Meet Paul Tavarez!
Relationship with New Urban Arts: Alumni, Former Mentor, Current Board Member, Award Winner
Paul grew up in Providence living in most neighborhoods in the city. He attended after school programs such as SummerBridge (now Breakthrough Providence) and New Urban Arts. These programs helped him excel and eventually led him to pursue education outside of the state. After living in China for a year and a half he returned to Providence in 2013. In the past couple of years he has involved himself with various movements from ending police brutality to prison abolition. He currently works for the Providence Student Union as an organizer and is a recent addition to the New Urban Arts board. As a member of the New Urban Arts alumni community he has worked with his peers to create spaces for alumni engagement. He continues his creative practice in dance, poetry, and performance.
We interviewed Paul and asked him to share with us how he got started with New Urban Arts. Here’s what he said:
How did you first hear about New Urban Arts?
My friend Ricky and I went to the open house because Ricky’s sister was a student at the time and we were interested. It was a fall open house in 2003, there were candles in white paper bags lining the side walk, edible arrangements were passing out chocolate covered strawberries, and Jessie was taking pictures of people posing in the display window from the sidewalk. I remember walking in and signing up for pretty much every medium in the building.
How long have you been involved with New Urban Arts?
It would be 13 years this fall. Although I wasn’t living in Providence as a permanent resident for a decade so involved is a loose term. I like to think I float in and out as needed.
What’s something that you think makes New Urban Arts stand out from other organizations?
I think its the understanding and practice of treating young people like anyone else you’re trying to help. There is this soul to the organization that lacks all pretenses and in that moment of walking into the studio and realizing there are no grades or classes, no artificial structure, that everyone there is trying to get better at whatever it is there doing. For me it’s a mixture of familiarity and mystery. I always feel welcome but there is always something new on the wall or a new member of the community. And this feeling of comfortable risk taking it seems like the walls were painted with it.
What was the last adventure you chose to go on? What did you do?
My last adventure was to the corner store. Now I had just moved into the neighborhood and it was the first good day in a while so I walked. On my way through the side street I notice a cat was following me. Cute, short-haired, black with white paws, really friendly, it rubs its face on me and as we’re walking it meows. Being a cat loving person, I knew this cat wanted food. So I’m like, okay you want something to eat you have to follow me to the store. With the store not being far I wasn’t surprised it followed me. I walk in and Bodega bro #1 didn’t say anything about the cat coming in so I went with. Went over to the snack section got my Little Debbie’s, walked around looking for cat food….there was no cat food so I got my homie Charles (the cat) a variety of snacking options. There was jerky, crackers, cheese, the works. I was really feeling my generosity and Charles was a stray so why not? Anyway I’m buying our snacks and Bodega bro #2 comes out the shadows as soon as Charles lets out the most annoying “I-want-food-right-now meow” ever. Bro #2 starts yelling about no pets in the store and I’ve already abandoned Charles thrice by the time he walks over to me. Bodega bro #1 is just snickering while I’m paying and Charles straight up jumps from the floor to the counter onto my shoulder and licks Bodega bro #2’s face. He lost it, punches Charles in the face, but like a smooth criminal he just switches shoulders and hops off me. I grab my snacks and just walk out as the be-licked merchant whines about allergies. On the way back home I stop where I met up with Charles to give him his just rewards and as soon as I put my snacks down about thirty other cats showed up and started begging for food. I look down at Charles and he’s eating my honey bun
Why do you support New Urban Arts?
I support New Urban Arts because for all the years I have known the organization it has supported and fed my soul, body and mind. I’ve made friends and lost friends in this space. Felt joy and sorrow, created beauty and have trashed many a project within the walls of this organization. At this point it feels less like supporting an organization and more like feeding a part of myself.