Monday, September 08, 2008

Pawtucket Rising

Fall River, Massachusetts and Pawtucket, Rhode Island share amazing similarities. To be sure there are differences, but both are cities that are made up of land that was originally part of another state. Both are cities that have a river that runs through the heart of it, and both owe their development to that river. Both have an amazing legacy in the Industrial Revolution and the textile industry. Fall River was once the biggest producer of cotton in the country, perhaps the world. The Industrial Revolution started in Pawtucket at Slater's Mill. Today both cities share a strong Portuguese heritage.

It is this shared bond that makes Pawtucket Rising so interesting. Both Fall River and Pawtucket have stumbled and struggled to find prosperity after the decline of the textile industry. Both have looked at the arts as a way to turn around their fortunes. Pawtucket Rising is a documentary, by Fall River's own Jason Caminiti, that tells the amazing story of how the arts is revitalizing Pawtucket. Caminiti is an award winning cable show host, who has highlighted the best of Fall River on The Fall River Show. Now he puts himself behind the camera and assembles a fascinating look at the ongoing changes taking place in Pawtucket, Rhode Island - told by the people making it happen.

Pawtucket Rising is both an inspiration and a sobering reality. It's an inspiration because Caminiti has created a documentary that could serve as a primer for embracing the arts as a means for revitalization. After watching Pawtucket Rising I had to wonder have our elected officials here in Fall River been paying enough attention to the changes taking place just a 1/2 hour away? It's a sobering reality because revitalization just didn't happen because Pawtucket showed some interest in the arts. No, Caminiti creates a 'connect-the-dot' format with Pawtucket Rising that shows that revitalization came because Pawtucket believed in the arts, embraced the arts, and made a commitment to arts. It's an amazing thing to have developers, government, and artists all working together, striving for the same goal. It's sobering because you have to wonder can you just make that sort of co-operation happen?

If nothing else Pawtucket Rising is a sign of hope. It shows what can happen. It shows how it happened. Here in Fall River, The Mayor, the city council, and the head of FROED, should all have to watch this. In fact anyone in Fall River who has long wondered how to make change happen, should watch Pawtucket Rising.

Jason Caminiti has managed to put together an incredibly professional documentary, in appearance, in content, and in construction. Pawtucket Rising is informative. It's interesting and engaging. The man who considers himself the talent in front of the camera tackles an amazingly ambitious project and delivers.

See the trailer here!

Pawtucket Rising can be seen at a free showing being held for Arts United Fall River at:
Arts Express Fall River
139 South Main Street
Fall River, Massachusetts 02721
Wednesday - September 10, 2008
6:00 pm


Anonymous said...

Great information Lefty,

It reminds me of the narrows, we really need to expand that concept.
Is there anything progressing with the Arts Overlay District?

Lefty said...

I really have not heard much on the AOD. The only 'related' news I've heard is about the old Durfee Tech building. Now, I'm going off of memory here so forgive me if I'm wrong, but there was a recent article that the city may/could purchase this from the state with the idea of it being used as residential property.

This is confusing because I thought the city HAD purchased this roughly a year ago and the concept being talked about at that time was to use it as a arts center with some condos on top to make it economically viable.

The problem is the idea of embracing the arts here in Fall River seems an awful lot like talking to a politician. When you're right in front of them you have their full attention, 2 seconds later you're on the back burner.

Look at our track record! Once upon a time there was talk of using the old police station for the arts. The idea of using the old Durfee Tech has floated around for YEARS. The Fall River Children's Museum has searched for a permanent home for years.

After watching Pawtucket Rising I understand more than ever that it is not enough to talk about the arts or even to take small steps in the right direction. To make things happen we need to create an atmosphere that encourages investment by artists and developers, and we need to welcome them as partners.

If you can watch Pawtucket Rising, see what has taken place in Pawtucket and then tell me if you think we're doing all that we need to.

Anonymous said...

Nourishing an arts scene so that it can grow and flourish is something typically associated with what one would call "progressive" leadership. I haven't found anyone yet in this city that could look me in the eye and honestly tell me that they think Mayor Correia is a "progressive." It's not a Republican or Democrat thing because Teddy Roosevelt a Republican was a progressive and so was Woodrow Wilson who was a Democrat. Fall River is still very much stuck in the 1970s and that isn't a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Why would I watch a documentary about acity I can drive to in 20 minutes. Been to Pawtucket lately? Doesn't look much different than Fall River.

Jason said...

