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2023 Inductee

Gail Ahlers

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“I love Pie, Shoes, Hats, Art, and Handcrafted Jewelry”. That was Pawtucket’s introduction to Gail Ahlers when she served as President of the Foundry Artists Association and relocated their annual holiday show from Providence to Pawtucket back in 2002, a time when scores of artists were moving into Pawtucket’s old historic mill buildings. Born in the New York area, Gail moved to Providence to attend Rhode Island School of Design, graduating in 1985 with a BFA in Light Metals. She has studied art history in Paris and sculpture at the San Miguel de Allende Institute in Mexico. In 1989, Gail formed Ahlers Designs “creating Joy by making custom awards and unique gifts”.

Gail was one of the first and longest standing tenants of the Hope Artiste Village where she was very helpful in bringing the Farm Fresh Farmer’s market to the village and helped promote this event for many years with the artist co-op at the farmer’s market.

In 2014, Gail’s passion pivoted to the establishment of The Empowerment Factory, a 501c3 non-profit organization since 2015. Here she was inspired to bring free programs with a joyful approach to teach children the skills they need to lead happier, healthier and more empowered lives in Pawtucket’s Title 1 schools. The focus of the curriculum is on art, environmental education and social emotional learning. Partnering with elementary schools, the recreation department and many social service agencies, she has been able to build connections and service to Pawtucket’s youth. She has also launched a youth ambassador program that provides career exploration for teens in the teaching profession. The Empowerment Factory hosts bi-annual environmental cleanups in the Woodlawn community and partners with the Pawtucket Arts Festival to bring youth activities to the festival, as well as community art projects.

Gail is also heavily involved in her community outside of work which includes the 2019 Wishing Tree art mural installation along the Baldwin Loop walking path as well as the 2017 Baldwin Loop art mural installation that included four murals. She was also honored as the 2022 “Person of the Year” award by the Pawtucket Foundation for her commitment to the community as well as with the 2019 “Program of the Year Award” from the RI Environmental Education Association, along with numerous awards for her Jewelry Design.

She is passionate about the mission of The Empowerment Factory and is truly making a difference in the city as well as to the thousands of young students she has influenced. She is a recognizable figure throughout the city, with flowers in her hair and a bright smile, bringing joy to everyone she meets. We welcome Gail Ahlers into this year’s Pawtucket Hall of Fame.

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