New Arts Festival Director Tabbed

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PAWTUCKET — As Pawtucket continues to grow and officials work to revitalize the city, Anthony Ambrosino is confident that the yearly Pawtucket Arts Festival will serve as a “premiere way” to evolve the former mill city.

Ambrosino was recently appointed as the new Arts Festival director, stepping in to fill the position that was vacated after former Arts Festival Director Jennifer Dalton Vincent became the new executive director of Providence City Arts for Youth.

A West Warwick resident, Ambrosino has worked for 12 years as a producer, director, and production manager for feature films, commercials, and corporate productions. His films have premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Los Angeles Film Festival, garnering awards and distribution from companies such as IFC and Showtime Networks.

He co-founded and served as president of the Rhode Island Film Collaborative, a nonprofit organization bringing together the state’s film industry. As its president, he accepted the Dream Makers Award from the Rhode Island Film Television Office in 2014 and the 2016 Producers Circle Award from the Rhode Island International Film Festival.

Ambrosino’s resume includes working as a production assistant on 2008’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and director and writer of the 2010 comedy “Sleather.”

Ambrosino has long been a volunteer for the Pawtucket Arts Festival, serving as its marketing director and redirecting its publicity outreach to more effectively promote the annual festival throughout New England. Since 2007, he has co-produced the Pawtucket Film Festival with Rick Roth of Mirror Image of Pawtucket, putting the spotlight on the city’s growing role in the state’s film industry.

Ambrosino is unquestionably feeling mixed emotions about his appointment, as he chose two words on opposite sides of the spectrum to describe how he feels as the festival’s new director: excited and terrified.

“It’s exciting because I have a great love for the festival. I’ve been involved for a long time, I love all the people,” he said, quickly adding: “It’s terrifying because I’m setting high expectations. Coming off of successful directors, I just don’t want to let anybody down carrying that torch. When you carry the baton, you don’t want to be the guy that trips and messes everybody up.”

But despite his combination of nerves and anticipation, Ambrosino says he’s beyond confident that the Pawtucket Arts Festival has become one of the premiere destinations for arts and culture in Rhode Island.

“I think it’s tremendous for the community in Pawtucket to be able to step out their front door and head over to all types of events. A lot of arts festivals can be not as inclusive … but Pawtucket has a lot of community events,” he said. “The Film Festival, Slater Park where you have crafts, arts, a lot of cultural events, it’s just so accessible depending on what part of the arts you’re interested. Being an accessible festival when you are so rooted in the community like Pawtucket is so important.”

“The diversity in art and culture is really what makes it a great event,” he added.

One of the primary changes that will be seen in this year’s festival is that Ambrosino is condensing it to three weekends over two full weeks in September, instead of drawing the entirety of the celebration out over the month.

“We’re going to make it a destination so that people know when they come between the 6th and the 22nd, there will be something going on. Even if it’s one night at a local restaurant or gallery, there’s something you can attend every day,” he said. “We’re trying to get people to come, stay in the hotels, Airbnb, visit restaurants. We want to become a destination … By narrowing the dates to a very specific time period will help put us on the calendar sooner.”

In a press release announcing Ambrosino’s appointment, Mayor Donald R. Grebien said: “We are truly in good hands with Anthony’s keen eye for detail, his understanding of how the Pawtucket Arts Festival has evolved over its 21 years, and his strong organizational abilities. We expect to have one of our best Arts Festivals under his leadership.”

Pawtucket Planning Director Sue Mara added: “We are delighted to announce Anthony Ambrosino as the city’s next Arts Festival Director. The festival has grown under the tenure of departing Director Jennifer Dalton Vincent. Now, it is an exciting time for the festival and there are exciting opportunities as well as challenges ahead.”

“We are very much looking forward to working with Anthony, with his wealth of expertise and longtime ties to the PAF,” Mara added.

To be a familiar face to many city officials and Arts Festival organizers has proven beneficial for Ambrosino, he said.

“People know how to deal with me, having been in the trenches. Now that I have a bit more responsibility they know what to expect out of me,” he said. “Hopefully, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. It’s great, it’s like working with family.”

The Pawtucket Arts Festival is scheduled from Sept. 6 through Sept. 22.

Jonathan Bissonnette on Twitter @J_Bissonnette

Keri Ambrosino