Nestled on Providence’s historic College Hill and overlooking the First Baptist Church in Providence is the Providence Art Club. The green door of the Club House – one of four buildings that also house studios and galleries – provides a welcoming entry for members and non-members alike. “When you enter through the green door, you feel such calm and warmth. Artists and patrons alike feel at home here,” states Nancy Gaucher- Thomas, Club president.
“Our galleries are open to the public, and there’s always someone here who will give you a tour,” continues Dan Mechnig, former Club president. Founded in 1880 to exist “for art culture,” the Providence Art Club is the oldest art club in the country founded by men and women, with six of the 16 founding members being women, according to Gail Ginnetty, chair of the Club’s development committee.
Now boasting more than 600 members, about half of whom are artists and half patrons, the Club offers a variety of classes and social activities, including dinners and lectures, to its members. “The majority of classes are painting; however, also offered are art history, photography, printmaking, and more. Classes are taught by Club artist members and artists from across the country,” Nancy shares.
She continues, “We also provide community outreach. More than 60 people attended a recent breakfast and tour of the Club. People were amazed. They live right around the corner, but just then learned that this historic gem has so much to offer culturally.”
The Club is celebrating its 140th anniversary this year with many events open to the public. “We want the community to know more about us,” Nancy explains, noting that planned exhibitions, receptions, and a series of family activities focus on the theme, “Art, Education, and Learning.” Of this endowment, she says, “With everything the Art Club currently is doing, it’s just time. The Foundation is a well-respected, recognized institution that will help assure the Club’s perpetuity.”
Dan notes, “You have people with the expertise to handle the endowment. There’s a real comfort level with the membership of our partnering with the Foundation.”
— Excerpt from the 2019 Rhode Island Foundation Annual Report