Joe Wilson Jr. was recognized by the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society for his contributions to the community during a recent awards ceremony. Wilson is a resident acting-company member at Trinity Repertory Co. He holds a B.A. in political science from the University of Notre Dame and an MFA in acting from the University of Minnesota/ Guthrie Theatre training program.
PBN: Can you tell us more about the award you received from the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society?
WILSON: I was honored with the Sissieretta Jones Award for Cultural Literacy and the Arts. I am so humbled to have been recognized for my efforts in using the arts as a means of creating a stronger community. Serving as a member of the Trinity Repertory acting company has allowed me the opportunity to not only hone my craft as an actor, but use the very public nature of my work as a tool in affecting positive change in the community.
PBN: What is the Manton Avenue Project, and how did you become involved with it?
WILSON: I presently serve as the vice chair for the Manton Avenue Project. MAP is an organization in the Olneyville community that pairs young people with professional actors, directors and other theatre professionals for the purpose of creating original plays. Through the process of playmaking, our young people are taught not only how to write and act in these plays, but the values of collaboration and hard work. What is particularly rewarding for the students and our professional artists are the public performances of these plays. These events give our playmakers, both young and old, a feeling of shared accomplishment, and personal achievement. I am also proud of the fact the MAP will be moving into our first permanent home in Olneyville Village in June.
PBN: What are some of your other involvements in the local community? Are there any specific goals you hope to achieve through your work?
WILSON: I teach and mentor throughout this region. I am also a member of the Downtown Improvement District and have served on the board for Trinity Repertory Co. … Art must not be seen as an expendable commodity. Art is a means to build an economically vibrant community. Downtown Providence is a prime example. … I am trying to change the dialogue from that which labels art as a “luxury item.” Creativity is an essential component in building a community of thinkers, visionaries and individuals that respect the rights of all people. I cannot say strongly enough to the business community: invest in the arts. •