Founded in 1997, New Urban Arts is a nationally-recognized community arts studio for high school students and emerging artists in Providence, Rhode Island. Our mission is to build a vital community that empowers young people as artists and leaders to develop a creative practice they can sustain throughout their lives. 

Our free, year-round out-of-school programs promote sustained mentoring relationships between urban high school students and trained artist mentors—who, together, engage in youth leadership, risk taking, collaboration, and self-directed learning. We are grounded in the belief that in order to fulfill the promise of our democracy, all young people, no matter their place in society, should have the opportunity to become more creative and independent thinkers. 

Our Core Values

Connectionauthentic experiences and bonds fuel us. We believe that everyone needs a mentor—someone to trust, to share honestly with, and to enables us to be accountable to ourselves. We need spaces where we can be ourselves, to have our own ideas and vision. Art making connects us and builds community.

Voice: young people prevail. The diverse voices of young people drive the direction of our programs and our organization.

Inclusion: everyone is on equal footing. We believe everyone is ready to inspire or be inspired, that all of us have something to teach or to learn.

Leadership: the baton is yours for the taking. We believe everyone can lead a project and that with direction and support passionate people can achieve their goals. The same person can be a supportive follower and a visionary. The ink on our job descriptions is always wet; roles and responsibilities evolve here.

Risk: a push into new and positive directions. We find beauty in mistakes or failure. It is hard to dare when fear of screwing up, letting down, or reprisal looms. You can’t grow if you don’t dare.

Our Core Practices

As part of our 2019-24 strategic planning process, New Urban Arts reconsidered our core values with the intention of ensuring that they reflect our organization as its current staff, board, and volunteers conceptualize it. Through that conversation, we built the following list of practices that should guide staff and volunteers in interactions with young people at New Urban Arts. We do our best to gracefully navigate moments when two or more practices are in tension with each other.

Relationship Building and Maintaining Community
Be proactive about connecting with as many young people as possible. Learn names and pronouns, and use them. Say hello and goodbye. Students should feel seen, heard, and known here. Find ways to welcome new youth into your circle. Challenge yourself to push through awkwardness and implicit bias, and talk to young people with whom you don’t have an instant rapport. Be trustworthy and respect students’ confidentiality. At the same time, cultivate and maintain healthy boundaries; own your adulthood, and don’t rely on students to process your emotions.

Youth Agency and Freedom of Expression
Respect that young people have agency and that they are here voluntarily. Artistic and educational experiences should originate from their creative impulses and interests. Support students’ interest in leading their own projects. When youth want to learn a skill that’s unfamiliar to you, learn together with them. If they don’t know where to start, and you have an idea for an activity, propose it; don’t impose it. Let young people take risks and try things their own way, even when your experience or expertise tells you it’s the “wrong” way. Think of instructional moments in terms of consent; ask students if you can show them something that you’ve learned, or ask them to teach you something. When working with youth on projects that are deadline-driven or require particularly high levels of rigor, your job is to hold them accountable to goals they have set for themselves. At the level of organizational strategy, staffing, and programming, the staff and board should collaborate with youth, as much as possible, in decision-making.

Inquiry and I-Statements
Use rhetorical approaches that invite young people to share and that indicate your perspective isn’t the final word on any matter. Model curiosity, and acknowledge your own ignorance. Ask yourself, “How can I ask a question instead of making a statement?” This does not mean “playing devil’s advocate” or using questions to put students on the defensive. Foster growth by inviting, rather than pushing, youth to take risks and go beyond their comfort zone, and affirm their feelings of comfort and discomfort. Ask questions to encourage young people to think for themselves and articulate their values and decision making processes. Be aware of your own influence, power, and privilege. Use I-statements to locate your perspective in your own experience, and convey that it’s okay for students to disagree with you.

Safe Space
Protect young people’s physical safety. Cultivate emotional safety for students, with particular respect to the diverse identities and experiences of our core constituency: youth of color from low-income families, many of whom are first generation Americans, and many of whom are LGBTQ+. Be aware that for some young people, safe space means a place to discuss their identity, politics, and experiences of oppression, and that, for others, safe space means a break from thinking about those subjects. When a student takes a risk and fails, be there to help them learn from the experience. Intervene in instances when a young person’s physical or emotional safety is under threat, either from another student or an adult. At the level of organizational strategy, the staff and board should be prepared to speak out and take appropriate action regarding policies that impact the safety of young people.

