One of the greatest parts of Gallery Night is its connection to the community. Not just the one with paintbrushes and glass-blowing gloves on their hands, but anyone who is appreciative of Providence’s artistic network. “It is a special kind of interactive art event that allows for a strong social component,” says Kerry Murphy, artist and art educator, as well as the current president of the Gallery Night board. “You can get on the bus alone or with a group and leave inspired and often surprised by the meaningful contacts made with people that were strangers a mere two hours earlier.”
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Gallery Night Providence opens the doors of galleries, museums and exhibits across the city and invites anyone to come out for a night of learning, mingling and enjoying all mediums of creative splendor. Gallery Night has traveled extraordinary lengths since its beginnings in 1996. Organized by Bob Rizzo, a local government arts administrator and sculptor, the event grew out of Rizzo asking gallery owners to keep their doors open on a Saturday night during the Convergence International Arts Festival. The turnout was so impressive that members of the arts community decided to make it a recurring event, expanding what was only nine exhibits to at one time over 24 participating galleries and museums throughout the city.
What’s nice is that the arts community of Gallery Night basically sends out a personalized invitation to everyone, and all we have to do is show up with a hunger for cheese plates and artistic enlightenment. From March until November, Gallery Night provides free bus tours that make their way from gallery to gallery all night. The Art-Buses will pick you up at the Regency Plaza starting at 5:30pm, and every 20 minutes another bus will come with its own themed tour and itinerary. Passengers on this art extravaganza can choose from contemporary to traditional tours, even a collector’s tour. Gallery Night also features “Celebrity Guided” tours, where an artist or well-known member of the arts community will lead your tour with their own personal touch. Even Mayor Elorza led his own tour.
Being part of these interactions and memories are not limited to one particular age group, just as it isn’t limited to artists. In fact, bridging the age gap through art never gets old to the folks involved with Gallery Night, especially to Joan Ritchie at The Peaceable Kingdom, one of the stops on the Gallery Night tour bus. Over the years, Ritchie and her husband Phil have been collecting and sharing unique artifacts from across the globe that might not otherwise make it to the public. One of her favorite memories of Gallery Night involves an older couple and a group of students in their 20s. The exhibit showcased dowries, love and marriage from around the world, and when Joan asked if anyone knew what a “hope chest” was, she saw the two groups all “connecting in a very personal way.” The older couple explained their experience, and the younger group was able to ask questions, branching the divide all in the name of art. When groups come into The Peaceable Kingdom on their art tours, or just by chance, Joan gets to witness these learning experiences right before her eyes. Gallery Night is not just a night for the artists involved, but the entire community. “It is a great thing.” Ritchie says, to put it simply, “it’s wonderful from all points of view.”