RI Cultural Anchor: Elizabeth Woodhouse

IMG_2807 - Elizabeth WoodhouseElizabeth Woodhouse founded and serves as the Artistic Director of the Newport County Youth Chorus, which was established in September 2017. She has worked with community children’s choirs for more than 15 years in Denver, CO, Columbus, OH, New Haven, CT and most recently in Brooklyn, NY with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus from 2010 – 2016. We asked her a few questions about her life and art-making in Rhode Island for our series, Rhode Island Cultural Anchors.

RISCA: Give us a brief overview of your day yesterday- what did you do in both your personal and professional life.
EW: Yesterday was a DAY! It started by visiting Hathaway Elementary in Portsmouth to work with the 3rd grade chorus as they prepare to sing the National Anthem for the Newport Gulls game on June 17. From there I visited Common Fence Point to tour their new hall (still under construction) and learn more about the possibility of holding weekly rehearsals there. Yesterday was also the final rehearsal for the six-week NCYC “All That Jazz” program at St. Mary’s Church in Portsmouth. We presented the songs we learned to our families and friends and then celebrated with lots of sugary treats! From there I (safely, though swiftly) drove to ‘VUE in Newport to attend the Arts and Cultural Alliance’s “Raise Up the Arts” event! We celebrated our award winners of the new Artist Awards and the 3rd annual Tinney scholarship. It was a whirlwind of a day, but when I fall into bed after a long day like that I am grateful that I get to do what I love to do!

RISCA: What do you love about the art community in Rhode Island?JC3_5348 - Elizabeth Woodhouse
EW: What struck me the most when I started dreaming about starting the Newport County Youth Chorus in 2017 was that everyone I reached out to offered sincere and supportive advice and insight. Despite what some people say about Rhode Islanders, the arts community is open to new artistic ideas and programs. I felt and continue to feel truly embraced by the community.

RISCA: Why do you make Rhode Island your home, and how did you end up here?
EW: My parents met in Providence and both of their families were in Rhode Island (Little Compton and Narragansett). Though I did not grow up in RI, we would spend every summer here and it always felt like “home” to me. It took many years and living in five states before I finally settled in Rhode Island in 2016, but I always knew I would!

RISCA: Why do you do what you do? What inspires you, drives you, to create or enable the creation of art?
EW: I love being able to provide a space for young people to explore their unique voice and experience how it impacts a collective goal, which in NCYC is through singing in a chorus. I feed on their curious and excited energy as they discover themselves through music.

DSC_9499 - Elizabeth WoodhouseRISCA: What is the biggest challenge for you in your art life?
EW: My biggest challenge in my art life is feeling isolated in my own work. It is easy to feel like we are alone when we are at the forefront of an idea or project that we are passionate about. I am consciously working on bringing people into the fold who can provide support in various ways: cheerleaders of the program, financial support, and community partners.

To keep up with Elizabeth and all the happenings at Newport County Youth Chorus, like them on Facebook and follow them on Instagram!

Creative Workforce Development Applications Open

This fall, RISCA is piloting a semester long workforce development program. Modeled as a three credit college course, 9 participants in three arts disciplines (fashion, visual art, and music) will spend the fall semester learning together. This program will culminate in an art event created from top to bottom by the participants. The goal of this program is to equip young artists with the business and professional skills they need to have a career in the arts. This program is being developed in partnership with New Urban Arts, AS220, Providence Arts Culture and Tourism, The Steel Yard, and Roger Williams University.

Time Commitment and Course Structure:

This program has three parts: learning focused on professional practices; art discipline workshops; and mentorship. The group will meet once a week, on Wednesday evenings, from September 4th through December 18th for learning focused on professional practices. Additional art discipline workshops will be approximately once every two weeks, and will be based on the participant’s schedules and interests. Participants will have one-on-one and small group meetings with their mentor for the second half of the program, which they will schedule. We estimate that this will require approximately 10-15 hours of time a week, with the potential for more around the culminating art project. All course meetings will happen at Roger Williams University’s downtown Providence campus or at AS220. Eligible participants will earn three college credits. See a draft of the course syllabus here.


Participants will be paid $150 for each week of the program. This is dependent on securing funding from the State of Rhode Island – which we will have confirmed by the interview portion of the application process.