Flexibility and Fidelity
Our core program, Youth Mentorship in the Arts, is a drop-in program, where young people can choose when and how they participate. Our students are often faced with burdensome responsibilities, demands, and pressures at school, home, and in other afterschool settings. Differentiate this space through flexibility around their varied and shifting attendance levels, interest in socializing, attitudes toward artistic rigor, and commitment to a single medium. Flexibility is not indifference; to convey to youth that there is a broad spectrum of ways to engage with our studio, we must consistently be present to provide learning experiences. Exercise fidelity. Be on time; follow through on your commitments, and communicate to staff and students when you cannot. Be present and available, and engage each young person equally and without favoritism. For more on flexibility and fidelity, check out Deputy Director Emily Ustach’s piece in the Summer 2020 edition of Afterschool Matters Journal.

History and Recognition

New Urban Arts was founded in 1997 by four college students (Jullia Kim, Malaika Thorne, Marcus Civin, and Tyler Denmead) and ten high school students and has since grown into an arts organization that has received city, state, and national recognition for its innovative approaches to artmaking, education, youth empowerment and community development. “Project” New Urban Arts began as a small arts mentoring program, in a loft apartment at Grace Church in downtown Providence, supported by Tyler Denmead’s receipt of a Royce Fellowship from Brown University’s Swearer Center for Public Service.
 
1998 Tyler Denmead is awarded an Echoing Green Fellowship to launch New Urban Arts as a nonprofit and becomes its first executive director. New Urban Arts moves to 743 Westminster Street, a small storefront that serves as its first permanent studio and gallery.
 

1999 New Urban Arts begins a professional development program for its artist mentors, preparing them to work effectively in community settings with young people.

2001 New Urban Arts expands into an adjacent storefront tripling its studio size to over 2,000 square feet. This expansion leads to the introduction of several new media including a black and white darkroom, a digital media center, silkscreening and other printmaking facilities. New Urban Arts is also awarded the Daedalus Award by Providence Waterfire.

2004 New Urban Arts, with several peer youth arts programs, launches the Providence Youth Arts Collaborative (PYAC). See sidebar at right.

2004 New Urban Arts begins a partnership with College Visions, a college access and success organization founded by alumni artist mentor and Providence native, Simon Moore.

2005  New Urban Arts is named a Champion in Action by Citizens Bank and NBC10.

2006  New Urban Arts is awarded the Jabez Gorham Award by the Arts and Business Council of Rhode Island, which recognizes outstanding arts/cultural/educational organizations for unwavering commitment to excellence, significant impact on the community, and success in organizational development

2007 Tyler Denmead resigns and moves with his family to Cambridge (UK) to pursue his Ph.D in art education. Tamara Kaplan, former program director, assumes interim executive director duties.

2008 New Urban Arts is named a 21st Century Community Learning Center by the RI Department of Education. After an extensive search, alumni artist mentor Jason Yoon is selected as second executive director. New Urban Arts launches the Arts Mentoring Fellowship program, a community arts residency.

2009 In partnership with the Providence School Department, New Urban Arts launches a professional development program for Providence’s art teachers based on its program resource guides. New Urban Arts also wins a number of awards in 2009. We are selected as one of nine arts organizations across the country to participate in ARTOGRAPHY: Arts in a Changing America, a grant and documentation program of Leveraging Investments in Creativity, funded by the Ford Foundation. The program shares best practices with the broader field to highlight the value of diverse artistic practices throughout the United States. The U.S. Department of Education selects New Urban Arts as one of 20 high school out-of-school programs included in a national study on best practices leading to academic improvement, and First Lady Michelle Obama presents New Urban Arts with a Coming Up Taller Award (now called the National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Awards). The award is the nation’s highest honor for of out-of-school time arts & humanities programs, particularly those that reach underserved children and youth.

2010 New Urban Arts hosts the first of two annual alumni artist mentor leadership institutes, the Institute of Other Significant Pursuits.

2011 New Urban Arts cements its role in the revitalization of Westminster street by purchasing, renovating, and moving into a new home at 705 Westminster Street, one block from our previous location. New Urban Arts publicly launches a million-dollar capital campaign to help fund that transition.

