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Denby Family Fund for Public Art in Providence
By Jean Cohoon / December 31, 2013 /   Loading Disqus...
Copenhagen has The Little Mermaid, Chicago has The Picasso, Denver has “I See What You Mean” (a 40-foot blue bear peering into the Colorado Convention Center), and New London has the Whale Tale Fountain.

Charles Denby, M.D., has a similar vision for public art in Providence. “I would like to see Superman on top of the ‘Superman building’ (111 Westminster Street, Providence). People respond to that kind of thing.”

Noting that he and his wife, Sarah, have had the opportunity to travel extensively, he relates, “We have personally seen very lively, inspirational outdoor art. It can lift up the aesthetic profile of a city and improve a city’s economic position through new tourism and convention business. Having cool, fun art would do great things for the city.”

Born and raised in Chicago, Charley came to Rhode Island in 1974 as a student at Brown Medical School. Specializing in clinical psychiatry, he later worked at The Providence Center, was an assistant clinical professor at Brown, and has been in private practice since 1997.

His passion for art carries on a family interest. One of his uncles, he explains, was involved with the Chicago Art Institute, an uncle in California collected modern and Oriental art, and his grandfather was active with the Pittsburgh Symphony. “As I look back, I’m happy to continue what was a bit of a family tradition,” Charley notes.

He has many ideas for public art in Providence, from Superman to a bust of Kennedy in Kennedy Plaza and from a bike rack constructed from a “surreal, cool bicycle drawing” by a Rhode Island School of Design student to a wave fountain. He envisions local artists displaying and selling their works, the city leasing sculpture, and the installation of signature, permanent pieces. “It’s the level of art that would bring people into the city and boost the economy,” he explains.

“The Foundation, through a donor advised fund, allows me a mechanism to participate in funding this new effort. This is an unserved niche, as there isn’t funding for this type of art,” he concludes.
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