WaterFire Providence

Providence, RI   |  https://waterfire.org

Mission

WaterFire Providence's mission is to inspire Providence and its visitors by revitalizing the urban experience, fostering community engagement, and creatively transforming the city by presenting WaterFire for all to enjoy.

Notes from the nonprofit

WaterFire has been a powerful catalyst for transforming place and building community. Nearly 1,000,000 come to Providence to experience art in a riverside urban park that would otherwise be dark and empty on most Saturday nights. On average 60,000 visitors and up to 100,000 visitors will attend with more than 1/2 traveling from outside RI. WaterFire activity creates $114,000,000 in economic output for the local economy which generates over $9,000,000 in direct ax revenue for RI and supports 1,294 jobs in the community. Equally important, WaterFire fosters a "pride of place" for RIers which is critically important to bring about positive change in the community.

Ruling year info

1989

Executive Artistic Director

Mr. Barnaby Evans

Managing Director

Mr. Peter A. Mello

Main address

475 Valley Street

Providence, RI 02908 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

22-2951612

NTEE code info

Arts, Cultural Organizations - Multipurpose (A20)

Economic Development (S30)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

WaterFire addresses a range of challenges in the community every year. The downtown WaterFire installation/event draws approximately 1,000,000 visitors a year and secures millions of new media impressions, hundreds of column inches in traditional print media and hours of local, national and international broadcast media painting Providence in a positive light and making the Creative Capital and Ocean State a top international art and cultural tourism destination. WaterFire is a community partner and powerful platform that effectively raises awareness of social issues that affect all Rhode Islanders: from “C is for Cure” WaterFire that supports RI Foundation Innovation Fellow Dr. Lynne Taylor’s RI Defeats Hep C major health initiative to Flames of Hope WaterFire for breast cancer awareness to WaterFire’s Salute to Veterans and, in 2019, a new WaterFire for Recovery, in partnership with RI Department of Health and Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

WaterFire

Created by artist Barnaby Evans in 1994, WaterFire is a large-scale public art event centered around the installation of over eighty bonfires floating on Providence, Rhode Island’s three downtown rivers. WaterFire has become an icon of the city, attracting over a million people annually. As an admission-free event, WaterFire ensures everyone regardless of ethnic or socioeconomic background is included and celebrated. Large scale programming varies from event to event, making no two WaterFire lightings alike. We celebrate the whole community by filling the streets and parks with art, music, and invigorating spectacle, championing the rich diversity of the city’s neighborhoods, featuring ethnic traditions, building community spirit, and boosting the city and state's economy, business climate, and morale.​

WaterFire has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts and many of America's largest foundations as a pioneer and standard setter in the field of creative placemaking and for our success in creating economic vitality and building civic pride in the community.

Population(s) Served

In May 2017, WaterFire Providence moved into the WaterFire Arts Center, a historic, industrial building that organization saved and renovated to be its first permanent visible home in the community and a multi-use arts center unlike any other in the region. In addition to being WaterFire's work space the WaterFire Arts Center hosts exhibitions, performances and events of all kinds.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Total number of performances

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

WaterFire

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Total (full and partial) WaterFire lightings. Number of events is not on its own an accurate metric to measure performance.

Total number of guided tours given

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

WaterFire

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Launched guided walking tours of downtown Providence on WaterFire events days in 2018.

Number of paid participants of guided tours

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

WaterFire

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

Launched guided walking tours of downtown Providence on WaterFire events days in 2018.

Total number of audience members

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

WaterFire

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Attendance as estimated by the US Army Corps of Engineers in a 2012 Economic Evaluation Report as part of a Dredging Feasibility Study.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

WaterFire is in the middle of a major organizational transition as laid out in its strategic plan. Started in 2011 when the organization went to the dual arts leadership model with Peter Mello hired as managing director/coCEO to co-lead with founder/executive artistic director Barnaby Evans. In 2012, WaterFire met another key strategic objective by purchasing and rehabilitating an abandoned, historic building, prominently positioned on Valley streetscape on the gateway into the underserved Olneyville neighborhood. In 2017, WaterFire moved into the WaterFire Arts Center, the organization’s first permanent visible home, a multi-use arts and culture venue unlike any other in the region and a catalyst to further development in the neighborhood. WaterFire will continue navigating its strategic transition from an improvised arts event to a RI institution by expanding arts and culture programming in the WaterFire Arts Center and integrating it into and strengthening the WaterFire event downtown.

