Gallery Night Providence is one of those Providence activities everyone in the city should do at least once. It’s charming and pleasant and fun, and shows a side of our city you might not otherwise realize has been here all along, existing in the cracks between most citygoers’ daily experiences, coffee runs and commutes.
If it’s something you take to, it’s also a great way to get your art on – once a month or once in a while – and do it in a way that’s social and different. It’s a little like a Whitman’s sampler of chocolates – always a few you don’t much like, never enough of your favorites, but often including a few pleasant surprises you might not have tried otherwise. And hey, it’s chocolate (or in this case, art).
The tours start at the giant residential complex called Regency Plaza, right off the highway at exit 21, where there is loads of free parking. (You can tell Rhode Islanders came up with this. Just tell the box at the gate you’re there for Gallery Night.) The Regency features a lovely set of gathering spaces on the ground floor of the One Regency Plaza building, where you register, enjoy some snacks, grab a copy of Motif for later (shameless!) and get ushered to your bus of choice.
What happens between stops varies widely, depending on your group and your guide. I’ve been on Gal Night tours where there was nothing but reverent silence, participants presumably contemplating the artistic nature of life and the universe itself, speaking only in hushed tones with companions they’d brought along. I’ve been on tours where the guide led everyone in a sing-a-long between stops. I’ve seen guides test out their stand-up routines or work their karaoke skills. I’ve seen guides try to flirt with each other – points for cajones and for awkwardness, with a bus full of strangers watching. And I’ve seen a tour where a bevy of millennials simply pulled out cell phones and texted the whole way – this was a late-season tour, so it had gotten dark, and I was mesmerized by the floating, dinging, ‘gramming lights bobbing about in the dark bus as it carefully navigated the potholes of Providence.
The stops also vary significantly. Some are more curios, some more shops, some traditional-feeling galleries and some avant-garde demi-nightclubs. Most are small, safe spaces where the timid art of Providence can feel bolder and where pieces can find homes that make them shine. Plus there are often snacks and usually at least one stop will have wine.
I’ll be co-leading a gallery night tour for the first time on May 18 – in the spirit of this issue, or by insane RI coincidence – it’s the DIY tour (well, “Maker Spaces & Artists” tour). Taking off at 5:30pm (come early – although I’m not generally on time, Gallery Night is), this tour will visit J Schatz, Sprout, Gather Glass and Copacetic, all places filled with things that were handmade in Providence.
J Shatz is a nationally marketed custom maker of ceramics, from dishware to lighting, from birdhouses to entirely unique décor. We’ll see how they make all those wonderful toys by hand, out of clay. Sprout is a co-work space for fine artists that will feature four of the members showing what they’ve conceived in their friendly lobby at Rising Sun Mills, which always has something unique and expectation-bending. Gather Glass is a new stop where we can see glass art as it is being crafted, making the entire process transparent. Copacetic is a quirky curio featuring custom-made jewelry, gadgets and gizmos, and mesmerizing timepieces. This is the place to try and solve a puzzle ring or outwit a gyroscope.
Other tours on May 18 include:
- A tour for the deaf to David Winton Bell Gallery, RISD Museum, Anthony Tomaselli’s Gallery and Providence City Hall galleries, guided by Peter Geisser
- A youth tour guided by Hillary Salmons of the Providence After-School Alliance, to ArtProv Gallery, Gallery Z, the URI Feinstein Providence Campus Galleries and the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities & Cultural Heritage
- A weaving and glass art tour visiting Peaceable Kingdom, Gallery Belleau, Gather Glass and the warren of artist spaces known as Inner Space Outsider Art Gallery @ ShareSpace
- A tour of the BankRI Gallery in the Turk’s Head Building, Anthony Tomaselli’s work at Fleur de Lys, the galleries at the Providence Art Club and the Dryden Gallery
Every third Thursday of the month for the rest of 2017, you’ll find tours leaving every half hour from 5 to 7pm; they last roughly two hours, with about 20 minutes per stop (and you’re right, that time math doesn’t quite work. I think there’s a TARDIS involved.) and tours are free, and thanks to RI’s tax-free art zone, any art purchased is sales-tax-free.