City Hall portrait for former Providence Mayor Angel Taveras to be unveiled in April

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras sits at his desk in City Hall. (Photo by Dan McGowan/WPRI)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Angel Taveras is going back to City Hall. And he’s never leaving.

Taveras, a Democrat who led Rhode Island’s capital city for one term from 2011 to 2015, confirmed this week his mayoral portrait will be unveiled at a ceremony in City Hall April 7.

The portrait, painted by Rhode Island artist Harley Bartlett, is funded entirely through private donations raised last year by former Taveras aide Gonzalo Cuervo and Mark Ryan, a prominent attorney and Taveras confidant. Cuervo said the portrait cost approximately $14,000.

Taveras, who is Dominican-American, became the first Latino to be elected mayor of Providence in 2010. He is widely credited with stabilizing the city’s finances after inheriting a $110-million structural deficit, in part by negotiating changes to retiree pensions and healthcare benefits and securing more payments in lieu of taxes from Providence large nonprofit organizations.

While budget challenges dominated his four years in office, Taveras called education one his top priorities. His office secured a $5-million private grant to launch Providence Talks, a first-of-its-kind program that seeks to close the so-called “word gap” between poor and more affluent children. It gives families “word pedometers” to track the number of words children hear during their first few years of life, following up with in-home visitation service.

Taveras ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014, losing to eventual winner Gina Raimondo. He now works as a private attorney for Greenberg Traurig LLP and lives in North Scituate with his wife and three children.

With the exception of former Mayor David Cicilline, everyone who has been elected to the office now has a portrait hanging in City Hall, according to Caleb Horton, the city’s archivist. Cicilline is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and will presumably have his portrait unveiled after his career in Congress.

Horton said the city used to pay for the costs of mayoral portraits, but former mayors are now required to raise the money privately. Research compiled by Horton shows the city paid $130 for the portrait of Samuel Bridgham, Providence’s first mayor.

Not every mayor enjoyed the portrait process. John Colllins, one of only two Republicans to serve as Providence mayor in the last 100 years, refused to sit for the painting, arguing that there were better ways to spend taxpayer dollars, according to Horton’s research. Colllins, who led the city between 1939 and 1941, ultimately agreed to sit for a portrait a decade after he left office, but Horton said his stern look in the painting is a sign of his distaste for the process.

Taveras was particularly fond of Patrick J. McCarthy, a Democrat who served as mayor between 1907 and 1909. McCarthy was the city’s first foreign-born mayor, having lived in Ireland as an infant. His portrait hung in Taveras’s office while he was mayor.

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Dan McGowan (dmcgowan@wpri.com) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan