Innovate Newport Welcomes Newport Art House
By Wendy Logan
Read the original Newport This Week article here.
Kelsy Patnaude and James Sundquist are the first artists-in-residence at the Newport Art House Tarducci Studios located at Innovate Newport. The artists will have use of the studio for a full year as part of the partnership.
Before she started the nonprofit Newport Art House in 2015, Tracy Jonsson hosted art exhibits, poetry readings, writing groups and musical shows in her home. She felt strongly that Newport needed a space where artists and art lovers in the city and beyond could get together and create.
Since then, she has created a host of programs and projects under the Art House umbrella designed to engage hundreds of artists, while directly paying and advocating for just wages for them. Through dedicated events, Jonsson hopes to help turn Newport into a major arts city.
“Part of our founding plan was to address the needs of the [art] community,” she said. “What artists from all different types of mediums need most is to be able to live affordably and have access to makerspaces, whether that means rehearsal spaces for performers and musicians, art studios or kitchen spaces. These are the things that artists need to be able to stay in Newport.”
Her vision was further inspired when she met artist Mia Tarducci, who was born and raised in Newport. Tarducci had found success in her contemporary arts career when she moved to Pittsburgh years ago. Having returned, her goals aligned with those of Jonsson, and it was Tarducci who brought the idea of a partnership with Innovate Newport to the table.
Art communities worldwide have long been known to populate depressed, lower rent areas, bringing color and life to underserved neighborhoods before landlords see the revenue possibilities and promptly raise rents that push the artists out.
“I’ve always been hesitant to put my marbles into the community’s real estate basket because of [it],” said Jonsson.
But Tarducci brought the idea of a gallery space at the business focused Innovate Newport to its community manager, Todd LaChance, and from there, the idea took shape. A 348-square-foot space was selected to become a small studio on the building’s main floor, and funds were raised to ensure that a residency for two artists would be fully funded for one year.
Painters James Sundquist and Kelsy Patenaude were selected as the first artists to occupy the Newport Art House Tarducci Studios, based on their specific mediums. The artists arrived in late October and both said they are delighted with the opportunity.
While the intent of Innovate Newport, with several anchor tenants occupying larger spaces, is to provide office space for small business owners and freelancers, the advent of COVID-19 has also brought in students. Families with grown children suddenly stuck at home have secured memberships just to provide an outlet for each family member, whether they’re remote learning, working from home, or just need a break, said LaChance. But the installation of a creative space may have been just what the old Sheffield School needed to breathe new life into it.
“This is just the start,” LaChance said. “It gives them a foothold and brings awareness about Innovate Newport, as well as the Newport arts community, and maybe helps them get more space around the island. It has been so refreshing having them here. It’s exciting to see the positive vibes that have come from them just being in the building. I never realized how many people I worked with here had such a passion for art. It’s just been really well-embraced and it’s gotten us more exposure than we ever could have imagined.”
As to Newport Art House, Jonsson said her mission hasn’t changed. “The core belief in existing ‘in the ether’ remains,” she said. “We continue to do pop-ups throughout town, and to utilize the rich architectural heritage of Newport as a canvas and backdrop for some of Newport’s most talked about contemporary art experiences.”
Her main goal for the organization now is to collect signatures for a petition to raise awareness within the city administration for the value of supporting the arts and the revenue it might bring to Newport, as it has to other cities around the country.
Though a November Art House event was cancelled due to Gov. Gina Raimondo’s new regulations for gatherings, future monthly open houses are in the works and the public is invited to see a show, explore Tarducci Studios and check out the Innovate Newport building.