Since 2006, Karen Beebe has owned and operated Queen of Hearts, a clothing and design boutique in downtown Providence located at 186 Union St. The store features handmade, one-of-a-kind designs from local artists and designers.
1. What prompted you to start Queen of Hearts?
The space downtown was offered to me by Mike Corso, the owner of Tazza, and I had been thinking about opening something permanent. I had been in collaboration with a few others, taking empty downtown retail spaces and turning them into temporary retail space and creating a place for artists to sell their work on consignment terms. I thought there was a need for it in such an artistically thriving city! I also wanted a place to sell my own designs and work one on one with customers and my designs.
2. As a boutique that represents local artists, how would you assess the Providence arts scene?
Providence has an aggressive arts scene. There are so many artists here putting out such amazing work. As a boutique owner, I feel like the customer wants to know about the artists as well. Who they are, their history ... customers want to know who they are supporting. I also live in an artist community (Monohasset Mill) so I am constantly being confronted by the great work of so many!
It’s hard though: so many of the artists that I sell the work of don't get to financially support themselves off of being artists, myself included.
3. From your perspective as someone involved not just in the arts, but also arts-related commerce, do you see Providence and its residents as supporters of local artists?
I think there are a great number of people here who do support the arts and I see as returning customers. Sometimes people are just intimidated by the word "ART". They think it means that it is expensive, and it doesn't at all. I have to constantly educate people that I carry items as low as $5. Art doesn't mean $$$, it means creativity, it means buying something that someone hand-crafted that could simply be a piece of stationary, it doesn't mean a painting that costs big dollars.
4. You’re involved with “Fashion, Art & Music,” a group that engages Providence youth in the creative process. What are you seeing from the next generation of local artists?
Members of the younger generation of artists need to try as many different avenues of the arts as possible. They need to be exposed to everything, jewelry to ceramics, painting, music ... I mean this list is never-ending. I see kids putting out great hip-hop beats and kids who are making great silkscreen posters and t-shirts. I think there are some great outlets in Providence and our surrounding communities that offer great resources for the arts and youth, and it is so important that we continue to recognize and support those organizations.
5. Why is working with local youth important to Providence's arts scene?
If kids are not exposed to the arts they will never know if they have a talent or interest in something. People (especially kids) are afraid to try things, simply because they are afraid to fail, so we need to keep reminding them: the more you do anything the better you get at it.
I teach over at AS220 and some of these kids are amazing! I have seen the difference you can make by being a role model to the youth. One person can change the life and future path a kid chooses to take. It is so important for them to have the opportunity to try different things, because what they think they like may not actually be what they really want to do. The kids we influence are the next generation, not only as artists but people, and it doesn't matter if they choose to be or become the next amazing artists to come out of Providence or not.
Also some of the youth do not have the most stable homes and a lot of people tell their kids they are supposed to know what they want to be (profession-wise) when they grow up, and I don't think that needs to be true. Who wants to be the same boring thing their whole life? I mean, change is good! I know that if I didn't have the opportunity to learn how to sew and do a little fashion illustration when I was younger I wouldn't be where I am today.