Woonsocket, RI—Riverzedge Arts, a local nonprofit providing professional training in the arts to Woonsocket teens, is launching a series of events to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of its impact on local youth.
The largest of the events in the yearlong series is a Summer Block Party to be held in the organization’s outdoor space and community garden at 196 2nd Avenue on July 16th. Food trucks, games, and an outdoor youth art market are just a few of the attractions for this event, which is free and open to the public.
Riverzedge Arts works annually with more than 200 youth from underserved communities in Northern RI through its Arts Education and Training (AET) and Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) programs. Teens in the program work with professional artists and designers to develop techniques unique to career fields like screenprinting and graphic design as well as transferable life skills for any profession.
“Youth employed at Riverzedge Arts mostly come from Woonsocket, where approximately thirty-seven percent of the city’s youth are economically disadvantaged and only seventy-four percent graduate from high school,” said Executive Director Kristen Williams. “We are first and foremost a workplace training program that helps move the needle on poverty and graduation rates in Northern Rhode Island. And youth don’t pay to be part of our programming—we pay them, even as we monitor their academic progress and connect them to educational and clinical supports so they can be successful here.”
Alumni from the program have gone on to big things, ranging from careers as professional artists to successful entrepreneurships. And the 20th Anniversary celebrations offer youth, alumni, and visitors a chance to explore these accomplishments over the last two decades as well as the impact that Riverzedge Arts has had on its local community in that time.
“We couldn’t be more proud of our alums! They not only did incredible work while they were enrolled in the AET Program, but they’ve used all the skills and experiences they gained here in ways that are meaningful to them, and have made great things, inspiring things, happen in their lives,” says Artistic Director Brad Fesmire.
The first event in the series will be an Alumni Happy Hour on April 14th where alumni, donors, and anyone interested in the organization can mingle and share stories about Riverzedge Arts’ growth and achievements in the last two decades. In October, Riverzedge Arts will hold an Artist Showcase at the Pawtucket art gallery, Machines with Magnets, featuring the work of current staff and alumni artists.