Watch Marisa Angell Brown Tell Stories of the Past Through Equitable Preservation Now

Executive Director, Providence Preservation Society

Tell us about yourself, your connection to Providence, and your work.

I moved here for love! I’m from New York City, am half-Korean, and grew up in Dubai, so Providence was not the obvious place for me to end up, but I’m so thankful I have because I love everything about it. I’m just completing my first months as executive director of Providence Preservation Society (PPS), a non-profit that over the last 60+ years has spearheaded the successful preservation and adaptive reuse of buildings and cultural landscapes that tell significant stories about our past. 

What’s your motivation for doing this work?

I’m joining PPS during a time of transformation in the field of preservation practice, as we reckon with the wildly uneven benefits and burdens that have been the result of preservation scholarship, policy, and advocacy, such as gentrification and displacement. That’s the case here in Providence as much as it is in other cities across the country. At PPS, this means continuing to strengthen and develop our relationships with communities across the city so we truly are an organization that serves all 25 neighborhoods equally. I see this work as deeply connected to issues of justice, equity, and civic engagement, and that’s what motivates me to do it.

In what ways do you hope to leave an impact on our city in the coming months?

I hope PPS will play a significant role in redefining how we think about the city’s history and heritage by celebrating a wide diversity of places and community stories. But I also think that PPS needs to be out front, evangelizing for the adaptive reuse of historic buildings and places within the context of climate change and the city’s sustainability goals. Cities that continue to choose demolition and new construction over adaptive reuse will not be able to meaningfully reduce their carbon emissions.   

What challenges do you anticipate having to overcome in 2024 to achieve these goals?

Money and time! PPS is small but mighty; it’s a legacy institution that keeps company with organizations that have two to five times as many staff, but we sure could use some more money and more hours in the day to do the work that needs doing.

What’s your reason for optimism approaching 2024?

Providence gives me optimism; it was a gift that my husband gave to me, and it’s a gift we have given our children. 




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