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Providence Arts

Arts & Culture

Providence - "the Creative Capital" - is highly regarded for its thriving art scene. Home to one of the nation's best art schools, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the RISD Museum of Art houses more than 80,000 works of art, ranging from Greek sculpture to French Impressionist paintings, Chinese terracotta to contemporary multimedia art.

The newly opened Chace Center has doubled the exhibition space at the museum, allowing RISD to lure international exhibits to Providence and display more of their vast collection. Designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Jose Rafael Moneo, the Chace Center serves as an educational and cultural landmark in the cityscape.

The city's Arts and Entertainment District has bloomed, thanks largely to tax incentives offered to artists who chose to live and/or work in the area. The district, which includes several art galleries and performance spaces, is anchored by AS220, an alternative arts performance, studio and living space with edgy performances, readings and gallery exhibits. AS220 and other arts organizations have transformed downtown Providence into a dynamic destination.  The performing arts are also a big part of Providence culture, led by Tony Award-winning Trinity Repertory Company and the visually stunning Providence Performing Arts Center. Music lovers will enjoy the Rhode Island Philharmonic and Opera Providence. Theatergoers can enjoy performances from companies such as the Perishable Theater. For dance enthusiasts, there is the Festival Ballet Providence.

One local artist, Barnaby Evans, has created WaterFire Providence, a multi-sensory experience that has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city. This series of bonfires installed on the three rivers of downtown Providence entices with aromatic wood smoke, flickering firelight and enchanting music. The event occurs several times a month from May to October and has become a "must see" for visitors to the city.

To experience some of the best art in the area, do not miss Gallery Night. Free of charge, this event showcases more than 20 local galleries and museums monthly. On the third Thursday of each month (March through November), a free bus loops throughout the city and stops at participating venues. Undoubtedly, this is the easiest and most cost-effective way to discover some of Providence's most interesting art.

Newcomers to Providence's art scene include Firehouse XIII and The Providence Steelyard. Firehouse XIII is a gallery, performance space and artists' lofts literally built within the shell of an old firehouse. The Providence Steelyard is an artistic and educational endeavor that is transforming the figurative and literal landscape of the city.

Four centuries of history are alive and well in Providence. Providence is believed to have a larger percentage of buildings on the National Historic Register than any other U.S. city, with scores of immaculately preserved Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival and Victorian homes and buildings. Cobblestone streets and gas streetlamps - now converted to electric - are hallmarks of the city's East Side. The Rhode Island State House, the Providence Public Library, the John Brown House, and the First Baptist Church (First Baptist Meeting House) are among the many historic buildings open to the public year-round. An annual Festival of Historic Houses allows the public to tour privately owned homes with interiors of special or historical interest.