It’s going to be a big year for The Avenue Concept. We’ve already installed a public art project in Kennedy Plaza that was 20 years in the making, and we’ve got more exciting plans for the summer and fall. None of this would possible without a strong leadership team, and we’ve had some exciting developments there, too. The first and most important of which was electing our first Board Chair, Mike Ritz
Mike Ritz is the Executive Director of Leadership Rhode Island, a nonprofit that showcases Rhode Island’s strengths, examines its problems, and inspires everyone to engage in solutions. He’s also a passionate advocate for many local causes, from good government to good food, and we’re excited to welcome him to the board.
How did you first get introduced to The Avenue Concept?
[A few years ago] I contacted [founder and executive director] Yarrow [Thorne] to solve a problem at a local restaurant, El Rancho Grande. The exterior wall kept getting tagged with graffiti. I heard that Yarrow commissioned street artists to work with businesses on designing murals that would not get tagged, out of respect for the art. Not only did the wall never get tagged again, but the mural serves as a beacon for would-be patrons who love authentic Mexican food. From that success, I became intrigued by Yarrow’s efforts to embrace street art and to eventually establish The Avenue Concept to where it is today.
What convinced you to get involved?
I’ve watched Yarrow grow as an individual through his participation in College Leadership Rhode Island while he was a student at RISD and as a leader this past year in our Core Program. I’m an admirer of his vision, The Avenue Concept’s mission, and the diversity of people that gravitate around both. If you think that board service with an executive director like Yarrow is an easy volunteer role, think again. Yarrow thinks big and moves quickly. I feel honored to serve as the organization’s chair.
What is the role of the organization, as you see it?
Providence always punches above its weight in food, architecture, cultural diversity, higher education, entertainment, and in its thinkers. Yet, when I travel to other destination cities I see far more engaging public spaces that include interesting and unique pieces of art. The Avenue Concept (TAC) will enhance the aesthetics of the city and engage its citizenry and tourists through artistic expression. It’s also connecting Providence to the world by hosting national and international artists and their work – and raising the visibility of our fine city in the process. I view TAC as a critical, nimble nonprofit that will move us forward as a vacation and conference destination and an inspiring place to live.
What are your goals as board chair?
My chairmanship is to serve as a bit of a change agent, to build a more solid foundation under the ambitious vision. TAC’s three founding board members – Hannah Chung, Owen Johnson, and Carla Ricci – have done a tremendous job getting us to where we are today: over 150 pieces of public art and $1 million dollars of investment in our city since 2012! They’ll continue to serve. My top priority is to expand and grow a strong, highly-skilled strategic board that will act passionately, think rationally, and have some fun in the process
What should we expect from The Avenue Concept for 2018?
As the new guy, I’m not going to give away the surprise, but rest assured some head-turning pieces of art are coming our way. It’s going to be an impressive summer!