In 2020, WaterFire was planning a series of events and activities including: launching of a lecture series on Creative Placemaking and Public Art; organizing a variety of WaterFire lightings honoring community heroes including healthcare professionals, first responders and essential worker on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus crisis and continue to collaborate and develop programs with The Wheeler School's Cityside, a groundbreaking 8th grade community-based, experiential education program in the WaterFire Arts Center.

While the coronavirus pandemic has put our 2020 WaterFire season on hold, we remain committed as ever to creating relevant and important art. Frankly, this has been a tough way to celebrate WaterFire's first 25 years, but we are determined, resilient and excited about how our talented and dedicated team is adjusting and continuing to create meaningful art like the WaterFire Beacon of Hope, a dynamic installation that honors Rhode Island lives lost to COVID-19, and #StayHomeWaterFire, our first virtual event that gathered 15,000 online viewers for “the largest and greatest co-created art experience in the history of humankind.”

WaterFire has been doing important creative placemaking work in our community for 25 years and during this time has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts and ArtPlace America, among many others, as a leader in the field. WaterFire’s community connections run deep and wide and its partnerships make its work more diverse and stronger.

Over the past 9 years, WaterFire Providence has been lead by the coCEO team of Barnaby Evans, Founder and Executive Artistic Director, and Peter Mello, Managing Director. Paul Kochanek, Director of Events and Operations and Laura Duclos, Director of Creative Services.

WaterFire Arts Center has rapidly become an important community resource hosting a wide variety of meetings and events including the City of Providence’s Public Art Master Plan Community Workshop and Woonasquatucket Vision Planning meetings.

Over the past 24 years more than 15,000,000 people have come to Providence to experience the art of WaterFire. We are constantly experimenting and iterating to keep the event fresh for tourists and RI citizens alike. Over the course of the season we work with hundreds of artists and dozens of community organizations, integrating their programming into the event and giving them a platform to reach much larger and more diverse audiences than they could on their own. In 2017 WaterFire moved into the WaterFire Arts Center, its first permanent visible home in the community and a new multi-use arts center that host exhibitions, performances and events of all kinds. As called for by our strategic plan, WaterFire is in the middle of an important transition from from an improvised arts event to a Rhode Island institution in an effort to sustain and increase our proven economic and cultural impacts for the community.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

    Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Paper surveys, Focus groups or interviews (by phone or in person), Community meetings/Town halls, Constituent (client or resident, etc.) advisory committees,

  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve,

  • With whom is the organization sharing feedback?

    Our staff, Our board, Our funders, Our community partners,

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

Financials

WaterFire Providence
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

WaterFire Providence

Board of directors
as of 5/5/2020
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Mr. James Prescott

Marcum LLP

Term: 2018 -


Board co-chair

Mr. Lee Valentini

Amica Insurance

Alice Boss-Altman

Judith Bentkover

Roger Bergenhiem

Providence Business News

Barrett Bready

NABsys, Inc.

Barry Fain

Providence Media

Stephanie Fortunato

Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism

Leslie Gardner

Sean Holley

Daniel Kwasniewski

Northeast Collaborative Architects

Irene Lawrence

Charlie Meyers

Metropark LTD

John Muggeridge

MuggVentures

William Murphy

Murphy & Fay Title & Escrow

Elizabeth Myers

Verrill Dana LLP

Ann Scott

Mark Scott

Martha Sheridan

Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau

Joan Slafsky

Peter van Erp

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 05/05/2020

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Sexual orientation
Decline to state

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

Disability