In the News - The Avenue Concept and Rhode Island Department of Health Partner on New Series of Public Art Projects


 A portion of the mural at Community Care Alliance, 245 Main Street in Woonsocket

The partnership aims to contribute to community well-being through murals at five harm reduction sites statewide. 

The Avenue Concept (TAC), Rhode Island’s leading public art organization, and the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) today announced the completion of five new murals as part of a strategic partnership intended to support community well-being through art. The murals were installed at five harm reduction sites operated by RIDOH partner agencies around the state: Project Weber/RENEW locations in Pawtucket and Providence, Parent Support Network locations in Warwick and Westerly, and the Community Care Alliance site in Woonsocket. 

The project supports Rhode Island State Arts and Health Plan goals by exploring the ways public art can inform health and well-being. TAC and RIDOH engaged local artists to create welcoming environments that connect and reflect the communities the project serves. 

RIDOH’s federal funding from the Overdose Data to Action grant was given to partner agencies that provide harm reduction services in overdose hotspots throughout the state to create public art. The organizations that were selected had existing partnerships with RIDOH’s Drug Overdose Prevention Program to provide weekly data-driven outreach and response to the overdose crisis. 

TAC facilitated the project, in collaboration with partners, providing curatorial and operational expertise to deliver high-quality murals. Partner agencies developed themes and goals and identified space for artists to execute their creative vision in response. Artists were identified for each site by TAC based on the themes and goals determined by the partner agencies. 

“People and communities connect through public art. It offers healing and lets those who are served know that we care about them and their caregivers,” said Yarrow Thorne, TAC founder and executive director. “I salute our partners at the Rhode Island Department of Health for their vision and leadership in using public art to support public health.” “

In 2021, more Rhode Islanders died from fatal overdoses than any other year. These preventable tragedies take an emotional and professional toll on our partners who provide direct services in the community and it intensifies challenging and triggering work,” said Interim Director of Health James McDonald, MD, MPH. ”RIDOH is grateful and humbled by the work of our community-based organizations and we know that the death toll would be even higher in the absence of their day-to-day dedication to improving lives. Our hope is that the powerful art facilitated by The Avenue Concept in partnership with talented artists and organizations will provide some healing and brightness for both our partners and the people they serve.” 

The locations and artists are: 

Community Care Alliance, 245 Main St., Woonsocket: Michael Ezzell, a Providence-based multi-disciplinary artist and muralist whose work stems from the impact that storytelling has on creativity and imagination and is influenced by the esoteric symbolism and mysticism of Greek and Roman mythology. communitycare.org  

Project Weber/RENEW, 124 Broad St., Pawtucket: Greg Was Here, aka Greg Pennisten, is a local designer, mural painter, and illustrator and one of the original members of Providence Painted Signs and an active part of the local arts community, and the Peace Club collective. 

Project Weber/RENEW, 640 Broad St., Providence: Ryan Richardson, muralist and sign painter skilled at collaborating with other artists and clients to develop and execute visual content that embodies the community and enhances the surrounding environment. weberrenew.org 

Parent Support Network, 55 Beach St., Westerly: Yenny Create, aka Yenny Hernández, a Boston-based Latinx artist creating spaces that celebrate diversity, welcome communities, and inspire individuals 

Parent Support Network, 535 Centerville Rd., Warwick: Joanna Vespia, a local artist working in both fine and commercial art, as well as pet portraits who focuses on realism and nature in her works. psnri.org 

About The Avenue Concept 

The Avenue Concept makes public art happen. We do this by investing in permanent infrastructure, funding public art projects, documenting and promoting the work of artists, using art as a tool for education, and advocating for policies, processes and partnerships that develop sustainable avenues for public art. Our goal is to build an environment in which art thrives and to create public art encounters that encourage people to engage and interact with art instead of passively observing it. 

Founded in Providence, RI in 2012, The Avenue Concept is a leading public art program in Rhode Island. Since then it has installed or exhibited more than 200 works of public art, and invested $2 million in both artwork and infrastructure. 

Learn more about the Rhode Island Department of Health Drug Overdose Prevention Program. ###

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PO Box 1700 | Woonsocket, RI | 02895 | Directions
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