On Wednesdays at 7 P.M., beginning January 4, Art Rhode Island makes its television debut. A natural next-step for the art project called NetWorks, Art Rhode Island takes the discussions to a new level, focusing on the issues facing the art community in Rhode Island.
Seeds for this most recent project were sown in 2007 when Joseph A. Chazan, M.D. partnered with AS220 Artistic Director Umberto Crenca - friends for more than two decades - to bring to fruition Chazan’s vision of making the art by local artists more widely known and accessible to the public. An art aficionado, collector, and patron of the arts for some 30 years, Dr. Chazan’s goal was to document the Rhode Island art scene through individual artists’ stories, creating an archive of this period and preserving a history of works over the past quarter century.
Dr. Chazan, producer of NetWorks and executive producer of Art Rhode Island, says there is little reason to feel the productions are regional or provincial.
“These are world-class internationally and nationally recognized artists with great careers. Their living in Rhode Island is almost incidental,” Chazan said. “The stories of these artists are universal,” he said. “There are common themes that pervade all the stories. Commitment to hard work, high quality, and an unwillingness to compromise. That has been particularly meaningful to me.”
Chazan tapped visual and performing artist Richard Goulis to be the video production manager and lead videographer for the project. Richard collaborated with several other talented filmmakers to create the first 17 profiles in NetWorks 2008. Each profile shows the artist at home and at work in the studio, and captures the philosophy, inspiration, personal history, and future vision of the chosen form of artistic expression, all in the artist’s own words. The portraits are intimate, informative, and inspire greater appreciation and deeper understanding of the artist and the art. On a macro level, the portraits also catalog the astonishing variety of art being created.
As planned, the NetWorks 2008 portraits were shown at AS220. Then a companion catalog was printed. Then a companion gallery exhibit was hosted by the Newport Art Museum. Then a companion commercial opportunity for art was developed. Then companion community and panel discussions were held. Four years later, the project continues to grow and expand in scope, in content, and in reach: NetWorks 2011 marks the addition of 13 more artists’ stories, bringing the total number to 54 profiles since NetWorks 2008. The profiles have aired on WSBE Rhode Island PBS every year. The entire collection is also available on YouTube.
“It’s a very ambitious program,” Chazan said. “We’ll see where it goes.”
Where it goes next is into the WSBE television studios, where beautifully filmed video segments and live interviews with artists, educators, and collectors combine to bring art to the public’s attention in a whole new way. The in-studio chats are at small round tables – appropriately symbolic of the series premise that art is all around us. Even the stark black set has large paintings of architectural and mechanical elements, suspended at random angles behind and around the guests. The set was designed and built by Art Rhode Island producer Richard Goulis.
The host of Art Rhode Island is Martina Windels, a critically acclaimed jeweler in her own right. Born in Germany, Martina moved to Providence to attend the Rhode Island School of Design’s Graduate School of Metalsmithing, only to go on and teach jewelry at RISD for seven more years.
As NetWorks and Art Rhode Island clearly show, Rhode Island has for decades been an irresistible magnet for artists. Fortunately for the rest of us, once they are drawn, they stay. Enjoy the stories, and love the art.
To accompany Art Rhode Island's television premiere, WSBE Rhode Island PBS will re-broadcast the two-part Networks 2011 on consecutive Saturdays, January 7 and 14 at 7 P.M. Art Rhode Island episodes in January:
January 4th - "Public Art I"
A discussion about the value and impact of public art and what the broader role of public art is.
Barnaby Evans, artist and creator of WaterFire
Elizabeth Keithline, manager of Public Art, and Project Grants for Organizations at Rhode Island State Council on the Arts
Patricia Phillips, interim associate provost for Academic Affairs at RISD
January 11th - "Public Art II"
A continuing discussion of Public Art and its impact, focusing in part, on a public art initiative at The Wheeler School in Providence, RI
Joseph A. Chazan, M.D., executive producer of Art Rhode Island
Jonathan Bonner, artist
Dan Miller, head of school, The Wheeler School
January 18th - "Artists Working with Artisans"
A discussion about how artists team with local artisans as a resource for development of their personal work, as well provide an engine for economic growth in the community.
Nicole Chesney, artist
Paul Amaral, president, Amaral Custom Fabrications
Drake Patten, executive director, Steel Yard
January 25th - "Artists in Residence"
A discussion about the purpose and function of artists' residencies.
Caitlin Strokosch, executive director, Alliance of Artist Communities
Nancy Friese, artist and RISD professor
Ellen Driscoll, artist, head of Sculpture Department at RISD