WaterFire Arts Center dedicated with ceremonial ribbon burning

(Samantha Sugerman, WPRI-12)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s congressional delegation, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, and dozens of community members gathered in Olneyville this morning to celebrate the opening of the WaterFire Arts Center.

The center is located in a large mill building at 475 Valley Street. It has enough warehouse and parking space to house the trucks and equipment needed to put on the spectacle every weekend.

Mayor Jorge Elorza addressed the crowd of dozens Monday morning and called WaterFire part of Providence’s brand as the creative capital. Elorza says Providence and WaterFire are synonymous to visitors around the country.

“I’m sure almost every single one of us has been in this situation where you’re out of town, perhaps on the other side of the country, and you tell someone that you’re either from Providence or from Rhode Island,” started Elorza. “And there are now three things that always come to people’s minds. ‘Oh yes, Newport, I love Newport. Oh yes, that place in Providence with all those good Italian restaurants. Yes, we love Federal Hill, and that thing where you light the river on fire.'”

In a symbolic dedication, Rhode Island’s leadership and community members who helped to fund and promote the center, ceremonially lit torches and burned the ribbon marking the opening of the arts center.

The center cost $13.7 million dollars to build and could not have been completed if not for a tax credit program and federal grants from the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I remember being here for the, for the groundbreaking and I said ‘oh, they’ve got a lot of work to do,'” remarked Rep. Jim Langevin to the crowd. “Its really been just a remarkable transformation.”

The funding for the center in part came from $4.8 million dollars from the New Market Tax Credit Program, and another $600,000 dollars from a federal grant by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Brownfields Program.

“When we fight to defend programs like the EPA Brownfields program, the historic tax credit program, the New Market Tax Program, the Lisk Program, it is moments like this that we think about,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. “So thank you all for giving us this moment.”

Shortly after leaving the event, Rhode Island senior Senator Jack Reed says himself and the rest of the congressional delegation are headed right back to work in Washington, DC.

“We’re all leaving here this afternoon to make sure we still have a Brownfields fund, we still have new market tax credits,” said Sen. Jack Reed. “We’ll have to keep that fight up.”

“We know the impact the arts have had on our quality of life here, the jobs its created, the impact its had on our economy, and just again the overall quality of life,” continued Langevin. “It’s all those things combined, especially the people, and the volunteers, and the staff, who make that vision a reality and had that impact which has been so transformative for our state.”

In his address to the crowd, Sen. Whitehouse named a few Rhode Islanders who have gone on to become great innovators. Whitehouse says WaterFire’s Executive Artistic Director Barnaby Evans and the crew who work tirelessly every weekend to put on WaterFire are a testament to that.

“To use your words, to inspire, to imagine, to ignite.”