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Artists Call Phillipsdale Landing Home

RISD graduate Will Reeves founded Wurks, a community-based studio housed in a Bourne Avenue industrial space.

Artistic revelation may be the last thing associated with Rumford's Phillipsdale Landing. Yet tucked in a corner of the Bourne Avenue site beats the heart of Wurks, an artistic collaborative and workspace. 

Wurks is the brainchild of artist Will Reeves. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the 26-year-old Pennsylvania native is making good on his dream to offer production space to other local talent. 

“The mission [of Wurks] is to be artist resource center. We’re creating a space where artists have access to equipment and other people to fulfill their large, ambitious ideas,” Reeves said.

And there is much an eager artist can access. Entering the space, one finds endless supplies of carpentry and welding equipment. It’s a handyman’s utopia, a one-stop-shop for artists of all creative stripes and mediums. From jewelry-making equipment made out of railroad tracks to furniture for commercial space, it is impossible to imagine an item that could not be, in some fashion, produced in the space.

With an aversion to limitations, both creative and procedural, it is not surprising that Wurks has produced epically forward-thinking pieces. So far, Reeves and his fellow artists have proved they have the ability to think just as much as engineers as they do passionate artists. From video feeds and motion simulators enabling gallery visitors to feel the impact of a river miles away, to a percussion-based project that sonically responds to global earthquake readings, there is as much Edison at Wurks as there could be Kline and Hopper. Stephen Green, a former Wurks member who developed an injection mold company, left to work as a space engineer for NASA.

Reeves and his artistic colleagues have several projects lined up. Reeves recently designed, constructed, and installed the counters for Providence’s The Sandwich Hut.

How did the space get its moniker? The studio’s name was inspired by the piling on of condiments on hot dogs - "the works." Here, there are no limitations to the type of masterpiece that can be wheeled out of the studio. As with most things innovative, there is a twist. The food-inspired slang is spelled differently with the letter “u” takes the place of “o,” as Reeves feels it adds the personal spin on his business. Reeves seeks to put the “you” in works, recognition of his open-door policy of letting other serious talent use the East Providence space.

Given the collaborative ethos of his business, it is not surprising that Reeves feels East Providence to be fertile ground for his business. 

“Here in Rhode Island, you have access to heavy industry and tons of resources, without the overhead,” said Reeves, who added that most of the equipment in the Phillipsdale Landing workspace was found through local businesses closing, garage sales or simple networking to find good deals on machinery. “Everything is really close by and there’s a great community of young, prospering artist doing really interesting things, so you’re engaged at all points.”

Beyond the practical, Reeves is also intrigued by New England’s booming industrial past and the structures left behind.

“You can’t find buildings like this out in Ohio."

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