Updated March 26 at 9:26pm

WaterFire eager to take root in R.I.’s capital city

By Rhonda J. Miller
PBN Staff Writer

Amidst all the task forces, business groups and event planners making sincere efforts to kick-start Rhode Island’s sluggish economy and brighten the state’s public image, there’s one ongoing, dramatic event in Providence that’s a visible success on a monumental scale – WaterFire. More

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WaterFire eager to take root in R.I.’s capital city

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Amidst all the task forces, business groups and event planners making sincere efforts to kick-start Rhode Island’s sluggish economy and brighten the state’s public image, there’s one ongoing, dramatic event in Providence that’s a visible success on a monumental scale – WaterFire.

Now the 19-year-old public phenomenon that brings in thousands of people and generates an economic impact of $70 million a year is putting down bricks-and-mortar roots and envisioning its expanded role as a day-to-day neighbor.

With $600,000 in brownfield cleanup grants from the Environmental Protection Agency announced in May and scheduled to be presented ceremoniously at the organization’s new home at 475 Valley St. on July 22, WaterFire is beginning the process of consolidating its operations.

The vision for the building that will bring in WaterFire offices from other locations in the neighborhood and equipment from rented warehouses around the city is more than just a view of efficiency.

“It will be our headquarters and it will also be a multiuse arts space that will host exhibitions, performances and events,” said WaterFire Managing Director Peter Mello.

Being a good neighbor will mean being part of, and nudging forward, revitalization of the Valley and Olneyville neighborhoods and creating an incubator space for arts and education ventures.

“We’re doing two things,” said WaterFire creator and Executive Artistic Director Barnaby Evans. “We’re digging in to build a permanent infrastructure and home for the next generation so that WaterFire will be here for the future, to continue to be that incubating space that will help artists and others and WaterFire continue to be a symbol of the transformed city.

“Our goal has always been to revitalize the community, for all of Providence,” he said.

“In owning a building, it allows us to come up with other ways to revitalize an immediate physical environment that’s less ephemeral, and we’re as intrigued by that as the performative installation aspect that we do downtown,” said Evans.

The consolidation to the new building is in the beginning stages as WaterFire moves forward on the two-year project. There are still plans to be drawn, permits to be approved and an estimated $4 million to $6 million to raise, said Evans.

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