To be eligible, you must:

  • be between the ages of 18 and 25
  • reside in Providence County
  • have an art making focus in fashion, visual art, or music
  • not currently be in a degree seeking program

You do not need to:

  • have a high school diploma
  • plan on going to college

Application Process

The application is due by 11:59pm on Monday, July 8th. The panel, made up of representatives from the partner organizations, will meet on July 15th to select 15 finalists. These finalists will be asked to have an in-person or video interview between July 16th and 19th- the questions will be sent to the applicant in advance. We will notify applicants of their acceptance into the program the first week of August. If you have any questions or need any assistance with your application, please contact Mollie Flanagan, at mollie.flanagan@arts.ri.gov or (401)222-3881.

To apply, click here.


Application Deadline: 11:59pm, Monday, July 8
Interviews: between July 16 and July 19th
Notification of Acceptance: first week of August
Classes begin: first week of September

RI Cultural Anchor: Victoria Gao

VictoriaGao - Victoria GaoVictoria Gao is the Director of the Bannister Gallery and Exhibitions at Rhode Island College and a scholar of photography history. Born in Rhode Island, Victoria moved away for twenty-four years, but she’s glad to be home again. We asked her a few questions about her life and art-making in Rhode Island for our series, Rhode Island Cultural Anchors.

RISCA: Give us a brief overview of your day yesterday – what did you do in both your personal and professional life.
VG: The last two weeks were spent wrapping up our final exhibition of the 2018-2019 academic year – our Annual Graduating Art Students’ Exhibition – so I had a chance yesterday to finally look ahead to upcoming shows. I just sent out artist acceptance letters for a metalsmithing exhibition we are currently working on around the topic of gun violence that will be in Bannister in fall 2020. I was also actively promoting our current exhibition on social media, updating our gallery inventory, and – as a perk – decluttering my office! I spent the evening at a local Thai restaurant with some friends and curled up at home afterwards to the new Amy Poehler movie on Netflix.

RISCA: What do you love about the art community in Rhode Island?
VG: I love how close-knit everyone is and how supportive and welcoming the art community is to newcomers. I’ve only been back in Rhode Island for less than a year, but I already feel at home here. And I’m excited for future collaborations with different people and organizations from across the region.

RISCA: Why do you make Rhode Island your home, and how did you end up here?
VG: I was born in Rhode Island after my parents immigrated here in the 1980s for DSC_1869 - Victoria Gaograduate school. They were among the first wave of Chinese students to study abroad for graduate school after the decades of isolationist government policies. We moved away when I was very young, but I’ve always loved the proximity to the ocean and the temperate weather – especially having lived in upstate New York for a decade. So when opportunity allowed me to move back, I immediately jumped on board.

RISCA: What are you most excited about right now in your work as an arts administrator?
VG: I’m most excited about the shift into digital spaces and all the possibilities that are opened up when that happens. We have a digital media program in our Art Department that brings in really innovative contemporary artists working with 3-D printing and virtual reality, and one of my biggest goals for Bannister Gallery is to reach out to the younger generations who are constantly plugged in to make sure they’re aware of what we have to offer here. I’m also planning to digitize our permanent artwork collection and have that available to the public as well.

RISCA: What is one thing you think the art community in Rhode Island needs?
VG: I would love to see more collaboration between the different arts organizations throughout Rhode Island. I serve on the board of Gallery Night Providence, and part of our mission is to bring the art community in our city closer together and to make sure that we are accessible to a diverse public audience. I also hope that Rhode Islanders don’t feel inhibited by a twenty-minute drive to see art spaces in neighboring towns.

RISCA: What is the biggest challenge for you in your art life?
DSC_2199 - Victoria GaoVG: One of the biggest challenges that I first encountered when entering the art world was financial instability. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to find a permanent position doing what I love, but the lack of openness and the limited number of frank conversations about finances and systemic pressures within the field have been troubling. We recently exhibited a RISD alumni artist Kelli Rae Adams, whose work directly confronts the student debt crisis in this country, and I think having exhibitions that address this topic and artists who are willing to speak about their own personal experiences will prepare future artists for what to expect – and how to ask for more.

You can see what Victoria is up to at Rhode Island College’s Bannister Gallery by following it on Facebook or visiting the gallery’s website.