Rhode Island Foundation Awards $300,000 Innovation Fellowship
Raymond Two Hawks Watson will launch an initiative that will leverage Rhode Island’s cultural assets.
Congratulations to Raymond Two Hawks Watson for earning the Rhode Island Foundation’s 2016 Rhode Island Innovation Fellowship. His proposal – a plan to launch an initiative that will emphasize Rhode Island’s cultural assets to improve our economy and community relations – was chosen from more than 200 applicants. The Fellowship – $300,000 over three years – was awarded for the fifth year to help stimulate solutions for Rhode Island's challenges devised by Rhode Islanders. The program is supported by philanthropists Letitia and John Carter.
Watson, a native of the Fox Point and Mount Hope neighborhoods, plans to capitalize on Rhode Island’s cultural heritage, history and diversity to drive economic development and improve community relations through his Providence Cultural Equity Initiative (PCEI). Watson says that Asian, African-American, Latino, Native-American and other racial, ethnic and national cultures are often overlooked, and Rhode Island has the potential to boost tourism in these areas.
“It is an untapped resource for drawing more and more diverse tourism to Rhode Island, which combined with Providence's world-class artistic reputation and standing, will serve as an economic stimulant for the state's economy,” says Watson in a press release complied by the Rhode Island Foundation.
2016 Rhode Island Innovation Fellow Ray Two Hawks Watson, second from left, celebrates with his family, including his wife Jeny Hernandez Watson, third from left, following the announcement of Watson’s $300,000 award at the Rhode Island Foundation Wednesday evening.
“Ray has an impressive strategy for creating change and addressing the challenges our state faces by focusing on our greatest natural resource – our people,” says Neil Steinberg, the Rhode Island Foundation’s president and CEO. “We applaud Letitia and John Carter for their investment in Rhode Island’s potential.”
According to the release, cultural tourism accounts for 78 percent of U.S. travelers —some 118 million tourists — who include arts and heritage in their trips each year. They stay longer and spend 36 percent more money than other kinds of travelers do, contributing more than $192 billion annually to the U.S. economy.
In addition to Watson, five finalists were named in recognition of the merit and potential of their proposals.
• Matthew Ferraro of East Providence proposed creating the Rhode Island Musicians and Artists Creativity Center, a recording studio and computer lab that would offer free services to musicians, filmmakers, composers, and designers.
• Melissa Jenkins of Cranston suggested creating an educational program to increase the number of health care professionals who could be licensed to prescribe medications for behavioral health disorders.
• Dorothy Jungels of Providence proposed a program that brought police and youth together to develop scenario-based role-plays to be used both in the police training academy and in schools to teach emotional intelligence and provide tools that deescalate conflicts that arise between these two groups.
• Scott Kiekbusch of Warwick proposed Project Codebase, which would train women from low-income communities in computer programing.
• Paul Waxman of Wickford suggested creating an advertising and design agency staffed totally by a wide mix of college interns that would help small businesses and start-ups grow by providing practical low-cost, low-risk marketing services.