Riverzedge Arts is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit that has grown to become one of Woonsocket, Rhode Island’s most important community-based institutions. Founded in 2002 by Michelle Novello, the core of our work remains focused on helping the area’s underserved youth population develop alternative pathways to success, we now play a critical role in the city’s educational, visioning, community relations and economic development activities.
Art, Entrepreneurship & Education
Riverzedge Arts is best known for the innovative, afterschool arts and entrepreneurship programs on which we founded the organization in 2002. Today we offer five such studio programs that act as micro-enterprises, employing our youth participants and delivering products and services to a range of clients. We also created a Mobile Studio that travels the region, bringing the Riverzedge Arts experience wherever it is needed.
The (US) President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and the Wallace Foundation hail these programs as a model for success because of the demonstrated transformational impact they have on the lives of our youth participants.
Building on this success, Riverzedge Arts created ELO Woonsocket, enabling youth to create “extended learning opportunities” to reclaim lost high school credits and stay on track for graduation. Today, we have two full time staff members integrated into the high school system, and each year they help dozens of youth successfully complete ELO projects.
In 2012, we created a local, Woonsocket instance of the Parents Leadership Training Initiative (PLTI), a nationally-recognized program that trains parents to play an active role in all aspects of their public schools.
To truly serve Woonsocket’s youth and the community in general in the most impactful way, Riverzedge Arts is now deeply engaged in transforming the city itself. Using the arts and creative industries as a platform, we are a driving force behind many of the city’s placemaking and economic development initiatives.
The need in Woonsocket is great. Once a thriving, industrial hub, Woonsocket today is one of the most challenged cities in New England, with exceptionally high rates of unemployment, poverty and incarceration. Starved for revenue, the city turned over control of its finances to a state-administered Budget Committee as a last resort to avoid receivership.
But Riverzedge Arts believes that the people of Woonsocket—especially the young people—can build a future that makes the city a model for urban transformation.
To date, Riverzedge Arts and its youth participants have helped in creating:
- The Wayfinding Master Plan for Downtown Woonsocket (Main Street-Riverfront Initiative)
- The Main Street Livability Plan
- The Woonsocket Arts Asset Map and Database (ongoing as of 2014)
Our initiatives strive to build capacity for self-directed personal and community improvement through a focus on creativity, leadership development and creative placemaking. It all starts with helping Woonsocket teens find alternative pathways to academic success and high school graduation.
Beyond our well-known studio programs, Riverzedge Arts runs permanent, for-credit programming in Woonsocket High School as well as free, community-based arts and adult leadership programs and an on-site learning program that serves all of Rhode Island and beyond.
Our five art and design studios deliver fully professional creative services. Dozens of well-known companies and institutions rely on Riverzedge Arts for branding and branded materials. Plus, we have a specialized practice in placemaking that combines art, environmentalism and community activism to create lasting, meaningful public spaces.