WaterFire's Creative Placemaking Learning Lab and Public Art Incubator

WaterFire Providence

Funding Received: 2012
Providence, RI
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months

In 2012, WaterFire Providence received an ArtPlace America grant to build on its 20 years experience of successfully activating and rebranding downtown Providence and develop a Creative Placemaking Learning Lab and PublicArt Incubator to allow the organization to collaborate with artists and arts organizations in developing and executing experiments in creative placemaking with a range of projects, genres and techniques at different frequencies and scales.

Public Art Incubator Projects included:

WaterFire's The Gaspee Project retold and reenacted the HMS Gaspee story of through a variety of artistic mediums, events, performances and experiences in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The Gaspee Project on Twitter - We created Twitter profiles for all of the main players of the Gaspee Incident and had them unfold the story in real time in their own words.



Lovecraft themed WaterFire as part of the NecronomiCon Providence, a a many-faceted convention exploring the works of HP Lovecraft and fellow writers of Weird Tales, past and present.including a Steampunk Pop Up Museum in a long vacant historic building downtown Providence. 




WaterFire Providence collaborated with Big Nazo Puppets and a group of high school students in creating costumes and masks for the Lovecraft WaterFire.




WaterFire's First Annual Salute to Veterans




Ignite Providence which is a website and weekly radio show of WaterFire curated events and activities in Providence and across the State of Rhode Island with the objective of getting WaterFire attendees to come to Providence earlier, stay longer and explore other arts and culture offerings in the community and further stimulate the economy in the process. 

Project Incubation: Internationally renowned artists Megan and Murray McMillan were the first Artists in Residence at the WaterFire Arts Center where they incubated an installation/performance/video project for a major exhibit at MASSMoCA in 2014/15.

Creative Placemaking Learning Lab Projects included:

Organized and hosted The Art of Placemaking Conference in Providence, RI from November 2013. Approximately 250 attendees from across the world participated in the 3 day event which was attached to a WaterFire in order to provide unique experiential educational opportunities. Presenters included: 

  • US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (video)
  • Lyz Crane, Deputy Director, ArtPlace America (video)
  • Sunil Iyengar, Director, Office of Research & Analysis, National Endowment for the Arts
  • Jason Schupbach, Director of Design, National Endowment for the Arts (video part 1 and part 2)
  • Maria Rosario Jackson, senior adviser, Arts and Culture Program, The Kresge Foundation and adjunct faculty at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, CA (video)
  • Ann Markusen, Director, Arts Economy Initiative and the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and Principal of Markusen Economic Research (video)
  • Anne Gadwa Nicodemus, Metris Arts Consulting, Researcher, writer, speaker and advocate for creative placemaking (video)
  • Laura Zabel, Executive Director, Springboard for the Arts
  • Bert Crenca, Co-founder and Artistic Director, AS220
  • Jed Pearsall, Founder and President, Performance Research (video)
  • Lynne McCormack, Director, Art, Cuture + Tourism, City of Providence
  • Gülgün Kayim, Director, Arts, Culture and Creative Economy, City of Minneapolis 
  • Randall Rosenbaum, Executive Director, Rhode Island State Council for the Arts
  • Kip Bergstrom, Deputy Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development 
  • Ryan Stubbs, Research Director, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
  • Heather Bryant, Research Associate, Cultural Data Project
  • and more. For a full roster of presenters visit The Art of Placemaking conference website

Placemakers.us a collabortive learning lab website that shares content including video and podcasts from The Art of Placemaking Conference and other creative placemaking information. 


See below for recent updates, press, and events from this project

We’ve had an incredibly busy period recently with five full and two basin WaterFire’s and our annual fundraising event all in the past five weeks... Read More
Building on its experience of successfully activating and rebranding downtown Providence, WaterFire’ Learning Lab will allow the organization to collaborate with artists and arts organizations... Read More
Whether through philanthropic donations, government funding, tax credits, or earned income, fundraising requires creativity, patience, and persuasion. Even within their own communities, non-profits seeking funding...Read more