RIFC - Rhode Island Film Collaborative - Independent Films and Filmmakers in RI



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Friday, November 13, 2009

Rolfe Square Storefronts Receive the Gift of Redesign This Holiday Season

Cranston, RI – Rolfe Square needs some flair, and Artists’ Exchange aims to give it just that. Located in the center of the state, the city of Cranston unites innerstate travelers from surrounding towns on a daily basis. Several neighborhoods within the city have unique identities, from waterfront Pawtuxet Village with its quaint shops and eateries and the annual historic Gaspee Days celebration, Knightsville, home of the annual Saint Mary’s Feast, and Garden City, the local mecca of higher end suburban retail, with the developing Chapel View complex only adding interest. While Rolfe Square sits at the center of the city, flanked by one of the state’s largest high schools and Cranston City Hall, the city’s nucleus has long been neglected.

Recent years have seen many Rolfe Square businesses shut their doors for good, and the constantly-under-construction Park Theatre only added to the depressed look of the neighborhood. However, things are starting to look up. The recent reopening of the Park Theatre, now known as RICPA, Rhode Island Center for the Performing Arts, marks the first major step in the turnaround of Rolfe Square. And Artists’ Exchange has big plans to keep the momentum going. On Saturday, December 5th, during the 5th annual Gingerbread House Decorating Contest and Artisan Fair, Artists’ Exchange will unveil six redesigned storefronts of Rolfe Square businesses. This is one of many stages in a long-term revitalization plan for the neighborhood, developed and led by Elaine McKenna-Yeaw, Director of Artists’ Exchange.

With ethnic food spots growing in numbers, staples such as Ruth’s Lingerie, Betty’s Candies, Durfee’s Hardware and King’s Garden, and Artists’ Exchange steadily gaining a reputation as a community arts hub, Rolfe Square has clear potential to offer its own unique draw, and to restore a sense of pride and identity to the neighborhood. Yeaw has big plans for revitalizing the area, with the ultimate goal of Rolfe Square being known as an arts district. With RICPA acting as the anchor, Yeaw is confident that this dream can become a reality.

To begin the feat of revitalization, Yeaw sought out the help of an expert. Architect and RISD Assistant Professor Hansy Better Barraza, who specializes in Main Street design, has been leading her fabrication students in a semester-long redesign effort of Rolfe Square storefronts. Cooperating businesses include Ruth's Lingerie, Park Senate Barber Salon, Betty's Candies, Cranston Chamber of Commerce, Artists' Exchange and Citizens' Bank.

Yeaw says “the idea is to utilize beautiful, existing historic storefront windows to promote these businesses, using design that creates a ‘wow’ factor. The goal is for the window displays to change each semester, giving Rolfe Square the ‘something to see’ reputation.” Yeaw is confident that interesting art pieces and displays will help to revitalize historic Rolfe Square, while giving RISD students practical experience with project development from concept to installation.

Other recent revitalization efforts include an Artists’ Exchange window installation by a RISD illustration student volunteer this past summer and the now annual Fall Out of Summer Arts Festival in September. Next year’s festival will kick off with an arts parade to involve even more of the community in reclaiming a sense of pride in their neighborhood. Future street revitalization plans will potentially involve sculptural installation on sign poles, lighting design and street art such as furniture, trash bins and tree guards.

The unveiling of the six storefronts will take place Saturday, December 5th at 11am. Artists’ Exchange is located at 50 Rolfe Square in Cranston. For more information, contact Christina Mealey at 401.490.9475.
(This is not an RIFC Production)

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