Armenian Owned and Operated Art Gallery in Providence Threatened With Closure and Demolition


PROVIDENCE, R.I. — After two years at its current location, Studio Z is being forced by its current landlord to vacate its gallery space at the Butcher Block Mill. Gallery/Studio Z owner and director Berge Zobian painstakingly renovated the space over a 17-month period before opening the gallery to the public for its first exhibit in October 2013.

According to the Providence Creative Industrial Space (PCIS) website, the Butcher Block Mill was to be part of a “historic rehabilitation development of the old Eastern Butcher Block Mill into affordable commercial incubator space for creative small businesses.” With this understanding, Studio Z became one of the early tenants on March 2012.

Now, three-and-a-half years later, the owner of the mill has forced all tenants to move out in order to sell the property to a developer whose plans include turning the renovated building into parking spaces. All other businesses in the complex have obliged and left fearing legal wrangling. Studio Z has instead decided to protest the owner’s terms and seeks to recoup its renovation investment and raise funds to pay off its remaining service providers, cost to dissolve pre-existing contracts, loan, and mounting legal fees.

Before moving into the Butcher Block building, Studio Z created architectural plans resulting in extensive renovations to the space. This entailed converting an empty garage into a contemporary art gallery, at a cost of more than $120,000 to design and build out an entire new space. The space consists of exhibition rooms, office, track lighting and constructing a second floor loft for art storage. All of these improvements created an excellent fine art destination.

For more than 33 years, Zobian has introduced local, national and internationally renowned artists to Providence. An active member of the Rhode Island business community, he has also operated the popular Gallery Z on Atwells Avenue since 2001. For years, Berge has lent space to nonprofits for their fundraising and has participated in numerous events raising cultural and historical awareness. Looking for larger quarters, Berge made the decision to expand his gallery to the ample space available in the Butcher Block Mill.

At its new space in the last two years, Studio Z has presented more than 20 exhibits, artist talks, film screenings and art installations and welcomed more than 10,000 art patrons.

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The gallery participated in Gallery Night Providence, introducing many newcomers to art, art history in our west side neighborhood. The gallery also received a citation from the Mayor of Providence, Jorge Elorza. It hosted other local distinguished figures that are supportive of the arts, including a fundraiser for Congressman David Cicilline.  In addition, it presented the “Centennial Armenian Genocide” exhibit, a large-scale non-profit project throughout the month of April 2015 commemorating the Armenian Genocide. It included multi-media art works, music, poetry readings, film screenings, musicians, playwrights, poets and performers.

Gallery/Studio Z is currently in its 163rd exhibit since its inception and, ninth show of the 2015; “Armenian Artists: A Rich Collection Of Armenian Art”.  This is a large-scale exhibit featuring more than 120 original pieces of art by established Armenian artists showing in hundreds of permanent museum collections. If unable to attend this exhibit, view it through the organization’s website.  This exhibit may be the last exhibit at Studio Z.

Zobian and associates ask everyone to contribute funds to help recoup renovation investment and raise funds to pay off a loan, legal fees, moving and storage costs.

As Artist Marsha Nouritza Odabashian of Dedham, Mass. put it, “Studio Z in Providence, is an art and culture zone for Armenian artists and the larger community. If you haven’t been to Studio Z, you are missing a unique experience. We have raised over a third of the needed funds. Please click on the link below to see the remarkable job Berge Zobian has done to renovate a tiny garage into a powerful space to promote Armenian artists. Please help save Studio Z from demolition by contributing and/or sharing the information with anyone who might be interested.”

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