Because the mills in Pawtucket are being rebuilt by the arts initiative in the city. The documentary shows how the city can work together with developers as well as artists to fill these empty or under utilized buildings. It is a win win for the city and the developers.

Anonymous said...

Great job Jason! I can't wait to see it although don't feel bad if it isn't fully appreciated by some people, there are a lot of can't do attitudes in the city but I don't necessarily blame them, we've been hearing about how the city is going to improve for so long now and it hasn't happened. That doesn't mean we should stop trying.

I agree with previous comments that some progressive leadership would help get the ball rolling and that is something we have never really had. People can call Buddy Cianci a machine politician if they want because he was but he also did so much for the arts community. We have the opposite in Fall River, we get the machine politicians but still they can't seem to get anything done for the arts community or anyone else other then themselves and their supporters.

Anonymous said...

I think it's unbelievably sad that Fall River wants to be PAWTUCKET. Think about it. How pathetic is that?

I find it, by turns, infuriating and hilarious that FR is supposed to get inspired re: economic development and the arts through a video about PAWTUCKET.

A previous blogger is right ... Pawtucket is Fall River with an exaggerated sense of its own importance. (But it does have some arts/economic development folks who are brilliant at PR!!! It does have that!!!)

Pawtucket is still nothing but a faded mill city (in the shadow of Providence)with a lot of problems and a couple of rehabbed mills ... it's YEARS away from being an arts mecca. And, by the way, in my opinion Pawtucket doesn't have anywhere NEAR the beautiful architecture, great highway access, positioning between Providence, Boston, Newport, and Cape Cod, and other (largely undeveloped) amenities that Fall River has.

Fall River can be so much MORE than Pawtucket. It should aim to be Pittsburgh, or Austin, or Portland, or even Providence. The path to failure is paved with low expectations.

I grew up in FR ... don't live there anymore ... but applaud the vision and energy that some of you have demonstrated through this blog. I hope somebody takes the bull by the horns and makes something happen before lesser cities like Pawtucket eat your lunch. Along with the legion of other FR expats who still love our hometown, I'd really love to see FR fulfill its destiny.

One more thing: cool cities don't get that way solely through cultivating the arts. That's just the icing on the cake, and often the more visible part of the formula. But there's a lot more to it, and FR needs to get busy in other areas as well. There needs to be a mix of education, industry, recreation, and other amenities ... in addition to the arts ... to make this work. The seed for the Providence you see today, for instance, was planted in the late 1970s ... oh, and it was planted by a group of visionary, brave businesspeople ... the PRIVATE sector.

Jason said...

"And, by the way, in my opinion Pawtucket doesn't have anywhere NEAR the beautiful architecture, great highway access, positioning between Providence, Boston, Newport, and Cape Cod, and other (largely undeveloped) amenities that Fall River has."

And yet, they seem to have a better grasp at what they want to do with themselves than we do. That's my entire point. There is NO greater city than Fall River, anywhere. But, we squander what beauty and culture we have. We have so much going for us here in Fall River, let's get something moving in the right direction. I used Pawtucket as an example, becuase it was a city on the move. Like it or not, there are properties being renovated and filled on an ongoing basis in Pawtucket. Yet, they sit here partially filled, and shabby.

We can do better than that. Let's start thinking in the right direction. We have an AOD which is a tool, but it has to be used. Business, as well as government need to work together to help bring the arts in. Which is in fact a small business. Small business that pays their rent, and pays for utilities, and ultimately, pays tax to the city indirectly. If this isn't the kind of economic stimulus we want, then what is?

Anonymous said...

Jason, I'm so sorry!!!

I didn't mean to dis your film AT ALL (and in fact applaud your making it) and am completely on the same page with you re: FR squandering its opportunities while cities like Pawtucket (which have a lot less going for them) move forward.

It's just that I've heard a lot about Pawtucket being held up as a role model lately, and I think that's kind of like a kid saying his career ambition is to play in the minor leagues. I think FR can be a really GREAT urban center, given its location and natural attributes, if it just liberates its vision and gets some self-confidence and GETS GOING.

Re: artists as small businesses: YES! Absolutely. My point wasn't that the arts aren't an economic driver, but that they can't save a city alone. We need to figure out a way to attract all of the other players in the creative economy (tech, education, industry, etc.) as well.

You're SO on the right track, and again I apologize for seeming negative. Incremental progress is critically important ... I just think we need to move the needle a little on the ultimate goal.

puck said...

