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Celebrate Your Individuality with Cranston's Artists' Exchange

By Marina I. Jokic

Emily Urban, marketing and promotional coordinator, opens up about her work at AE and the mission and goals of the organization. The people make the place, she says. From the teachers to the staff, from the clients to the students, everyone is there because they want to be. It is always a warm and friendly environment where creativity and experimentation are encouraged, and where an artist has the freedom to explore the boundaries of his or her art without reservation.

Wooly Nilly is the center's mascot and symbolizes the quirky and colorful individuals who call Artists' Exchange home. Wooly is, appropriately, crafted by Catherine Fay, an AE artist who has been learning felting with teacher Shannon Casey. Wooly is also the AE ambassador on Facebook.

"Artists' Exchange has truly given me a different perspective on the world around me," says Urban. As an art teacher and longtime friend of AE, she has been working alongside individuals from all walks of life, which has been a valuable learning experience for her.

"Non-profits can be a little rough around the edges, but the driven staff at Artists' Exchange have created an enriching environment, with contagious positive energy, and truly celebrates what makes a person so unique," adds Urban. Many find the AE so special because anyone can learn or experience something new. A lot of its visitors are longtime patrons, who have for years contributed to building its programs and offerings.

Urban points out that AE offers a unique blend of teaching, entertaining, and collaboration with an endless amount of heart and soul. AE gives creative opportunities to the whole community and helps them reach their artistic potential. Moreover, the center operates as a family and community organization rather than a typical "business," which makes the experience a lot more personal. There truly is something for everyone- from the diversity of their classes, events, and programming to theatrical performances, music, visual arts, ceramics, painting, and felting.

There are many different classes offered at AE in art, music, theater, and ceramics for all ages and abilities. Classes range from beginner drawing and painting classes, to advanced wheel throwing, jewelry making, and even stop motion animation. The center recently purchased a new, top-of-the-line Raku kiln that is being utilized for the ceramics courses.

All of the teachers who have taught at AE have brought their unique skills and expertise to the classroom. Their talent, ideas, and passion for teaching are commendable, says Urban. Classes are open to the public and are offered on a rotating basis, with ceramics being one of the top favorites. Summer camps are also popular. Magic camp, Wheel throwing camp, and Rock 'n Roll camp always fill up quickly. The two-week Rock 'n Roll camp allows young musicians to hone their skills and start learning at an early age.

The one-week "Improvextravaganza" and two-week "Story Telling" are two of the most popular theater camps. Campers themselves serve as the writers, directors, actors, and costume designers for their original productions while learning fundamental acting skills, theater etiquette, and building lasting friendships. At the completion of their experience, participants perform in front of family and friends and celebrate together.

Artists' Exchange is a 501(c)3 non-profit arts collaborative whose mission is to create an atmosphere in which creativity, learning and discovery converge and individuality is celebrated. Artists' Exchange is home to multiple art studios, a gallery, art boutique and café, and a secondary venue, Theatre 82 & Café, a multi-use performance, meeting and instructional space. Featuring Character's Cafe with a full breakfast and lunch menu, fresh coffee, burgers, salads, craft beer & wine, and live Jazz Music on Sundays! Join us for enriching classes and a variety of events, in art, theater and music.

Artists' Exchange is proudly owned and operated by Gateways to Change, Inc.

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