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Wednesday, June 12, 2024
ACT News and ReportsFeatured

Launching PVDx2031: The 2023 Pell Lecture Recap

On March 1, 2023 at the Providence Public Library, we gathered for this year’s Pell Lecture on the Arts & Humanities, launching Providence’s cultural plan, PVDx2031: A Cultural Plan for Culture Shift. Developed in community over the past two years by the Department of Art, Culture and Tourism (ACT) and a team of Artist Facilitators, the 2023 Pell Lecture was an opportunity to share this living blueprint for public policy, private initiative, and strategic investments in Providence’s creative life with the wider community. We also gained inspiration from this year’s keynote speaker, Bay Area-based cultural strategist Vanessa Whang on meaningful changes the city of Oakland underwent based on its integration of a comprehensive and values-based cultural plan. 

Throughout the event we also heard music from Kim Trusty and Langston Hughes poetry shared by April Brown and Kai Cameron of the Langston Hughes Community Poetry Reading, alongside words from Mayor Brett Smiley and ACT’s Director Joe Wilson, Jr.  

Kai Cameron and April Brown of the Langston Hughes Community Poetry Reading. Photo by Erin X. Smithers
Vanessa Whang Keynote Lecture. Photo by Erin X. Smithers.
Vanessa Whang and April Brown with Dwayne Keys foreground. Photo by Erin X. Smithers.

Following the keynote addresses, we shared food and discussed the plan in smaller groups, adding personal reflection to what we know will be a long and thoughtful process of integrating these big community visions over the next decade.

PVDx2031 and Pell Co-facilitators Shey Rivera-Rios and MJ Robinson.
Micah Salkind and Val Tutson with Selene Means, foreground. Photo by Erin X. Smithers.
Brad Vanderstad and Chris Donovan. Photo by Erin X. Smithers.
Visual note-taking by MJ Robinson

 We are grateful to everyone who came out for the event and who contributed to manifesting the cultural plan, but as we named in our 2018, Pell Lecture, planning is not enough. It is our collective dedication to the deep work of culture shift that will make the beautiful and aspirational ideas outlined in the document reality. 

And of course, following a plan can still mean journeying to unexpected places. Vanessa Whang closed her talk by sharing the city of Oakland’s “love acknowledgement,” which they adopted in 2016 as a way to guide their actions as citizens. Fuller text acknowledgment accompanying the motto was written by Oakland’s Cultural Strategist Kev Choice  in late 2022 and read at the inauguration of Mayor Sheng Thao in January 2023. While the whole piece offers much inspiration, this section feels particularly useful today: 

“We acknowledge Love in practice even when there are differences in opinions, strategies, procedures, and process, and we will seek to find common ground, and tangible solutions that demonstrate love for our city, its residents, our community, and all constituents. 

We acknowledge and recognize that when we model this practice of love, it will establish a norm that will resonate and be exemplified throughout our city and create the change we all wish to see in our communities.” 

Love and appreciation to former Directors of ACT Lizzie Araujo and Stephanie Fortunato and former Deputy Director Gina Rodríguez-Drix, without whom none of this would be. Their values, humanity, and determination continue to impact our collective efforts today. Thanks to Shey Rivera Ríos (Studio Loba), MJ Robinson, Silaphone Nhongvongsouthy, Silvermoon LaRose (Tomaquag Museum), Karen “Elisa” Garcia (Endless Films), Oliver “Syde-Sho” Arias and Jonathan Pitts-Wiley for their support with creative documentation and facilitation.

Joe Wilson Jr., Director, City of Providence Department of Art, Culture and Tourism – Photograph by Jonathan Pitts-Wiley