Name: Raymond Two Hawks Watson
Occupation: CEO/Founder, Providence Cultural Equity Initiative
Education: BA in Political Science, Union College; Master’s in Community Planning, URI
Community involvement: Watson is Chief of the Providence-based Mashapaug Nahaganset Tribe
Cultural tourism is travel centered around a place’s defining history and heritage. It’s the fastest-growing sector of international travel to the United States, and cultural tourists on average stay longer and spend more than others. Raymond Two Hawks Watson sees tremendous opportunity for Rhode Island. “Cultural history, heritage and diversity are the state’s greatest natural resources,” he says. Last April, the Rhode Island Foundation awarded him a three-year, $300,000 Innovation Fellowship to launch the Providence Cultural Equity Initiative, a multi-pronged consulting firm and think tank. PCEI is consulting with local cultural organizations to help them market themselves to tourists, working with AS220 to develop a cultural guidebook for the state, and hosting events like International Indigenous People’s Cultural Conference and New England Native American Culture Week. Perhaps the biggest and most exciting plan for 2017 is the return of Sound Session, the week-long “genre-defying music festival” that ran from 2004-10. Watson plans to launch the Sound Session International Culture & Music Festival in the fall, working with the original festival’s founder, Donald King. “I believe that this initiative is a major part of the much needed effort to identify what makes Rhode Island such a unique place,” says Watson.