LitArts RI moves into new Providence building

LITARTS RI, formerly known as the What Cheer Writers Club, is celebrating its relocation from 160 Westminster St. in downtown Providence to a 3,000-square-foot headquarters at 400 Harris Ave., Unit E, in the Valley area of the city. / COURTESY LITARTS RI

PROVIDENCE – An organization dedicated to fostering creative writing in Providence is celebrating its relocation from the downtown area to a building in the Valley neighborhood of the city.

LitArts RI, formerly known as the What Cheer Writers Club, recently marked the grand opening of its new 3,000-square-foot headquarters at 400 Harris Ave., Unit E, in Providence. The What Cheer Writers Club was previously located on the second floor at 160 Westminster St. in downtown Providence.

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The organization is still completing a buildout of its new leased space, working with Stem Contracting & Design, including the creation of a new podcasting studio at the facility, with help from sound engineer Cavanaugh Tocci.

LitArts RI is also putting on the finishing touches for a 28-foot mural at the new space created by local award-winning illustrator Kelly Murphy.

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The What Cheer Writers Club was first established as a nonprofit in 2018, as a center providing coworking, networking, workshopping and career opportunities for creative artists. The club had more than 400 active members in 2022, with 85 artists showcased throughout the year, according to the organization’s annual report.

“With a transition into a new center at 400 Harris and a new era of our work with our state’s literary community, we felt it was the perfect time to achieve a long-running goal – changing our name to something more befitting of the organization we have become,” said Jillian Winters, operations manager for LitArts RI. “A new name allows us to align further with our commitment to providing a safe and welcoming space for creatives across many genres and mediums, to reducing barriers of entry and feelings of exclusivity, and to becoming a resource for creatives statewide.”

The property is a brick two-story industrial building that was renovated in 2020 and is now divided into three workspace suites. The Whisk Me Away Bakehouse is also listed as a tenant there.

The 26,390-square-foot building, which is owned by Penn Central Transportation Co., according to the city’s online property tax evaluation database, is located less than one block from Farm Fresh Rhode Island and The Steel Yard, where LitArts RI recently held a celebratory outdoor “write-in” event. The new center is also close to businesses, including Tallulah’s Taqueria, Revival Brewing Co., and The Industrious Spirits Co.

Visitors to the literary organization’s new location will now have access to free parking at the facility, according to LitArts RI.

“The new location is a chance to build on the organization’s growth over the past five years,” said LitArts RI Program Director Jodie Vinson. “We’ve learned what makes a good workspace, a good gathering space, a good community partner. It allows us to finetune our workspace by amping up the ever-popular writing nooks; to create more space for folks to meet, talk and collaborate. … It even allows us to knock down a huge access barrier by offering free parking and bike racks, while still being right near a RIPTA [Rhode Island Public Transit Authority] line.”

The LitArts RI has been operating on a limited basis since opening its new location, from Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. through 7 p.m. But LitArts RI said it was planning to announce expanded hours sometime after the group’s June 24 ribbon-cutting event.

Marc Larocque is a PBN contributing writer. Contact him at Larocque@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @LaRockObama. 

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