OUR MISSION

FirstWorks is a Providence-based nonprofit organization with a mission to enrich the social, educational and economic fabric of Rhode Island by engaging diverse audiences with world-class performing arts experiences. Our cultural initiatives catalyze partnership that foster equitable access to the arts. 

our mission

FirstWorks is a Providence-based nonprofit organization with a mission to enrich the social, educational and economic fabric of Rhode Island by engaging diverse audiences with world-class performing arts experiences. Our cultural initiatives catalyze partnership that foster equitable access to the arts. 

Our Story

FirstWorks was founded in 2004, as a unique public-private partnership with the newly formed Department of Art, Culture, and Tourism, in Providence, Rhode Island.

Under the visionary leadership of Executive Artistic Director Kathleen Pletcher, opening our doors with an idea and a $15,000 start-up grant, FirstWorks has grown to be the only First Night festival in the country operating as a year-round arts organization. We are a key partner in building Providence as the “Creative Capital”, working across three mayoral administrations. Over 18 seasons, we have forged collaborations with over 90 organizations to create new gateways to the arts across businesses, social services, schools, tourism, and government.

 

“Festivals are in our DNA.”

 

From producing Pixilerations New Media Festival (2004-2013) to FirstWorks Kids (2004-2009), to long partnerships with artists like Jazz at Lincoln Center, our programming demonstrates artistic excellence and a commitment to include marginalized communities. In 2011, our arts strategy to revitalize downtown Providence was awarded a $200,000 Our Town grant that culminated in the success of the 2012 FirstWorks Festival: On the Plaza. The event evolved to become the City’s signature arts festival, PVDFest, which has employed over 3400 local artists since its inception. FirstWorks connects artists across the globe to Rhode Island and brings local artists to the world’s stage.

Central to our mission, FirstWorks’ robust education program harnesses the power of the arts to reengage thousands of students, motivate teachers, and supporting hybrid-distance and in-person learning. We prioritize youth that already faced significant socio-economic challenges and are now dealing with additional hurdles considering the COVID-19 crisis.

Our commitment to inclusive programming brings audiences together with exemplary artists as diverse as our community, performing on local (and virtual) stages and in classrooms for fruitful intercultural exchanges. This provides audiences a global approach to understanding our shared world. FirstWorks’ performances, education, and community engagements have been recognized as ones that “expands our community’s horizons through the arts” (Providence Business News)

“Wonderful and thought-provoking. We need more of these shared experiences in our world.”

— Audience Member

“Thank you for sustaining us through difficult times, and for lifting up our collective vision to the future.”

— Audience Member

Special Projects

WHERE WONDER SPARKS POSSIBILITY

Community-wide projects that span a whole season and widen the circle of participation as a creative catalyst for Providence. A constellation of performances, community events, and talks, blend as FirstWorks mixes up the special sauce, allowing magic to that happen on stage.

  • We celebrate partnerships with the arts as an epi-center for medicine, environment, anti-racism, urban development, and social justice enterprises to coalesce efforts
  • We facilitate the gathering of diverse audiences as they explore art, broaden world perspectives, empower creativity, and ignite learning.
  • We applaud the blending of community as we meet in the theater and in the classroom, connecting our neighbors to the arts and to each other.

Here are highlights from past “first-in Rhode Island” special projects

“Season of the Silk Road” Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Project

“Celebrating Ailey” Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

“A Voice Exclaiming” Kronos Quartet & Community MusicWorks

Taylor Mac’s “24-Decade History of Popular Music”

Urban Bush Women “Art Activating Community”

“Paul Taylor Legacy Project,” Paul Taylor Dance Company

Sweet Honey in the Rock & Providence Junior Singers

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, “Jazz & Democracy”

Annual Report 2020-2021