Providence International Arts Festival

Shaping the Concept

The Avenue Concept plays middleman for artists looking to use the city as their canvas


For nearly every success, there is often someone or something that does the gritty, behind-the-scenes work. The Beatles had George Martin and Michael Jordan had David Falk. In the Creative Capital, The Avenue Concept is that necessary backbone artists need to create and display public art.

Founded by Yarrow Thorne in 2012, The Avenue Concept strives to help artists find their platform and, as a lead creative partner, it has been instrumental in prepping for the Providence International Arts Festival.

“There are a lot of layers that go into a seamless project,” Yarrow said. “Those are some of the challenges in the public art realm, and we need to really understand how to embrace those, how to learn from all these processes that don’t exist right now in the city.”

Yesica Guerra, a research affiliate and public art associate with The Avenue Concept, is happy to build these processes. “If we are that third party in the middle of the city and the artist, great. We can deal with the mess, as long as you as an artist get what you need.”

Among the projects The Avenue Concept is helping to organize for the festival are world-class artists Bezt of Etam Cru and Natalia Rak, who will paint massive murals on buildings downtown; turning the Dean Hotel’s parking lot into an interactive skate park and dance floor full of art; and swarming Kennedy Square with Providence-based TapeArt and their colorful catfish installations.

The boxes The Avenue Concept needs to check off to give artists their platforms differ from project to project – “Some are benches, some are informative booths, some are signs” and some are murals, Yesica explained --- but both Yarrow and Yesica hope this festival will help form a general framework for future projects.

“There’s a lot of structure in how this is going to unfold,” Yarrow said.

“We’re trying to create a structure, but it has to be a flexible structure in order to work,” adds Yesica. Despite its complexities, this elasticity energizes her. “I think the diversity of the projects is what makes it interesting. If it was a flat thing, then what’s the excitement?”

The Avenue Concept thrives on excitement, and the energy is immediately felt when walking into its recently renovated backyard. Beautifully designed walls and a spray-painted old car highlight the creative space. Inside, which includes a fully stocked paint bar and a classroom, is no different. The Avenue Concept allows visitors to simply walk in, see what it offers and make art.

“We want to create the ideal environment for people to come and just do what they do best,” Yarrow said.

While The Avenue Concept orchestrates and documents the festival, they are also adding what could be a defining chapter to their own story. Yarrow, who stays focused on the long term, understands the importance of this. "It's not acceptable to just make art, unfortunately, especially as the organization that's managing it, running it and funding it. We need to document it. We need to tell the story."

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