relationships. It is so important to get out and meet with our supporters and funders regularly to understand our mutual objectives. Strategic planning combined with thoughtful and impactful marketing are also major ingredients. We work hard on those elements and we are also very good at utilizing our partners’ outside expertise. We are very fortunate to have an amazing Board of Directors, community partners, and the generous support of individuals, foundations, small businesses, and corporations – all making it possible for us to create extraordinary "firsts in the arts" that embrace diverse cultures, and enrich our community.
PBN: Describe FirstWorks' upcoming 2013-14 season. What will be the attraction this year?
BRAMANTE: Our Executive Artistic Director Kathleen Pletcher has put together our most exhilarating season yet, coming November through March, including: Cirkopolis by Cirque Éloize, a spectacular show that blends circus arts, dance and theater; a premiere performance by the phenomenal Kronos Quartet commissioned by FirstWorks and Community MusicWorks; Broadway tap superstar Savion Glover’s latest creation; and a landmark live music/dance event by the wildly inventive Mark Morris Dance Group. In addition to performances, all will be in residency with lots of educational programs and opportunities for audiences of all ages to engage with the artists.
PBN: What is the single best indicator of growth at FirstWorks since you arrived? And what is your goal 10 years out?
BRAMANTE: As we approach our 10th anniversary in 2014, we are actively looking forward and back at our trajectory of growth and future goals. We are excited to build upon the strong foundation of “cultural firsts” for which FirstWorks is known, and further developing the FirstWorks Festival on the Plaza, in partnership with the city of Providence’s Department of Art, Culture + Tourism, into a catalyst for urban development, collaboration, economic impact and an emblem of “Creative Providence” at its best. Finally, we are excited to bring audiences more “cultural firsts” and to grow access to our arts-learning programs for students in need.