2012  New Urban Arts is one of only 19 arts and cultural organizations in the state to receive general operating support from the Rhode Island State Council of the Arts. “General Operating Support grants provide support to Rhode Island’s most established arts organizations, those which employ artists, serve a local or statewide audience, and contribute to the culture and economy of our state.” (RISCA).

2013 Elia Gurna begins as New Urban Arts’ third executive director. The Initiative for Nonprofit Excellence, sponsored by the Rhode Island Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield, awards New Urban Arts a Best Practices Award in Board Governance.

2014 New Urban Arts brings on a Life After School mentor to help students navigate the opportunities available to them after graduation. New Urban Arts also pilots a new mentor role—Studio Advocate—which brings a Master of Social Work candidate from Rhode Island College into the studio as an additional resource for students.

2015 New Urban Arts partners with Providence Student Union, Young Voices, and three other youth organizations to launch the Providence Youth Caucus. Daniel Schleifer assumes the role of executive director. New Urban Arts also receives the Iona Dobbins award from the Art Connection, a non-profit that places artwork in non-profits.

2016 With support from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, New Urban Arts major renovates 705 Westminster Street; the building now has 6,000 square feet of studio space for young people.

2017 New Urban Arts receives its third five-year 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, supporting the Youth Mentorship in the Arts Program and Summer Art Internships at New Urban Arts as well as the creation of a new program: NUA Knights, an afterschool program at Central High School designed collaboratively by New Urban Arts and Central’s administration. Director of Programs Emily Ustach is selected for the National Afterschool Matters Fellowship, a competitive, national two-year fellowship for 25 out-of-school-time professionals. The fellowship is sponsored by the National Institute on Out-of-School Time and the National Writing Project.

2018 The Initiative for Nonprofit Excellence, sponsored by the Rhode Island Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield, awards New Urban Arts a Best Practices Award in Volunteer Engagement.

2019 The Rhode Island Afterschool Network names Ashley Paniagua Afterschool Program Director of the Year.

Creative Practice

What if creativity were a social enterprise rather than an individual one? What if our creativity was measured not by a finished artwork—the innate talent it may suggest or the prescribed expectations it may meet—but by the extent to which that work was fueled by our own process, our own questions, and by our relationships with one another?

New Urban Arts is a community that empowers young people, as artists and leaders, to develop a creative practice they can sustain throughout their lives. By its nature, individual definitions of creative practice are as varied as those who are practicing. But common to them all is the ability to ask one’s own questions, to follow one’s own developing curiosities, and to help build learning communities in which one’s practice can flourish.

A creative practice helps us to create new sites of creative experimentation and transformation; spaces in which we can create, collaborate, document, reflect, and most importantly, engage. It is meant to be accessible, loose, and most importantly,relational. Which is why it is also central to our practice as an organization.

Supporters

Our work is made possible by the direct financial support of a wide variety of funders—individuals, foundations, corporate contributors, and government agencies—all of whom are committed to supporting youth creativity.

In addition, New Urban Arts receives $200,000 annually in donated time and services. New Urban Arts’ team of artist mentors alone donate $100,000 worth of time each year to mentor youth. The most important volunteer contribution you can make is to consider becoming an artist mentor.

 

Partners/Collaborators

Financials

Our Audits

 

Our 990’s (Numbered by our fiscal years)

Our Building

New Urban Arts’ programs take place inside of a 7,200 square foot art studio located at 705 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903. Both floors of the building, the front door, and all bathrooms are wheelchair-accessible.

705 Westminster is also known as the S. Chiappinelli building and was built between 1930 and 1933. Salvatore Chiappinelli was a partner in the Imperial-Armour-Rex Company (incorporated in 1920 with Harry M. Burt and Dominick Fazzano), which was the realty holding company for Imperial Knife, Rex Manufacturing, and Chiappinelli’s own company, Armour Manufacturing Company.

Armour Manufacturing Company was incorporated in 1907 by Chiappinelli, Frank Stead, and Etta Daughaday. It was re-incorporated in 1913 by Chiappinelli, John L. Kehoe, and Arabella M. Kelly “for the purposes of engaging in the business of manufacturing, buying, selling and otherwise disposing of jewelry, novelties and other kinds of merchandise….”

The building is in the Westminster Street National Historic District.

Salvatore Chiappinelli was born in Italy on November 1, 1872, emigrated to the US in 1895, and became a naturalized citizen in 1904. He died October 5, 1948. He is buried in St. Ann Cemetery in Cranston.