Congratulations, Jason. You are already generating debate about the Pawtucket/ Fall River comparison here, so your film has been a success even before it opens.

Yes, yes, yes … we should look at Pawtucket as a model for the near term, and we can still have even greater goals for the future. Pawtucket’s revitalization is achievable, building on the art base we have now. It’s nice to think that we can be another Newport or Providence, but we have to start somewhere and move at a pace our city can sustain for the long term. We will not become a Newport overnight. We already have The Narrows, which is the core of our art world, and now the Arts Overlay District can be the framework of continued growth.

In your piece on Prof. Ann Galligan at, she calls the arts an economic engine and notes that the arts are one of the fastest growing sectors of the U.S. economy.

That being said, there are few in city government who could even begin to wrap their brains around the idea of using the arts to develop our city. “Visionary” is not an adjective associated with the 6th floor. Steve Camara is one who “gets it,” though, and I imagine there are a few others. But we can’t rely on our mayor or our apathetic FROED to be the driving force for this concept. It is way too far outside their comfort level of status quo.

I applaud your efforts in making this film and in bringing it to Fall River. I hope it generates excitement among our visionary citizens who are working so hard even now to use art in the rebirth of our once vibrant city.

Prof. Galligan quoted Hegel, saying “Education is a process of breaking through the familiar into the strange in order to see a world of possibility.” I think your film will both educate and enlighten those who aren’t afraid to encounter “the strange.”

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, Puck!!! And you're right ... how awesome is it to be having this kind of spirited debate? Thanks to Jason for sparking that.

To be clear ... I'm all for Pawtucket as an incremental goal, as long as the operative word is "incremental."

You're right ... FR won't become Newport overnight (and actually, are we sure we want it to be???) ... but if you don't start with a big goal in mind you'll always be mired in mediocrity. That's what I meant when I said FR shouldn't aspire to be Pawtucket.

And by the way ... NEWPORT didn't become Newport, as we know it, overnight either. When the fleet pulled out, lower Thames Street was known as Blood Alley, America's Cup Avenue didn't exist, and the mansions were rising from the ashes of disrepair. A small, influential group of people got together and pledged that their city would not die. And they accomplished great things. Every city starts somewhere.

But you're right. Vision is everything.

I applaud the energy ... and the hope for FR ... resident on this blog.

Anonymous said...

PS ... Puck, I just caught your comment about FROED, and I want to be clear that in my remarks about the business community and the private sector, I didn't mean FROED. Although it's supposed to be a business-oriented organization, FROED is government... which, as you so aptly pointed out, tends to be a bit glacial on this stuff (not just in FR.) I think the movement will take hold at the grassroots level ... among businesspeople, artists, students, people like you all ... and when you've achieved some degree of success, government will be forced to help. May the force be with you!!!

puck said...

Hello Anonymous 3:31,

I think I understand your comment about not wanting to be Pawtucket. I suspect even Pawtucket aspires to a greater vision than the name "Pawtucket" now conjures. (I myself am a big fan of New Bedford's arts community and I get very strange looks when I say that.)

Indeed, Newport was at a crossroads when the Navy pulled out but they found a way to flourish.

I didn't mention FROED in response to your comment about businesses but in the context of its being a somewhat governmental agency that is supposed to be finding new ways to promote business but, that in my view, suffers from an embarrassing case of impotence – how many overtures can this office make before they admit they just can't get the job done? Someone above mentioned squandered opportunities. How true, how tragic.

And, you made my point better than I did: I, too, believe it will take the grassroots efforts of all the groups you mention to bring about the sea change necessary to fulfill our potential. A few decades ago Annapolis was in danger of losing its heritage. In spite of its status as Maryland’s capital, it was not the government but a determined Southern gentlewoman who sparked the city’s restoration as one of the most beautiful colonial cities in the nation — with a lively arts community. When our good citizens cause the same upheaval here, your irony will be fulfilled...government will be forced to help.

And the force will be with all of us!

Anonymous said...

You rock, Puck. Absolutely. That's EXACTLY my point.

FR should look to Annapolis, Pittsburgh, Newport, Providence, etc. as role models ... cities that were really up against it at one point and have recovered with distinction, through a combination of grit, grassroots involvement, and smart strategy. It is possible, and it has been done.

As you so astutely point out, Pawtucket no doubt has a larger vision for itself! (Pawtucket doesn't want to be FR :) And, while the story of Pawtucket's revival effort is absolutely interesting and instructional, I think there's a psychological danger of inadvertently turning it into FR's aspirational goal ... it's so easy to pick out an incremental success story (even a work in progress) that seems achievable, try to replicate it, and call it a day.

