Makeover of Renowned Fine Arts Works Center in Provincetown Honors Bohemian Roots, Keeping Artists, Writers and Community at its Core

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Renovation opens a new chapter for one of the world’s leading artist and writer residencies, sparking “a new culture of possibility” as Work Center celebrates 55th Anniversary

Provincetown, MA (April 1, 2023) The storied Provincetown birthplace of modern masterpieces, such as Robert Motherwell’s abstract expressionist paintings and Jhumpa Lahiri’s Pulitzer Prize-winning stories, has received a stunning makeover that honors its bohemian roots while ensuring it can support and inspire future generations of artists and writers.

The Fine Arts Work Center was founded in 1968 by creative luminaries, including Motherwell and poet Stanley Kunitz. Created to provide artists and writers with a supportive community where they could live and work together in the early stages of their creative development, the Work Center today is one of the world’s most influential residency programs. Among its alumni are Nobel Prize-winning poet Louise Glück, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen, and photographer Jack Pierson. 

A successful capital campaign for the Work Center’s 50th anniversary in 2018 helped finance the $1.4 million renovation and the creation of the Work Center’s first-ever endowment. According to Executive Director Sharon Polli, the two milestones have “sparked a culture of possibility” among the Work Center’s community of artists, writers, faculty, staff, and supporters. 

“In many ways, the renovation physically and symbolically represents the melding of the Fine Arts Work Center’s past and future,” said Polli. “It has opened up a new chapter for the Work Center, inspiring all of us to think big and work in a bold way that honors our history while moving the Work Center forward into the 21st century.” 

The renovation was led by Flansburgh Architects, a Boston firm that specializes in designing cultural facilities such as the Perles Family Studio at Jacob’s Pillow. Guided by the Work Center’s commitment to community building, the firm united the main public spaces, previously scattered throughout its 25,000-square-foot campus, around a reimagined central courtyard. The gravel-strewn area was replaced with a smooth wharf timber deck — a nod to the Work Center’s origins as a working lumberyard — and is outfitted with cafe tables and chairs. The courtyard’s centerpiece is a new light tower that serves as an ode to the iconic Provincetown Lighthouse and a welcoming beacon to the surrounding community. The tower features casual tiered-step seating, creating a mini-amphitheater, and houses an elevator to ease accessibility from the ground floor to the Work Center’s second level.


A redesign of the Work Center’s main event venue has increased its capacity for events, talks, readings, and films. The new Stanley Kunitz Common Room features a garage door that opens directly onto the refurbished courtyard, creating a seamless indoor-outdoor transitional space with a motorized drop-down screen, blackout shades at the windows and doors, clear sight lines, and updated lighting and acoustics. The Work Center’s main gallery has also been updated to a state-of-the-art exhibition space with north-facing natural light. In the gallery, the architects left exposed some of the original concrete walls from what was once part of the lumberyard’s coal bins. 

Noting that artists and writers have long been drawn to Provincetown by its wild landscape and natural light, Polli added: “Kunitz revered the Cape — ‘its vast seascapes, the glorious Cape light, the air that flows in from the sea, and a community of deeply engaged artists’ — so keeping the natural magic of the place intact was important to the vision of our founders and our legacy.” 

Businessman Frank Days added second-floor artists’ studios to the Days lumberyard in 1914, which are still in use. Though the Work Center has undergone many upgrades since it acquired the lumberyard in 1972, the structure of the studios remains largely unchanged, including their ideal north-facing orientation for optimal light. 

Christa Romanosky, a Writing Fellow who has completed two residencies (2017-18 and 2022-23), said the enhancements have made the Work Center campus more welcoming and cohesive. 

“I appreciate how the Work Center has evolved and changed to improve fellow life in recent years,” Romanosky said. “This renovation includes the FAWC central courtyard, which was once a gravel area, and has since been reconstructed as a walkable and accessible courtyard space where folks can congregate, meet, talk, and move easily between areas of the Fine Arts Work Center.”

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