Artists' Exchange on path to raising matching gifts for $170K in renovations

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Located in the heart of Cranston at 50 Rolfe Square, the Artists’ Exchange is a creative hub for artists of all ages and interests. In order to build a stronger arts community, the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) has awarded the Artists’ Exchange an $85,000 Cultural Facilities Grant to use toward improvements of their facilities. However, in order to receive the grant, RISCA requires recipients to raise matching funds, resulting in a total of $170,000 for renovations. 

The Artists’ Exchange, which has three years to raise the match, has already received $73,000 in donations in just nine months. With the help of the community, they hope to complete the drive by the end of the year, and already have plans for improvements to their facilities. The Artists’ Exchange is operated by the organization Gateways to Change, located at 1060 Park Avenue, Cranston. Gateways to Change is a non-profit organization which has been dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for persons with developmental disabilities in community settings since 1992.

Ed Egan, director of development for the Artists’ Exchange and Gateways to Change, Inc., said he has been working to “pave the way to establish a culture where supporting the organization is good and worthwhile.” 

“Any gift is going to be valued by us,” Egan said. “Organizations like this operate largely by the skin of their teeth. It’s all going to be put to good use.” Thanks to the new grant from RISCA the organization can see to many renovations that have previously been on the back burner.  

Artists’ Exchange is open to the public and houses multiple art studios, a gallery, and a black box theater. The gallery has been used for display by high school students and local artists of all kinds. With a variety of classroom performance workshops, after-school programs, and field trips available on site or at Artists’ Exchange, the organization is a source for arts education and serves approximately 1,000 children from Cranston and 5,000 from the state of Rhode Island.

All of their workshops, performances, and field trips are built around the Common Core State Standards approved by the Rhode Island Department of Education. Music and reading classes are open for children as young as 2 to 8 years old. Theater, music, and dance classes are available for children aged 5 to 18, with focus in creative writing and dance. These classes run for four or five weeks and range from $100 to $265. 

The Artists’ Exchange serves more than just young students, welcoming anyone with an interest in the arts to become a member of their creative community. In addition to their theater and gallery space, the Artists’ Exchange houses a pottery studio where they allow people of all ages to practice and learn new sculpture skills on the pottery wheel. Weekly pottery and art skills classes are available for children and adults of all ages and abilities. For anyone who has previous experience in a clay studio, there are open hours to work. 

Now that a good portion of the funds has been raised, renovations to their facility have already begun. The Artists’ Exchange has installed a new filtration system for the soot from their pottery kiln. Next they are working on the construction of a handicap accessible classroom space and plan to install new flooring. In addition to this, the grant will allow the Artists’ Exchange to replace “outdated and inadequate” theater lighting and sound equipment as well as build a backstage space and replace the theater’s current chairs with retractable seating to allow for more performance space. 

Fortunately, the Artists’ Exchange will not have to halt their programs during most of the construction. The nonprofit’s secondary venue, Theatre 82, located at 82 Rolfe Square, allows them to continue with their theatre productions while renovations are underway. Theatre 82 is “a multi-use performance, meeting, and instructional space” owned and operated by Gateways to Change, Inc. Theatre 82 is both a performance space as well as the only non-profit restaurant in Rhode Island. They are open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Sunday while providing live music, art, theatre and community events.

The Artists’ Exchange welcomes anyone to donate to their mission to create an atmosphere in which creativity, learning and discovery converge.

To donate go to www.artists-exchange.org/give/paintcancampaign.html.

HAPPY WORKER:

Art teacher Vanessa Rundlett helps out artist Andrew in a morning art class at the Artist’s Exchange. (Cranston Herald photos)

LENDING A HAND:

Student-volunteer Jess helps out artist Ryan with his project. HOLIDAY SEASON AWAITS:

Directors of the Artist Exchange got together to make the gingerbread house bases for an upcoming competition at the Rolfe Square location. GRANT PUT TO GOOD USE:

Construction on the new rooms for the building is underway, which is what the

SHOWING OFF HER WORK:

Artist Mylena was seriously proud about her impressive creation.

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