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Hidden Gem: St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center

Discover a Hidden Gem in Woonsocket that you may have driven by without knowing it existed. Or maybe you have not visited this interesting spot in years. So take a little trip with Patch...we’ll show you the way...

Though seated prominently on Cumberland Street in Woonsocket, a spot many residents drive by every day, St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center is indeed, a hidden gem. Woonsocket's own "Sistine Chapel" is in fact, overlooked by many and a surprising number of native Rhode Islanders are unaware of the beauty that awaits inside.

Stepping inside St. Ann may be as close as any visitor to Woonsocket can get to heaven on earth.

Just about every inch of the 93-year-old church is decorated with intricate frescos, oil paintings and stained glass windows. Built in 1918 and painted in 1940, the former church, which is now an arts and cultural center, claims the largest collection of fresco paintings in the United States. Its artist, a hunchback named Guido Nincheri, plastered and painted the walls by hand for $25,000 in 1940.

Concrete painted columns appear to be fine Italian marble as they stretch 60 feet into the air, supporting the ceiling. The intricate stained glass windows appear three-dimensional. The pastel colored frescos show a deft hand, the physiques of the bodies are physically accurate, highly detailed and Michelangelo-like in their poses.

Nincheri used the parishioners' faces as the faces of the figures in the paintings, making the building into a massive scrapbook of the French-Canadian mill workers that collected and donated nickels and dimes to build and decorate their beloved Catholic church. 

In 2000, the Diocese of Providence could no longer afford the maintenance costs to keep the church active. Afraid that the church may be destroyed, the St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center was formed. The concerned individuals that made up the Center leased the building until 2007, when the Diocese turned ownership of the building over to the nonprofit group. Today, the church is open on Sundays from 1 - 4 p.m. for guided tours. St. Ann's was named an Editor's Choice: Best of New England by Yankee Magazine in 2011. Run as a nonprofit organization, the center can also be rented for events (including weddings,) and holds many local fundraisers and celebrations.

Memere August 02, 2011 at 01:46 AM
I used to go to Mass at St. Anne's when I was a little girl and I always was fascinated by all the beautiful paintings. My grandparents were married at St. Anne's. It is an absolutely gorgeous building. I wish it would have been possible to keep it as a church. Another beautiful former church was Our Lady of Victories on Prospect St. I loved that church also.
John Mathews August 02, 2011 at 02:58 AM
Memere St Ann Arts and Cultural Center has Services on Sundays they allow Firm Foundation Christian Church utilize space. http://firmfoundationri.com/ Our Lady of Victories have Sunday Services as well. The Providence Diocese Rents the Building to Calvary Worship Center . http://www.cwcri.com/ Thank God for these groups and orginations that are providing support to keep these two Building going. I am still very upset that the Diocese has walked away from these building. Everyone was told that the two churches were closed for dwindling numbers of parishioners and financial problems. And yet small groups are still keeping them and the holy spirit alive today. These beautiful building may have been left behind by some.But they are both very alive with the Great spirit that live on from the communities that built them.
John Mathews August 02, 2011 at 03:02 AM
http://woonsocket.patch.com/articles/firm-foundation-christian-church-brings-worship-back-to-social-district Here is a great article from patch http://woonsocket.patch.com/listings/calvary-worship-center
robert rondeau August 02, 2011 at 05:23 PM
Bob Rondeau... This video brings back a lot of memories to me. Not only did I attend church there with my parents but I was also an altar boy in this great place. My fondest memories was attending Midnight Mass all those years and listening to the great choir singing " Menuit Chretien". I have goose bumps just thinking about it. For all those who support this great edefice......keep up the good work.
Jim August 09, 2011 at 01:51 AM
Its hard to believe but there is still no link to the St. Ann Arts and Cultural Center on the City's website. Is it that difficult? Linda Fletcher, above, sent messages to the city and the webmaster and there is still nothing on the website. I am finding this quite mind boggling! No other city in the world would waste this tourism opportunity.

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