Pawtucket Rising Documents the Power of Art

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


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Ten years condensed into fifty-two minutes. This reduction could be an incomprehensive blur, but in the case of Jason Caminiti’s documentary Pawtucket Rising, the 52 minutes capture the beginnings of Pawtucket’s recovery from a deindustrialized city callously nicknamed “the Bucket,” to a city branded by creativity and artistry.

With an upcoming Mayoral election, examining the roots of Pawtucket’s creative success is as pertinent as ever. In an interview, Caminiti noted that the movie was “really made for politicians. I hope that the new Mayor sees the city in the same way it has been under Doyle,” says Caminiti, “They can have different visions, but the Mayor really has to keep the idea that arts are small business.” The new Mayor should stick with what works in Pawtucket: namely the arts.

Capturing the beauty, and potential, of the mills

After the industrial decline of Pawtucket, raw space in the massive mills and factories sat vacant, uninhabitable for current industrial practices. In Pawtucket Rising, Caminiti’s slow and careful shots of converted old mills show how Pawtucket’s greatest liability became its greatest asset. While useless for current manufacturers, expansive and inexpensive, abandoned spaces were perfect for artists. These light industry spaces are perfect for consumer-oriented industry; they are blessed with high ceilings, exposed brick, and massive paned windows – flooding every room and every shot in this documentary with natural light.

Pawtucket Rising shows what happens when hearty tax breaks and an abundance of open space are offered to artists: Pawtucket became a destination for the creative economy. The examples abound – the textile-industry Hope Webbing Mill was transformed into the Hope Artiste Village, the National Guard armory was rebuilt as the Gamm Theatre, while gallery events, concerts, and farmer’s markets attract crowds each week.

There is symmetry to the success of artisans in the city. Before it suffered from dramatic deindustrialization and a terrible nickname, Pawtucket had been a city of artisans. Weavers, craftsmen, and artists had populated the area around the Blackstone River, paving the way for Slater Mill’s industrial success and the so-called birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. After exciting age of industrialization and the tragic decline of manufacturing in the region, Pawtucket Rising shows that the city has returned to its cottage-industry days or artisans and craftsmen.

To watch a teaser for Pawtucket Rising, go here. To get more information on the film and to purchase a copy, go the official Web site, here.


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