My connection to Nice Slice goes back to meeting Al Read in 1988 during the first week of my freshman year at RISD. I saw Al and his friend Mondo, who were sophomores, walking with skateboards on campus. I went up to them and asked if there were any half-pipes to skate in Providence and Al gave me a dismissive “uh, no.” However, I ran into Al and Mondo again a week later while street skating late at night, and they seemed impressed with my skills. In fact, Al asked if I wanted to ride the half-pipe at his house! I reminded Al that he’d just told me a week before he didn’t know of ANY ramps in the area, much less his own, and he simply told me he had to make sure I “wasn’t a kook” first! We started skating together all the time, and as a native of the area, Al showed me a lot of the cooler grimy spots in Providence, including Atlantic Mills in Olneyville where I’d have my art and screen-printing studio, complete with my own half-pipe a few years later.
Al hooked me up in a bunch of ways back then. I was broke and hustling, so Al got me work printing stickers and tees for Fellini’s Pizza where he worked part time, and where he developed his insane pizza making talent. Al kept me fed when his boss wasn’t lurking and saved me from starving. I also did my first semi-legit art show on the cafe side of Fellini’s in 1991 and even sold a couple of pieces. Like I said I was super broke then, but working very hard to keep the dream alive. In ’95 or ’96 I was deep in debt, trying to do my street art and t-shirt designs when Al asked me if a loan would be helpful. Al didn’t have much money either, but I think he felt genuine compassion for my struggles. Al’s loan helped me to survive the most financially difficult period of my life when I was on the verge of giving up on my creative endeavors. It is hard to explain how much it meant to me to have Al’s support when my parents and even a lot of friends told me to abandon art and “get a real job.”
When Al founded Nice Slice in 2005, he asked if I wanted to take a crack at a logo design. I owed Al big time, so I did a couple of logos, and he liked one. He got a bunch of our other RISD friends to do sticker and box designs as well as doing a bunch of stuff himself. Al is loyal. In 2009 when I was doing my first solo museum show at the Boston ICA, Al made the hour drive several times to bring pizza to my crew and me. One day we headed to Providence and did a wheat-pasted mural in Nice Slice. Al was thankful, but actually, I was getting prime real estate in the coolest spot on hip Thayer Street in Providence.
I found out recently that Nice Slice is being evicted from that space prematurely by a greedy landlord as he and his partner Rob are working to open a new Nice Slice in a more “up-and-coming” area further west, not far from my old studio. The Nice Slice “Spirit of Independence” print is being released to celebrate and support Nice Slice. 100% of profits will go to moving and transition expenses for Nice Slice. Where else are you gonna get traditional and exotic varieties… including vegan? The print is $45, and an edition of 400. 300 will be available on ObeyGiant.com
and 100 available at Nice Slice on Saturday, April 15.
Thanks for supporting independent businesses and for helping me help my friend!
Below is a bit of the Nice Slice history from Al Read:
The spirit of Nice Slice was born many years earlier than its official beginnings 12 years ago. Skateboarding across downtown Providence, pushing past the boundaries of his origins in Central Falls, pulsating through indie clubs and record shops, making art at RISD, and earning the legacy of his pizza mentor, all guided Alfred Read to join forces with his friend, Rob Murphy, a visionary owner of both skateboard and piercing shops. Together they opened Nice Slice Pizzeria in March of 2005 on a bustling street on the East Side of Providence, RI. At the time, Thayer Street symbolized the independent minded, the creative thinkers, and status quo weary; it was the perfect spot to situate a pizza joint that served classic slices in an atmosphere that freaks, geeks, norms, and all in between grooved on and in.
In 2009, Al’s friend and fellow skater, artist Shepard Fairey installed a mural in Nice Slice featuring Angela Davis. From the day it was placed on the northern wall of the shop, the mural has inspired curiosity, spirited banter, and critical thinking. Nice Slice has proudly displayed this mural for the last 8 years and the public’s embrace of it has connected them to the underlying spirit that defines Nice Slice.
Over the years, the vibe on Thayer Street shifted. Now big-box chain stores posture as indies. With an unresponsive local government currying favor with big money investors, “corporate creep” and bullying by developers has levied the small mom and pop businesses. There are chokeholds from ever-present construction projects and dead zones created by ill placed parking meters. Battles of ideologies are being waged over impossible to meet rent increases and lease demands. A once vibrant, diverse, and buzzing retail sector has transformed into a blight dotted, banal, outdoor mall.
Nice Slice, refusing to become soulless and blend in with the increasingly homogenized neighborhood, has opted to pull up and move its magic and mastery to the West Side of Providence. The Angela Davis mural is moving too. In their new digs, real pizza, a resistance to mediocrity and the renegade spirit of Nice Slice will once again soar.
Spirit of Independence. 18 x 24 inches. Screen print on cream Speckle Tone paper. Signed by Shepard Fairey. Numbered edition of 400. $45. 300 available Thursday, April 13 at 10AM (PDT) on ObeyGiant.com
in Store under Prints
and 100 available at Nice Slice
(in-store only) on Saturday, April 15. Purchase limit of 1 per person/household.