There's so much greater possibility for FR, a city of tremendous (underutilized) resources that's located less than an hour from Boston, PVD, Newport, and the Cape.

FR has had a bit of a self-esteem problem, as we all know, ever since the sun went down on the glory days of the textile industry. I really believe that the city's greatest challenge isn't crime or drugs or education or unemployment or foreclosure, but rather a FUNDAMENTAL LACK OF BELIEF IN ITS POTENTIAL FOR GREATNESS. The rest of it flows from that.

So ... that's where my Pawtucket thing came from. I'm just a big believer in raising the bar and working to reach it. Shoot for the top and you end up between the middle and the top. Shoot for the middle, and that's as high as you'll go.

I'm sorry this discussion came about within the context of Jason's film, which is AMAZING I'm sure! But it's been a great discussion, nonetheless ... and so energizing!!! Thank you, Jason, for inspiring us to think together.

Anonymous said...

I agree and it is refreshing to see this type of dialogue going on!!

Anonymous said...

Oops! Forgot to mention that I'm a big fan of New Bedford's creative community too, Puck ... and I know what you mean about getting funny looks when you say that!!! Part of the task of FR and NB is to couple growth with a good solid PR effort to educate the world about the treasures that can be found in this region. Too much negative news out there without a countervaling force. (Forgive me ... I'm in marketing, so that's a bias :)

Lefty said...


I have not had time to respond to some of these comments but I doubt I could have done a better job that what you have done.

Fall River is a great city with lots of potential but we're not moving forward. Pawtucket is and we really can learn something from the example they're setting.

Was it Jason's intent to unlock the secrets so they could be implemented here? I don't know, but honestly after watching Pawtucket Rising I have a much better understanding of why we're still spinning our wheels and of what it will take to move us forward.

I urge everone here to try to see the FREE showing tomorrow. If you see Jason tell him Lefty sent you! Then come back here and tell me what you thought of it.

As far as the discussion, there is no need to apologize for good discussion. Really the more we talk about Pawtucket and the arts the more interest it will generate in Pawtucket Rising. Likewise, Pawtucket Rising should help generate more discussion about the arts!

Roger Williams said...

Remember physics class, folks? Motion is relative to the position of the observer. It's less a case of Pawtucket moving forward as it is a case of slowing down (not even quite halting yet) a decades long slide backwards relative to other cities its size in Eastern New England.

Artist colonies are fine. New businesses or residences that pay property taxes at the normal rate would be even better.

Anonymous said...

Yes, new business would be a great thing ... both to grow the tax base and actually FEED the arts by providing a local market for artists. There's also a growing body of research demonstrating that a cluster of creative people (in various fields, not just what we consider "the arts") generates creative energy that leads to innovation. So ... it needs to be a multi-pronged effort.

There's also an important corollary conversation to the arts organization as well: preservation.

I was in the car yesterday afternoon and happened to hear a discussion on WSAR about the lighthouse, which is apparently for sale because FR can't come up with the funds to purchase and maintain it. I don't know much about the lighthouse situation, but I was thinking about all of the beautiful architecture that's been destroyed or lain waste in FR: not just the empty mills that we could fill with artists' lofts, but also the Durfee Theater, the old City Hall, etc. A lot of that was erased from the landscape before I was born (I know it only through pictures and the memories of older relatives) but a lot still remains. And what's in place to protect it?

If you look at some of the most successful comeback stories among cities that have prevailed against their economic challenges, they've all used their history/heritage assets to great advantage.

Right here in New England, think Newport, Nantucket, Providence, Boston, etc. There's so much wonderful history and beautiful architectural landscape to celebrate in FR.

I think there's also a "pride citywide" secondary gain to celebrating the past. No one under 60ish in FR remembers the days when the city thrived ... we need to remind today's residents of what once was and what is possible again.

The arts conversation is important to FR, but I would argue that the preservation conversation is equally if not more important. Once these treasures are lost, they're lost forever.

Does FR have a preservation policy or even a point person to keep an eye on these issues?

Anonymous said...

Motion is relative to the position of the observer and although Pawtucket has moved forward somewhat it looks to people from Fall River that they have sprinted forward because Fall River is busy standing almost completely still. The stuff happening in Pawtucket now took about a decade, people in the arts commmunity in Fall River have been putting forwarding noble efforts for probably just as long but haven't gained momentum because as one blogger put it our city isn't known for electing "progressive" leadership.

