Community Renewal Event: FirstWorks

Organization Name: FirstWorks

City: Providence

Program Name: Community Renewal Event

Time of Program: evening

Program Length: 2-3 hours

Program When Elaborate: Community Renewal Events happen during performance residencies prior to the mainstage performance

Goal: To bring together artists and thought leaders in our local community with guest artists that FirstWorks presents in a forum that allows opportunity for exchange, understanding, and relationship building which builds investment and attendance at the dance performance.

Time of Year Offered: NA

Program Description:

FirstWorks Community Renewal Events involve food, conversation, and a series of short performances center around a dance and offered in the spirit of a gift. Doors open at 5:30PM; dinner starts at 6 PM; performance starts at 7:15 PM; dessert, coffee, and conversation will follow the performance. FirstWorks invites a community venue to partner as "host" , asks a community leader to be the master of ceremonies helping to share intent and create the space within which the group receives performances. We curate 3-6 local performers- some dance artists, spoken word performers, musicians - to perform as well as the guest artist. The evening begins with breaking bread together and a social time to catch up, be introduced, and create a convivial atmosphere. Depending on the space we create a bridge to the performance aspect of the evening through a musical call and walk into the theatre. All of this - food, performance - set the stage for what has been the most profound and moving aspect of our Community Renewal Events: the conversations, often deeply personal, about art, community, our lives, meaning, and the possibility of transformation. The term Community Renewal has been used for years by Urban Bush Women, the dance company that was featured through an EDA-funded residency at First Works.

Number of Participants: This is an experiment which we have undertaken three times about 100 people have attended.

Target Audience: We start by targeting local artists and community thought leaders - the case of Community Renewal Events, we have focused on the African-American arts community as well as those working in the cultural field.

Is the program for kids? This program is aimed at adults, although some participants brought their children

Private/Public Public

Nature of Audience Engagement: They eat, talk, socialize, walk as a group, read program notes, watch, ask questions and share personal stories that the work of our dance artists and their performances raise for them.

Location: We need an open space for the meal, a kitchen, and a performance space (theatre, function room, etc). For us the "where" involves forging a partnership with an organization as host.

How Many Staff: This is a full staff endeavor for FirstWorks. Volunteers reach out to us to help set up, serve food, and clean up. We pay local performers and our facilitator.

Program Cost: We budget up to $800 for this type of event but work mightily to receive donations of food and wine.

Marketing for Program: The program is included in the mailed piece for the dance company, on our web-site, eblasts, and through flyers distributed in community sites. Additionally we announce it at workshops and via social media.

Cost for Program Participants: The program is included in a premium priced ticket to the performance. It is also available for an additional fee. Tickets: $10-20 ($15-25 at door)

Attendance To Date: 350

Past Iterations: Three times.

What works? The combined elements of food, conversation and featuring our local performers makes this more of a convening than an event.

What doesn't work? Key take-away is to consider the length of the evening and number of performances.

Performances Where Offered: We began this program with a non-dance program: Sweet Honey in the Rock. Thanks to EDA we offered it as part of the Urban Bush Women in RI project. A key element is the artists themselves and their openness for their work to be transformative in our community.

Past Research on Program: Observational evaluation and follow-up with the participants.

Continuing Program? This is a major undertaking but one that provides a great investment and understanding of dance. It also has solidified FirstWorks' role and the perception of our value to our community. Yes! We will continue, particularly looking to build an event around a celebration of hip hop in the next season.


Target Audiences Young Adults, 25-35 General Audiences

Dance 101 Participation - attending performances

Online Engagement In person

Social Bonding Aspects With artists - meeting a choreographer, dancers With peer audience members