October 25, 2014
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Mayor favors re-use of Rhodes for Artists’ Exchange
Kelcy Dolan
SUMMER CAMP: Artists’ Exchange hosts numerous summer camps for children from 5 years old to teens. Were Artists’ Exchange to relocate to Warwick, residents of the city would be able to receive discounts toward summer camps and birthday parties, among other benefits. Pictured is a ceramics summer camp.

Christopher Rhodes Elementary School may be opening their doors for teachers and students once again as the new home for Artists’ Exchange.

The non-profit, which currently operates from a building at 50 Rolfe Square in Cranston, was the only entity to submit a bid to the Re-use Rhodes Committee.

The organization began when Gateways to Change, a nonprofit that assists individuals with developmental disabilities, wanted to open up a program that would help them integrate into the community.

In its 10-year history, Artists’ Exchange has expanded and now hosts numerous art classes, camps, performances, studio rentals and community events throughout the year for all ages and capabilities.

Karen Bouchard, director of visual arts program development for Artists’ Exchange, said in a recent interview, “There really is something for everyone. It doesn’t matter who you were before you walked in the door. Once you’re here, you are a painter, an actor, a sculptor, an artist.”

Elaine McKenna-Yeaw, cofounder and director of Artists’ Exchange, said that the non-profit has already done a lot in Warwick. They have participated in after- and in-school programs as well as an acting program at the Pilgrim Senior Center.

“We aren’t just trying to start a new program. We have 10 years of experience behind us. We have Warwick residents who participate in our programs and we want the rest of the city to know about us,” McKenna-Yeaw said.

The proposal submitted by Artists’ Exchange was recommended to the Re-Use Rhodes Committee by Mayor Scott Avedisian and recently recommended back to the mayor.

Avedisian said, “I am in favor of the Artists’ Exchange use of the former Rhodes School building. I think that they offer quality programming and that they would be a great addition to the services that are offered in our city.”

The next step for the proposal is to be put in front of the City Council for approval.

The lease agreement would be for $1 a year. Atrists’ Exchange is looking for a “long-term” lease but did not specify those terms, expecting to work them out with the City Council.

Artists’ Exchange proposes to have Warwick residents receive free memberships, which would allow them discounts on classes, studio rentals, children’s camps, and other services the company offers.

“We have a lot to offer,” McKenna-Yeaw said. “With the new building, we’d be going from a 10,000-square-foot facility to 43,000 square feet. We plan on expanding all of our programs.”

Bouchard said, “We are invested in our communities. Artists’ Exchange becomes a second home and family to so many. There is power and ownership in creation and that is something that can be shared with everyone.”

If the proposal is accepted, Artists’ Exchange would start the move to Warwick immediately and be functional within six months. They plan to make few changes to the building other than to clean it up and reinvigorate it. They would add seats to the theatre and do landscaping.

They would be looking for community donations of supplies and time for the building. They are looking for landscaping companies, home improvement, and interior decorators to help in their project, especially for their theatre.

For more information on Artists’ Exchange, visit their website, www.artists-exchange.org. You can also contact both McKenna-Yeaw and Bouchard by their emails about summer camps and donating, elain.yeaw-artists-exchange.org and karen.bouchard@artists-exchange.org.


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