10 to Watch

Chrissy Wolpert

Who she is:General Manager, the Avenue Concept What that is:A nonprofit program that offers instruction and mentorship for both at-risk youth and curious adults in public/street art projects and …

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Who she is:
General Manager, the Avenue Concept

What that is:
A nonprofit program that offers instruction and mentorship for both at-risk youth and curious adults in public/street art projects and DJing. It also serves developmentally disabled adults through a partnership with the nonprofit Resources for Human Development.

Her background:
Music, mostly. She holds a BFA in Music with a concentration in Classical Voice from RIC, started the Assembly of Light Women’s Choir, and ran afterschool programming for Girls Rock RI.

Why she matters now:
The Avenue Concept is a fairly new organization. 2013 was its pilot year, and Wolpert was appointed its first GM in the spring. In 2014, it will launch in earnest with murals and other public art projects, gallery showings, skateboarding events in Kennedy Plaza, DJ workshops and more.

What makes the Avenue Concept different:
There are lots of arts programs for both youth and adults, but the Avenue Concept is focused on public art. Through its murals, events and other projects, it is taking creativity out of the galleries and classrooms and bringing it into public space. Furthermore, this kind of public art beautifies the city by filling empty spaces that might otherwise attract taggers and vandals.

“Even as adults, when you have the chance to do something you like to do in a public place and people applaud, you’re like, ‘All right, I’m gonna have to do this again.’ It’s important that we have places and opportunities for that to happen.”

Where you can see the results:

  • In murals: The underpass where Westminster Street dips into Olneyville under Route 6 is just one of the Avenue Concept’s public art works.
  • On its “legal wall”: The organization attempts to combat illegal graffiti (read: vandalism) by fostering legal graffiti (read: public art) on the walls of its Lockwood Street home, which are open for anyone over the age of 18 to paint between noon-5pm, Monday through Friday.
  • In its gallery: The Lockwood Street building also houses a gallery that displays work from both youth and adult artists.
  • At the Kennedy Plaza Skating Center: The Avenue Sandwich is a public showcase for graffiti, dance, DJs and skateboarding, every other Thursday from June through October.

Why kids need art:
“Art is valuable to kids even if they are not going to be the next Da Vinci. What is important is the process of self discovery, learning to express one’s self, the development of skills through discipline and most importantly the raw thrill of creating something coming from within.”

The role of art in our city:
“We all need the same thing: a safe and thriving city, where adults and youth feel they are valued and belong. When you think about what makes a quality of life, a thriving artistic community is just as important as keeping the roads plowed and enforcing building codes. Maybe you don’t need art to survive, but that’s just the point: at the Avenue Concept, we don’t think kids should merely survive – we want them to thrive.”

Follow Chrissy on Twitter @AvenuePVD