PROVINCETOWN — After more than five years, the renovation of the Fine Arts Work Center campus is nearly complete.
“This is the beginning of our shakedown, to see what it’s like having people hanging out here,” said Bruce Danzer, co-chair of FAWC’s building committee, during a pre-opening reception on Friday, Oct. 29. “It’s really going to be a time of invention for us, rethinking how things happen.”
The vision was to unite the public spaces around a central gathering place, said new FAWC Executive Director Sharon Polli. Before, many of the center’s public spaces were scattered around the FAWC campus.
The project started with replacing the gravel courtyard with a wharf timber deck, soon to be outfitted with cafe tables and chairs. “Whenever you start a project, it ends up taking on more lives,” Danzer observed.
Just off the courtyard stands the renovated Hudson D. Walker Gallery, the Stanley Kunitz Common Room — expanded and reconfigured, this will still be the Center’s main space for public readings and events — the bookstore, and a new light tower (which serves as both sculptural illumination and support for an accessible lift) named after local art collector and longtime FAWC trustee Daniel Mullin, who died last November.
Major goals of the project were to create better sight lines and acoustics and to enliven the heart of FAWC’s campus, Danzer said. They also wanted some state-of-the-art elements, he added. The new light structure will have tiered seating, “like a mini amphitheater,” he said, and the common room has added a bi-fold door, creating what he called a glass canopy. The completed renovation will include a motorized drop-down screen, blackout shades at the windows and doors, and updated lighting.
The building committee worked with Flansburgh Architects, a Boston firm that specializes in educational and cultural facilities, to establish connections between the courtyard and various amenities that already existed on FAWC’s campus. Instead of being dispersed and tucked away, “all the public spaces can work together,” Danzer said.
An opening for Dec. 4 will unveil the nearly $1.4 million project. The additions are just one phase of a long-term plan that includes ongoing maintenance, renewal of the campus’s landscape, and upgrades to the apartments and artists’ studios. FAWC’s 10-year plan includes $1.6 million in additional projects, according to Polli.
The FAWC opened in 1968, serving young artists who hoped to live and work together. Now, each winter, the Center offers long-term residencies for writing and visual arts fellows, who get living and work space as well as a modest stipend.
Friday’s preview allowed visitors to see the gallery’s inaugural exhibition, “Intersection Provincetown.” Local artists and gallerists served as co-curators, partnering with past FAWC fellows whose work inspired them. “It’s a love letter to the fellows and the artistic leaders and creatives who make this community so vibrant,” Polli said.
Tope Oni, the exhibition’s registrar who assisted in the show’s creation, talked about its name: “So many people come through here,” he said. “At what point are they transforming you, and at what point are we transforming them as well?”
Co-curators are Provincetown Public Arts Foundation muralist Estaban del Valle, artist and FAWC building and grounds associate Jerome Greene, Twenty Summers Executive Director Aziz Isham, Provincetown Art Association and Museum CEO Christine McCarthy, Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill Executive Artistic Director Cherie Mittenthal, chair of FAWC’s Visual Arts Committee Andrew Mockler, Bettina Rosarius of Gaa Gallery, and Polli.
Mittenthal chose the work of Janice Redman, who was a visual arts fellow at FAWC in 1992 and 1993 and who now teaches at Castle Hill.
“I have always loved her work, and I don’t see it shown very often,” Mittenthal said. Standing in front of Redman’s wood-and-fiber-covered teapot and hole-riddled paddle, Mittenthal said, “Her choice of materials makes me want to touch them.”
Polli chose the work of 2001 and 2002 fellow MiYoung Sohn, who is FAWC’s new visual arts coordinator.
“MiYoung does intricate, painstaking, beautifully detailed work with so much precision and care,” Polli said.
Both of Sohn’s pieces on display were made during the pandemic, while she was stuck in her New York apartment. A tree made from metal pins was inspired by what she saw outside her window in Sunnyside, Queens. “It was one way to experience change, with the buds opening or leaves falling,” Sohn says.
The piece resonated for Polli, who is a recent transplant to Provincetown from Brooklyn.
Sohn’s “String Ball, a.k.a. Wilson” is a carefully wrapped ball of aluminum foil strings (in total, 1.6 miles in length). It’s a project Sohn toiled at eight hours a day over several months, recording her progress along the way.
Both projects required repetitive motion and consistent practice, which Sohn said she enjoyed during the isolating days of the pandemic. “It kept me sane,” she said. “It gave me a purpose for each day, and the meditative process also allowed me to have thoughts that came and went, leading me to other pieces.”
“Intersection Provincetown” is on display by appointment through Dec. 5 at FAWC’s Hudson D. Walker Gallery.