On Wed, Feb 25, Providence marks an edition of the FirstWorks Artistic Icons Series taking place all over the city featuring world-renowned composer Philip Glass. FirstWorks has risen to be an important organization in the arts community of The Creative Capital, showcasing the beauty of Providence’s artistic innovation through events like this one. I had the chance to chat with FirstWorks’ Executive Artistic Director Kathleen Pletcher about the organization’s mission, what we can expect from the festivities, the future of the Artistic Icons Series and other things that 2015 has in store for FirstWorks.
Rob Duguay: For people who aren’t familiar with FirstWorks, what is the mission of the organization, and what do you do for Providence and Rhode Island as a whole?
Kathleen Pletcher: FirstWorks connects arts with our community. Our mission is to use world-class arts to enhance our community— culturally, economically and educationally. FirstWorks brings artists to Providence and Rhode Island for the first time, provides students — over 4,300 last year! — with first experiences in the arts and fosters arts creation. We began in 2004 as a turn-around of First Night Providence, and since that time have produced 23 groundbreaking arts festivals and 30 premiere performances.
RD: As part of the FirstWorks 2015 Artistic Icons Series, Philip Glass will be in Providence featuring an Arts Learning Residency with local high school and university students and a Creative Conversation at the RISD Auditorium followed by a performance at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium. Who came up with the idea to make this a uniquely interactive experience?
KP: That’s what we do! Our model is to engage Rhode Islanders with some of the most significant creative forces of our time. The FirstWorks Artistic Icon Series connects deeply into the community with the public performance at the center, something we’ve done with artists since we started. In March, our series concludes with Spain’s most authentic and successful touring company, Noche Flamenca with the sensational Soledad Barrio. They are also working with students in our Arts Learning program. I’m executive artistic director and founder and work with the FirstWorks team to create what we hope are transformational experiences.
RD: Do you plan on having a similar set-up for future installments of the Artistic Icons Series?
KP: We’re putting the finishing touches on next year as we speak!
RD: Along with what’s happening on Wednesday, FirstWorks is also one of many organizations teaming up with Mayor Jorge Elorza to put on a community-wide Providence arts festival that’s happening in June. What will be FirstWorks’ role in handling the festival?
KP: We are the primary cultural partner with the city on the first installment of what will become Providence’s signature cultural showcase. The Mayor announced The Providence International Arts Festival, produced by FirstWorks and the City of Providence, June 11 -14. It’s going to be a jaw-dropping celebration in the Creative Capital. We’re excited to be working with many local partners to bring the city center to life with firsts in arts, culture, music, food and spectacle. An extravaganza of performances, art installations and a procession converging on Kennedy Plaza are highlights.
RD: Who can we expect to be the focus point in future editions of the Artistic Icons Series?
KP: We’ve got more coming this season! The Artistic Icons Series ends with a sizzle of live music and dance with the artistry of Soledad Barrio and Noche Flamenca in March at The Vets. Seeing Soledad is like watching a flame! The March 27 performance will be jump-started with tapas, performances and a talk on Spanish culture in the lobby. In April, we are presenting the world-premiere of Providence’s LostWax Multimedia Dance’s Zoologic. Lostwax and the incredible techno arts wizardry of choreographer/director Jamie Jewett, composer Luke DuBois and author Thalia Field and their team takes on living life under surveillance.
Read Motif’s interview with Tim Fain, performing with Philip Glass, here: motifri.com/glasschamber
Philip Glass’ performance will start at The Vets on Wed, Feb 25 at 7:30pm, and you can find the rest of the details of today’s installment of the Artistic Icons Series at first-works.org.