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Bringing Global Finds to College Hill

Artists Howard Ben Tré and Wendy MacGaw have filled their East Side home with the fruits of their extensive travels

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With works in galleries all over the world, including pieces at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Boston’s Museum of Fine Art, you’d think that artist Howard Ben Tré would be the collector of the family. Not so - that would be his wife, artist Wendy MacGaw, whose art consultancy and shipping company AMS brings her all over the world. On the shelves of the bookcase Howard designed, she explains, “there are Chinese rice bowls, American arts and crafts pottery, Peruvian tobacco bags, a Nepalese match holder and smaller pieces of Howard’s work. I love to look at all of our collection and remember where we’ve been.”

Their 1939 Bauhaus-style home sits on a plot on College Hill originally owned by the heirs of Fruit of the Loom. When they renovated, they preserved almost everything. “At the time it was built, this was really avant garde,” Wendy says.

Howard came to RISD to get a graduate degree in 1978. “I just fell in love with Providence and stayed,” he says. In their relationship, “We commuted back and forth for a number of years. When Wendy started looking to move here, I said, I’m not leaving the East Side. We can walk to dinner, we can walk downtown. Wendy likes to call me Mr. Providence.”

“Being in Michigan for 22 years, I’m so thrilled not to be in a car,” Wendy says. “You can walk and see beautiful architecture, and smell the flowers. I love it here.”