From chess to art, from beards to geekery, local clubs and gatherings offer a different kind of night out
For the artsy, the Providence Art Club on Thomas Street deserves mention. The Art Club, founded back in 1880, boasts airy studio space and a lovely, historic clubhouse. Exhibitions in its spacious galleries are free and open to the public on weekday afternoons from noon to three. And both artists and art-lovers are welcome to join the club – but there’s some protocol. To become a member, you first must be introduced and nominated by a current member, recommended by another member, and then voted in by the Board of Managers.
For the avid reader, there’s no better place to curl up with a treasured tome than the Providence Athenaeum. The historic library building is open to the public, as is its celebrated Friday night Salon Series of lectures and spirited discussion. But only members can borrow books, magazines, CDs and DVDs. Membership also allows you to request hard-to-find items, attend special programs like readings, concerts and children’s story-times, and access the collection at RISD’s Fleet Library. And your membership fee helps to preserve a cultural institution – so the next generation can curl up with a good book there, too.
For the theatrically inclined, The Players at Barker Playhouse just may be the ticket. As a member of this dramatic group, you can attend five plays a season, three annual parties and numerous readings and social events. Plus, if you’d like, you can participate in the excitement of live shows – performed by members, for members. Around since 1909, the club proudly claims the title of America’s oldest, continuously running “little theater.” On October 12, during the upcoming production of Doubt, the Players will celebrate its 2,500th performance.
“We welcome those who like to work either onstage or backstage, and those who prefer to sit in the audience and watch the stage! A member can be as active as they wish,” explains Trisha McManus, the president of the Players and a 20-year member. McManus watched three of her five children perform at Barker over the years, and credits their positive experiences with inspiring them to work in the entertainment industry. Two of her sons have since written and directed a film (Funeral Kings, 2010, shot in RI), and her daughter has appeared as a series regular on several TV shows.
For the community minded, there’s Providence Provision. The group hosts public dinners and awards the proceeds to worthy causes. As an attendee, you make a small donation and enjoy homemade food, plus musical entertainment. At the same time, you review and rate proposals for local, creative projects. The proposal with the highest score gets the funds. Jori Ketten, Jeremy Radtke and Neal Walsh, all highly active in the local arts scene, brought the concept to Providence after hearing about similar programs in other cities. They held their first event in February of 2011, with Fertile Underground receiving the first grant. Stay tuned for the date of the next Provision dinner later this fall. You won’t want to miss it!
For the creative writer, Frequency is a community arts organization that offers rigorous, experiential workshops, holds readings and talks, and helps local writers and readers to connect. Co-director Darcie Dennigan notes, “It’s pretty exciting to look around the table and see how many terrific, interesting, diverse writers there are in southeastern New England. I’m constantly impressed by the writers in our workshops, both seasoned or published ones and complete greenhorns.”
Frequency also hosts free “writers’ parties” every few months, where guests read their work aloud in a casual, open mic setting – and clink a few wine glasses in the process. Dennigan, an accomplished author herself, recalls that both she and her co-director Evelyn Hampton benefited from being part of different writing communities when they began writing. They hope for Frequency to serve that purpose for RI writers, even encouraging them to form spin-off writing groups of their own.
For the techie, Providence Geeks holds free, casual meetings one Wednesday night a month, usually at AS220 on Empire Street. If you’re interested in digital technology and want to network with like-minded folks, this is a fun way to do it. Each evening’s line-up includes a brief presentation by an innovator, as well as time for eating, drinking, socializing, and discussing start-ups, mash-ups, and more.
For the beer drinker, consider Beerded Providence. It’s a new social club for anyone who enjoys craft beers, facial hair and good times. The group’s inaugural event was held recently at the Wild Colonial on South Water Street, with tastings of five local beers, and more events are in the works. While the three founding fathers sport beards and consider themselves beard enthusiasts, the club does not discriminate. “Male, female, bearded and clean-shaven are all welcome,” reports co-founder Guy Shaffer. “As long as you don’t hate on the beard, we like you.”
And, thankfully, there’s always a chess club. The non-profit Rhode Island Chess Association organizes tournaments throughout the year for adults and kids alike. It also connects players to free venues, like local libraries. Checkmate!