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Fine Arts Work Center In Provincetown

History

The Fine Arts Work Center was founded in 1968 by a group of artists, writers, and patrons including Stanley Kunitz, Robert Motherwell, Fritz and Jeanne Bultman, Josephine and Salvatore Del Deo, Alan Dugan, Jim Forsberg, Phil and Barbara Malicoat, Myron Stout, Jack Tworkov, and Hudson and Ione Walker.

The founders envisioned a place in Provincetown, the country’s most enduring artists’ community, where artists and writers could live and work together in the early stages of their creative development. They believed that the freedom to pursue creative work within a community of peers is the best catalyst for artistic growth.

The Work Center has dedicated itself to this mission for more than 50 years. 

For over five decades, the Fine Arts Work Center has provided time and space to emerging artists and writers at crucial, early phases of their careers. 

The founders also hoped that the Work Center would perpetuate Provincetown’s seminal importance for the arts in America, overcoming modest means and geographic isolation to create an institution that now enjoys international renown.

The restoration and amplification of the year-round vitality of Provincetown as an historic artists’ community lies at the heart of the Work Center’s mission. All of our programs are dedicated to enhancing this heritage. 

Highlights: The First 50 Years

1899  Charles Hawthorne opens the Cape Cod School of Art, establishing Provincetown as one of America’s foremost artist communities.

1914   Frank Days Sr. adds second floor studios to the Days Lumberyard building at 24 Pearl Street, used by artists including Ross Moffett, Charles Hawthorne, Edwin Dickenson, Hans Hofmann, Henry Hensche, and Lillian Orlowsky. 

1964   Concerned that increased tourism and rising living expenses have made it difficult for artists to live and work in Provincetown, Josephine and Salvatore Del Deo and others form a committee to discuss a “Working Center for the Arts.”

1968   A group of artists, writers, and patrons launch the Fine Arts Work Center. 

A first cohort of Visual Arts Fellows is hosted at the Provincetown Art Association. 

The Work Center then rents a building at 135 Bradford, once home to the summer jazz spot the Blues Bag, into studios and converts it into studios for a second group of artists.

1969   Stanley Kunitz ensures an inaugural group of seven Writing Fellows, including Louise Glück and Roger Skillings, join the next cohort of Visual Artists. 

Kunitz also proposes a resolution that artists and writers themselves oversee the Fellowship program, establishing the Work Center’s Program Committees. Poet Mary Oliver is an early member of the Writing Committee.

1971   The Fine Arts Work Center incorporates. 

1972   The Work Center acquires the Days Coal and Lumberyard at 24 Pearl Street. The price is $120,000. 

1976   The tradition of 10 Writing and 10 Visual Arts Fellowships with equal stipends is established.

The Work Center gallery, housed in a storefront on Pearl Street, is named in honor of Hudson D. Walker.

1977   The Work Center’s first Distinguished Service in the Arts award is given to Stanley Kunitz and Louise Bourgeois. Medals are designed by sculptor Gilbert Franklin. 

1979   The National Endowment for the Arts grants the Work Center a $40K:$160K challenge grant.

1980   The home of modernist Dutch painter Gerrit Hondius at 516 Commercial Street is given to the Work Center as a memorial gift.

1986   Three houses on neighboring Fishburn Court are purchased, creating additional live-work space for artists and writers.

1989   Michael Mazur launches the New Provincetown Print Project, in honor of Provincetown’s early experimental printmakers.

1995   Fred Leebron and others create the Summer Workshop Program.

1997   Through the generosity of key supporters, the Work Center purchases the Edwin Reeves Euler building with eight historic studios at 4 Brewster Street.

2000   Thanks to support from the Lannan Foundation, the monthly stipends for Fellows is raised from $350 to $650. 

2004   The construction of the “Link” begins. This connects the Stanley Kunitz Common Room, created at the site of former coal bins, and the main studio building. The project includes the creation of a state-of-the-art print shop on the ground floor and three studios above. 

Additional upgrades include accessibility improvements, improved studio ventilation, and modernized equipment.

2005   The Fine Arts Work Center partners with Massachusetts College of Art and Design to develop a low residency MFA.

2009   The Michael Mazur Print Shop is named, joining other named spaces such as the Alan Dugan and Judith Shahn Library.

2018   The Work Center celebrates its 50th anniversary. International artist and activist Ai Wei Wei is honored alongside founders Josephine and Salvatore Del Deo, artist Sam Messer, writer Denis Johnson, and arts patron and Trustee Alison Ferring. 

*highlights adapted from An Inside Sketch of the Fine Arts Work Center by Roger Skillings