Long Standing Show Returns in December

Published in Woonsocket Call on November 8, 2015

Foundry Artist Association Kicks Off 33rd holiday Sale at Pawtucket Armory

Look for thousands of shoppers to converge on downtown to purchase unique holiday gifts for their friends and loved ones.       Next month, the Foundry Artists Association (FAA), one of Rhode Island’s premier arts events, returns to the City of Pawtucket to kick off its 33rd holiday sale.  At this two weekend event, 60 seasoned artists bring their fine art and crafts to sell to the Pawtucket Armory’s drill hall, items ranging from art glass to wood, and include painting, sculpture, metal, fiber, mixed media, jewelry, ceramics, photography, millinery, handmade books, and furniture.

One of Rhode Island’s oldest shows runs for seven days over the first two December weekends, starting with the Gala Opening Night on Thursday, December. 3, from 5pm – 9pm. The Gala features the John Juxo and Otis Read, refreshments and the kick off of a Silent Auction showcasing items valued over $50 that are donated by each of the participating artists.

The show continues on Friday, December. 4, from noon – 8pm; Saturday (December. 5) and Sunday (December. 6) from 10-6 pm. The proceeds of the first weekend Silent Auction will be given to two nonprofits: Sovereign House, an advocacy and resource center for Rhode Island domestic abuse victims and the Resources for Human Development, a Pawtucket-based arts-based studio program that serves adults with a range of disabilities.

The Foundry Artist show reopens on Friday, December 11, noon – 8pm; Saturday, December. 12, 10am – 6pm, and closes on Sunday, December. 13, 10am – 6pm.

The show is free to the public with free parking in the adjacent parking lot and free on street parking.  Handicap parking is in the rear of the building.  No sales tax will be charged on purchases; all major credit cards accepted.

Providence artist Michael Bryce, FAA’s president, says his organization’s event stands out from other art shows popping up throughout the Ocean State in December.  “With a juried selection of artists, the caliber of work is high in our show,” he says, noting that a strong outreach brings seasoned artists to group’s attention, who are invited to apply and submit their work for consideration.

“After a rigorous jury process usually 75 percent of the artists will be selected to return the next year, says Bryce. This turnover gives shoppers an opportunity to view the art work of the new participating artist each year.

Pawtucket’s First Years

Bryce says that over three decades ago, a community of artists opened their I-95 Foundry Building studios in downtown Providence to the public during the December holiday season.  In 1995, when the Foundry Building was converted to office space, its artists scattered to studios throughout the region, however, they continued to hold a December holiday show in different venues. These places included Veterans Auditorium and at a mill now demolished on Charles Street, both located in downtown Providence. The Foundry Artist would end up in Pawtucket initially by relocating to the Grant building on the City’s historic Main Street and later to Riverfront Lofts, across the river from City Hall.

In 2002, the Foundry Artists were drawn to the 1894 castle-like Armory, on Exchange Street, says Bryce.  With the departure of the National Guard in 1994 the City’s historic Pawtucket Armory became vacant.  Its 11,000 sf drill hall might just be the perfect place to hold for their holiday sale.

Ultimately, with the Foundry Artist signing a lease with the Pawtucket Armory Association, a nonprofit that owned and was renovating the historic structure, former Mayor James E. Doyle, charged the city’s Department of Planning & Redevelopment with the responsibility of making sure all the regulatory i’s were dotted and t’s crossed.  Art supporters, including Phyllis and Morris Nathanson, Paul Audette, along with Developer Ranne P. Warner gave countless hours to making this first Holiday sale a success.

At the first Foundry Artist Holiday Sale, under the amazing vaulted space, a large outside propane heater piped hot air inside the drill hall to bring temperatures up to a manageable level.  Porta cans placed at the back of the drill hall became the de facto rest rooms. With paint peeling from the ceiling and walls, the huge space needed a good coat of paint.

But, shoppers, coming from Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts, found plenty of free parking in Pawtucket, and easy access off Interstate 95.  With the Pawtucket Armory being located in the City’s 307 acre Arts District, there was no sales tax was charged on purchases.

Over the 13 years that the holiday sale has been held at the Pawtucket Armory, gradual improvements were made to this building.  Propane heaters used during the first years were replaced with an efficient gas heating system and rest room facilities were built out.  Over the last couple of years a new wooden floor was installed in the huge drill hall with the walls and ceiling being painted.

Bryce, employed by the Providence Journal as a freelance illustrator at age 12 who was has received undergraduate and master degrees in painting and illustration and teaches art at local colleges, says that the Armory’s drill hall perfectly showcases the artist’s one-of-a-kind art work. “I cannot even image another space that would be so perfect,” he says, stressing that the “beautiful space” gives shoppers a “breath-taking experience.” when they are browsing around looking for that piece of art.

With two years under his belt as President, Bryce has worked to put his finger prints on the Holiday sale.  With the silent auction being completed by the end of the first weekend, he successfully pushed his group to create artist showcase which highlights each unique artist’s works.

Live artist demonstrations and videos are scheduled every hour on the second weekend to show the process of making art in different artistic mediums, Bryce added, noting that this “creates an interesting and interactive environment for the shopper.”

For additional information about this year’s foundry Artists Show, please visit www.foundryshow.com or www.facebook.com/foundryshow.  Or listen to advertising spots place don Rhode Island National Public Radio.

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