Visual Arts Fund

Dr. Joseph Chazan, a nephrologist (specialist in treating kidney disease) and founder of Nephrology Associates in Rhode Island, was introduced to an art collectors club in 1973. “I had never been to an art museum but my wife and I joined a group of people who were interested in the arts and artists,” says Dr. Chazan. “As members, we traveled to galleries in NYC, met a number of Rhode Island artists, and one thing led to another.

“I was impressed with artists when I met them—they are highly motivated, highly principled, swimming upstream and fighting a system,” adds Dr. Chazan. “I had had the same experience in medicine trying to establish dialysis clinics so I found an affinity with artists.”

He became an avid supporter of the arts: Every dialysis clinic—of which there are 12 in his association—was bedecked with art by local artists. “I think it would be nice if there were many more professionals who adorn their offices with local art instead of posters and prints. There are very few galleries showing local art because there are not enough people buying it.

Dr. Chazan launched NetWorks Rhode Island, a visual arts project, in 2008. Partnering with Umberto Crenca, at that time artistic director of AS220, Chazan proposed to document and promote the diverse arts community in Rhode Island through profiles of individual artists and their work. Seventeen profiles were produced that first year. During each subsequent year through 2016, additional profiles were produced, eventually forming an archive of 113 video and photographic profiles supplemented by museum and gallery exhibits, printed catalogs, and panel discussions. Waterfire Providence has now taken on the job of creating a permanent online resource of this work.

“As I was closing out my career, I decided it was appropriate to establish this Visual Arts Fund”—Chazan has recently retired from private practice. Daniel (Kertzner) has been a good friend and I know the Foundation does very good work. (Chazan and his late wife established a fund for the Wheeler School at the Foundation in 1978.)

“I’m basically a doctor—I have been a physician for 62 years. I care about people, and artists are just a reflection and a continuation of that—it’s patient care, doing the right thing. I am not an art connoisseur; I have to like the artist—if I like the artist as a person, I like their work.”