2013-09-05 / News

Art center founder awarded inaugural IonaFest Award


Kate Petrie, a photographer who founded the Jamestown Arts Center, was named the inaugural IonaFest Award winner. The award was named after the late Iona Dobbins, former executive director of the State Council on the Arts. 
Courtesy/Ruth Davis Kate Petrie, a photographer who founded the Jamestown Arts Center, was named the inaugural IonaFest Award winner. The award was named after the late Iona Dobbins, former executive director of the State Council on the Arts. Courtesy/Ruth Davis Kate Petrie, photographer, community galvanizer and founder of the Jamestown Arts Center, was recently selected as the first recipient of the IonaFest Award. More than 20 highly qualified Rhode Island artists were nominated, and Petrie quickly rose to the top of the list. The Jamestown resident, who recently stepped down as board president at the arts center, was selected unanimously.

The IonaFest was created in the memory of Iona Dobbins, Rhode Island’s first lady of the arts. She died in July 2012. Dobbins was executive director of the State Council on the Arts from 1984 to 1994 and a past president of the Art League of Rhode Island.

In December 2012, a group of friends of the late Dobbins got together to discuss ways to honor her. By the end of the meeting, they had decided to create a festival: the IonaFest. The event would celebrate the arts in Rhode Island and Dobbins life in the field.

A component of the festival would be the presentation of the IonaFest Award. The award would be a way to help perpetuate Dobbins’ legacy by recognizing an individual who embodies her spirit: someone with universal love of the arts in Rhode Island; someone who demonstrates her great skill at convening diverse artists and audiences; and someone who is a true advocate for all art forms.

“While I did not have the opportunity to know Iona, I have heard about all of her great achievements,” said Petrie. “I am truly grateful to be associated with this dynamic and singular force in the arts in Rhode Island.”

Coincidentally, Jamestown sculptor Peter Diepenbrock was selected and commissioned to create the award that will be presented to Petrie at the IonaFest. The fundraiser will take place on Sept. 28 at the Roots Cultural Center in Providence. Tickets can be purchased for $125 online at IonaFest.org on a first-come, first-serve basis. The event will feature entertainment and a silent and live auction.

“The arts play an invaluable role in the economic growth and the quality of life of Rhode Island,” said Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who is an honorary co-chair of IonaFest along with his wife. “I am delighted to be involved and to support this new event that highlights Iona Dobbins’ legacy as a great lover and supporter of the arts, that honors a person such as Kate Petrie, who embodies Iona’s spirit, and that celebrates the arts with joy and all-inclusiveness.”

According to IonaFest organizers, it was Petrie’s incomparable conviction, her vision, excitement, determination and infectious enthusiasm that enabled her to lead the charge to create the Jamestown Arts Center, a fresh, new burgeoning cultural facility. Together with Vivi Valentine, her vice president, they raised more than $1 million and opened the arts center in just over three years.

“We have an amazing board of directors, two wonderful fulltime and 16 part-time employees, and with the addition of our committees, more than 50 people are involved in the running of the organization,” said Petrie. “It’s a big group effort and because many, many people helped fund the arts center, they are invested in it and love it. It’s everyone’s baby. I think this has been key to its quick success.”

Petrie is an award-winning photographer who grew up in England, Nigeria, Texas and Switzerland. She returned to America to study at the Rhode Island School of Design where she graduated with a bachelor’s degrees in architecture and fine art. She has lived in Jamestown with her husband, Aiden and their three children, Ailsa, Islay and Macy for the past 13 years. She is also on the board of the Jamestown PTO and is a founding member of the Jamestown Education Foundation.

This summer, Petrie stepped down as JAC president, having identified and groomed Pebbles Wadsworth as the new leader. Wadsworth’s 40 years of experience in the arts world include serving as director of performing arts for 20 years at UCLA and subsequently at the University of Texas for another 20 years.

Kate is still on the JAC board and wishes to focus her efforts on development and chairing the second annual design expo.

The IonaFest celebrates all of the arts in Rhode Island and will begin at 3:30 p.m. with a lively, musical procession open to the public. The parade will form at PPAC and wind its way through downtown. The ticketed event takes place from 7 to 9 p.m., with a VIP party from 6:30 to 7 p.m.

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