Cool art in Providence: going underground


While Providence has developed a national reputation as an arts-friendly city, there continues to be a dichotomy between the local gallery landscape and the creative underground in the capital city. Greg Cook writes about this, and about how the hidden quality of cool art is part of what makes it distinctive, in this week's Phoenix:

Rhode Island’s capital has a national reputation as an incubator of cool art — from designer Shepard “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” Fairey and Barnaby Evans’s WaterFire to the bygone monstery punk cooperative Fort Thunder and the feminist art gang that makes its home at the Dirt Palace. The art collective Paper Rad, which moved to Providence from western Massachusetts in the past year after hovering around the city for years, was listed in Vanity Fair’s “Art Issue” last December as one of the stars in its map of the international art universe. And now we have the nationally publicized The Apartment At the Mall, as seen on CBS, Fox TV, and elsewhere.
Providence’s reputation and the national prominence of the Rhode Island School of Design remain magnets for artists. But even as new art spaces like Firehouse 13, the Stairwell Gallery, and 5 Traverse emerge, much locally made art seems perennially hidden in the mysterious and alluring underground, distanced from conventional galleries.

Seen in this respect, The Apartment At the Mall is typical of the local art scene and how artists here sometimes work in unexpected places, hiding on occasion in almost plain sight. To some, Providence’s gallery landscape may seem underdeveloped, particularly in comparison to the city’s zesty creative reputation. Seen another way, though, the partially hidden quality of local art is part and parcel of what helps to make it happen.

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