Fall River elects 1950s machine style politicians and then prods them and prods them until they agree to govern Fall River like it is the 1970s. It would be nice to get some new leadership for the new millenium but the city would have to finally wake up for that to happen and we love our sleep so who needs that?

Anonymous said...

Hee Hee , was that a reference to the Cathy Anne snoozin vidoe over on fallriver-tastic !?

Anonymous said...

I don't live in FR and don't know enough to participate in the discussion about government.

But I really believe that, if you think government is being either passive or obstructionist, the answer is to launch a very successful private sector initiative that can't be ignored by the political leadership or even offers an attractive bandwagon on which to jump.

Artists, small business owners, etc. are entrepreneurial and know how to move fast and make things happen. Government doesn't.

Do something great (even on a small scale) and give government something to build on.

Be successful, and you will not be ignored.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 11:17,

Fall River does have a Preservation Society. You may have heard the president Jim Soule yesterday as a guest on WSAR.

He said Fall River used to have a Preservation Society and there was an item in the city's budget for preservation issues. Then the Preservation Society was defunct in the 1980s or so. I believe the President said that the new edition of the Preservation Society has been around for about 4 years.

They are currently working on saving an old fire station and turning it into a fire museum. The President Jim Soule also advocated that the City should begin its past practices of including money in the city's budget for preservation issues.

Faye Musselman said...

I would love to see the City of Fall River work with local and regional businesses, educational institutions, community groups, local historians, private investors, and citizen volunteers to refurbish one of the FR mills into a first class museum of Fall River's history.

Artisans could be involved in original art work = paintings, sculptures, etc, period costumes.

Architecture/design students could build scaled buildings of Main Street in the 1870's-1890's....dioramas of old city hall, the Borden house, the old post office and customs house, etc.

Artists could paint murals on the walls depicting King Philips War, the Battle of Fall River, some of the more notable fires.

One floor could be dedicated to the Borden case, another to the mill workers and immigrant labor, another to the founding families and their contrasting lifestyles.

Interactive displays with audio histories, interactive storeyboards that transport you to a specific year and relate its history while you play a role as banker, baker or carder.

An exhibit that has photos of the great churches, standing or burned, and their history and roles in the community "fabric" of Fall River.

A theater to show a variety of films relative to Fall River's history.

An exhibit that tracks and displays the formation and evolution of Fall River's Police and Fire Departments.

A tour through Oak Grove Cemetery exhibit, its history and notables buried there. Artisans replicating trees, headstones and monuments making the visitor feel they are walking thru Oak Grove.

A childrens "dress up" area where they can put on vintage wearing apparel, sit in a carriage or cart or wagon.

An Old Colony RailRoad exhibit with pictorial history, manikens in seats in a railcar....

A Fall River Line exhibit with a scaled mockup of the Priscilla or Plymouth or during it's heyday.

So much could be done with such a space. I think students from K-12 and the local, regional colleges and Universwities could contribute their labor and talents at no cost.

One floor of the 5-story building or part of it could be dedicated to changing exhibits and special event presentations.

The city could contract with a professional facilities management company to operate it - hiring local citizens - generating self-sustaining revenue from ticket sales, parking fees, gift shop fees, speaker/lecture presentation, film and advertising fees. Also utilizing senior citizens as volunteer floor guides, etc.

There's so much Fall River could do in this regard. And they would reap long term benefits.

The first step would be to secure the appropriate empty mill with sufficient parking....contributions for infrastructure repair and upgrades, contracting with local companies for the work needed to be done.

A broad based cooperative effort, led by an outside professional team.

And if Fall River can't do that, maybe they could at least expand the public bus transport on Main Street beyond 6:00 PM. It's small thing, I know.

New England Bites said...

I'm sorry I missed this, but I have class on Wednesday nights. I'm sure Jason did a great job. If the DVD comes out, save me a copy.

Laura :o)
New England Bites

Dustin Werstler said...

CJ Ferry has been working with Jason Caminiti to get Pawtucket Rising aired on Rhode Island PBS.

This would be a wonderful addition to their broadcasting lineup.

Lefty said...


I was actually just told about this this morning. I agree that Pawtucket Rising would be a fantastic addition to RI's PBS schedule. Also it would be fantastic for Jason's film to get such broad exposure.

Anonymous said...

Pawtucket is a dump!