Empowering Cultural Practitioners

Empowering Cultural Practitioners

Last year, Ray Watson, founder of Providence Cultural Equity Initiative and member of the Eastern Medicine Singers, and AS220’s new Artistic Director Shey Rivera, decided to convene cultural practitioners in Rhode Island to look at the needs and challenges of leaders who have been working with culturally-specific and multi-cultural groups in the state.

A first convening was held at AS220’s Main Stage on September 24, 2015. The community showed up to talk about what it means to be cultural practitioners, how art and culture intersect, and the needs of the cultural sector in contrast to initiatives that solely promote art.

The goal was to come up with ways to ensure proper and respectful representation of cultural groups and ensure the impact of cultural work is recognized and supported by funders who invest in the arts. This conversation sets the stage for a guidebook that will inform the practice of larger institutions and groups who wish to engage cultural groups in urban planning, community development, art festivals and other relevant initiatives.

We have since held two additional meetings and will host a final one on Thurs, May 19th, 2016, from 5-7pm, at AS220’s Main Stage on 115 Empire Street. On that date, we will share with the broader community our findings, discussions and recommendation in the form of a guidebook that will serve to inform the current Cultural Plan of the City of Providence in support of multi-cultural and culturally specific initiatives.

We invite cultural practitioners, activists, funders, and organizers to join us!


Thurs, May 19th  5-7pm at AS220 Main Stage, 115 Empire Street

Right before our monthly Free Speech Poetry Slam!

Free Admission. Light refreshments.

RSVP via FB or email: charlene.wooten@as220.org


Some of the themes that came up during the three Cultural Convening sessions were:

Culture and its relation to art:

  • Culture is the foundation for art; it influences how you present yourself and what you create.
  • Art is a skill and a talent; culture is what informs what you create.
  • Art is a way for us to stay in touch with our cultures when we move to the U.S.
  • Sometimes cultural art is very structured and specific.
  • Your work can be influenced by your culture without defining your work as solely cultural. Your heritage is not static, it morphs and evolves.
  • Cultures interact and create new forms of contemporary cultural expression.
  • All cultural work is art, there was consensus on how we need to stop making distinctions. 


  • To come up with ways to draw funding to authentic cultural arts initiative in our area.
  • To create language that can inform criteria for funding public initiatives claiming to support cultural art.
  • To make it easier for authentic cultural practitioners to access support and funding.
  • To arm cultural practitioners with the proper language and tools to support and advocate for their work.
  • To reinforce the importance of cultural sensitivity and respect for multi-cultural expression in the field of arts and culture in the state.

Coordinators of The Cultural Convening:

Ray Wayson, founder of Providence Cultural Equity Initiative; Shey Rivera, Artistic Director, AS220; Charlene Wooten, AS220 Youth; and Chandelle Wilson, AS220 Board of Directors.

AS220’s large community of artists sends a big shout out to Ray Watson for being an exceptional leader in the arts and being the recipient of the Rhode Island Innovation Grant to launch the Providence Cultural Equity Initiative to promote multi-cultural tourism in the state. PCEI just recently held the first International Indigenous Peoples Cultural Conference on April 9th.



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Cultural convening finale FLYER