Becoming a mother propelled East Sider Anisa Raoof to a dynamic community-based career path she never thought she would follow. A resident of the Summit neighborhood since late 1999 and a metalwork artist, Raoof moved from Cape Cod to Providence because she “was attracted by the art scene and wanted to be connected to the artistic community here,” she says. Raoof and her husband Douglas Itkin were also looking for “a great place to raise children,” Raoof says, and “a more urban scene” in a well-sized, “manageable” city. Within a year, she and Itkin purchased a home near Lippitt Park and have lived there ever since. Now, Raoof is the executive director of the Providence Children’s Film Festival (PCFF), after founding and managing local parenting blog Kidoinfo for nearly a decade.
Raoof was taking courses through RISD’s continuing education certificate programs in graphic design and marketing when the couple’s twin boys were born in 2001. She was also selling art at the Foundry School, and when it moved out of Providence, she and two friends started and ran the Providence Craft Show for about five years. As a new mother, Raoof found herself constantly looking for things to do with the boys, and discovered library programming, storytelling, Waterplace concerts, and myriad other activities. Even as her rolodex of kid-friendly options throughout the city grew, though, “there didn’t seem to be a central place to find information about all of the arts, music, and things happening,” Raoof says. “I’m also a really big believer in community and collaboration.” Eager to get out of metalworking, which is “not very kid-friendly,” and capitalizing on her background in communications, Raoof started Kidoinfo in 2007 as a way to share and promote “all different kinds of parenting resources” with other moms and dads.
“Right after I launched it… people started wanting to write for it,” Raoof says. “So it became a collection of voices of people across the state.” At one point, 27 different writers were contributing pieces about various parenting-related topics. Raoof had found a way to use the internet “to get more connected to the community in real life,” and genuine friendships started blossoming out of interactions on the blog.
One such friendship led her to PCFF, one of whose co-founders reached out to Raoof about promoting the festival on Kidoinfo in 2009. “A film fan myself and the mom of two obsessed young film buffs, the event was right up my alley,” Raoof says. She gradually took on more work with the organization, eventually becoming executive director in 2014 and handing over Kidoinfo’s leadership to her friend Susan Gale.
“At PCFF, we try to mirror the kind of world we want to raise our kids in,” Raoof says. The organization’s objective is “to bring the community together to talk about the film, as well as learn the craft of the art,” and it has built relationships with other children’s film festivals around the world. A cheerleader for creative activities in the local community, Raoof recommends that parents check out the summertime Storytime & Art programs in Burnside Park hosted by Kidoinfo, as well as the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy.