Looking Back at 2019
ACT achieved several milestone successes over 2019. It enhanced and added accessible public programing to its portfolio, inaugurated the ACT Public Art program, activated the City’s percent for art allocation, facilitated the implementation of Mayor Elorza’s PVD Young Makers in Providence libraries, and produced the biggest and best attended PVDFest yet. ACT continues to partner with individual artists and cultural organizations, as well as other City agencies, while streamlining public services and developing nuanced cultural policies and promising practices for the creative sector.
Key Programs and Initiatives:
Animating Civic Spaces through Programming, Partnerships, and Public Art
Woonasquatucket River Greenway Arts (WRGA) was a series of site-specific performances and temporary art works that demonstrated the potential for a linear public art park along the banks of Providence’s historic urban waterway. The following programs throughout fall 2018 and 2019 served 1000s of audience members:
The Dirt Palace storefront window gallery began hosting Greenway Arts installations focused on the Woonaquatucket and its watershed in fall 2018.
Installations by Keri King and Brendan Rose and animal habitats by The Steel Yard were put on view the last week of July 2019 during PVD Fringe Festival (July 20-27) and remained on view through October 2019.
On July 27 the City of Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism, lead cultural partner WaterFire Providence, Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, and other collaborators staged a culminating celebration along the Greenway. As part of this event, the Manton Avenue Project reprised excerpts of “The Olneyville Plays” and “The Woonasquatucket River Play” on the banks of the river; Wilbury Theatre Group held The Olneyville Expo, a chautauqua-style tent revival at Donigian Park; and WaterFire created a new site-specific lighting installation, Moon River, near Eagle Square.
For more information about the WRGA timeline, see the ACT blog.
Launched three years ago by ACT in partnership with the Providence Healthy Communities Office, the African Alliance of Rhode Island, West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation’s Sankofa Initiative, and Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island, Sowing Place has connected residents in Providence’s Upper South Side and West End with artists and food-oriented community-based organizations through pop-up markets, family programming, community meals, and other gatherings. Facilitated by Providence-based poets Vatic Kuumba and Laura Brown-Lavoie, the project supported a unique set of seasonal food and arts events to promote an expansive perspective of health and well-being. The program had a significant impact on the neighborhood food systems and creative workforce as evidenced by these metrics:
- 5,000+ community members came out to Sowing Place events since 2017
- Programs supported 30 culturally relevant food enterprises, including local growers, caterers, and prepared food vendors
- Programs supported 20 craft and services enterprises
- Programs supported 30 local performing artists
On October 11, 2019 ACT and project partners concluded two years of collaboration around the City’ Community Table. The Sowing Place team and volunteers served over one hundred and fifty free meals while celebrating art, food, health and prosperity in the Southside and the West End.The event featured storytelling and performance from Valerie Tutson and the Rhode Island Black Storytellers, drumming by Sidy Maiga, poetry from Vatic Kuumba and Laura Brown-Lavoie, temporary art installations from Shey Rivera Rios and Kei Soares Cobb, and a delicious meal prepared by four neighborhood chefs.
René Sanchez, Jazandra Barros, and Jessica M Zeon featured plant based, Mexican, and Africann staples in their appetizers and main dishes and CJ Jimenez made two delicious desserts. Produce served was grown locally at Southside Community Land Trust and flowers were provided by Osamequien and Hocus Pocus farms. The meal was cooked in the West Elmwood Housing Sankofa Community Kitchen but the event took place at the Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island.
In October 2019, the Kresge Foundation awarded ACT with a $60,000 extension to develop and implement a pilot Creative Community Health Worker Fellowship, providing a cohort of five Providence-based artists 70 hours of training under Dr. Dannie Ritchie, Director of Community Health Innovations of Rhode Island and three Artist-Facilitators, Laura Brown-Lavoie, Vatic Kuumba and Valerie Tutson. This pilot program is designed to support artists to become RI certified Community Health Workers, expanding the impact of the arts on addressing social determinants of health. This fellowship is an extension of the City’s Sowing Place Initiative.
Ely Grants and Art Corps
ACT, in partnership with Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, the Partnership for Providence Parks (PPP), the Providence Parks Department, and The City of Providence Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) produced 2019 Eat Play Learn: Ely Neighborhood Performing Arts Celebrations. These events honor the culture, creativity and passion rooted in Providence neighborhoods through performances in local parks. Organizations receiving a grant to participate this year included Family Service of Rhode Island, Jazz is a Rainbow, Providence Children’s Film Festival, Encore Opera, and the West Broadway Neighborhood Association.
In summer 2019 ACT, OEO and the PPP enhanced Ely offerings with ArtCorps, a creative workforce development program for youth with a mission to activate public spaces (especially parks) across Providence. ArtCorps’ ArtMakers was a team of eight young adults who were hired and trained at the start of the summer by OEO and had support throughout the season from ACT Mayoral fellow Erin McCarthy, and program supervisor Allison Barry. The Art Makers served as trained artist facilitators and brought programming to the public in all 25 Providence neighborhoods.
PVD Young Makers (PVDYM)
The City launched the PVD Young Maker initiative in partnership with the FabNewport, the Providence Community Libraries (PCL), the Providence Public Library (PPL), Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art (RIMOSA) and Young Voices in 2017 to increase youth access to local Maker experts, spaces and tools in an equitable way. In addition to exposing young people to exciting technologies, this initiative seeks to bolster STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) learning, promote creativity and positive youth development, and prepare young people for the 21st century global creative workforce.
PVDYM supports a culture of making through student-centered teaching and learning at ten public spaces and libraries across the city. Students are welcome to explore different machines and devices that “make” their unique ideas come to life. Access to these cutting edge technologies and opportunities not only helps youth practice essential skills – like critical thinking and problem solving – it helps them activate a maker mindset so that they are better able to understand problems as solvable.
As of December 2019, there were 2,537 registered users in Maker Spaces across the system (most of them in library spaces) and 577 of these patrons were super users who are more deeply engaged in PVDYM programming. Over summer 2019, 1,800 patrons were served by the PCL Mobile Maker Lab and 24 teens worked in 9 libraries, completing 2,880 hours of paid work through a collaboration with the OEO’s City of Providence Youth Summer Employment Program.
Turnaround Arts: Providence
Co-managed by ACT in collaboration with the Providence Public School District and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Turnaround Arts: Providence (TA:P) launched in 2017 at DelSesto, Gilbert Stuart and Roger Williams Middle Schools. Turnaround Arts schools use the arts to invigorate student learning, serve as a lever for transforming school culture, and energize and equip the greater Providence community to support its youth.
In fall 2019, second-year Brown MFA students performed Shakespeare’s The Tempest for students from each TA:P school and Rhode Island Latino Arts’ teaching artist Orlando Hernandez is in residence at Roger William Middle School, where he facilitates tap dancing with 6th through 8th grade students. Tap students performed a piece at the school’s winter celebration on December 18th.
Madeline Rogers Recreation Center Public Art Residency
ACT and Madeline Rogers Recreation Center awarded the City’s first public art residency in a city agency to Ysanel Torres in April 2019. Torres began her arts career as a painter/muralist in Providence, where one of her most known local public art projects is a series of utility box murals created to inspire women. Torres has studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of The Fine Arts where she created conceptual installations. Her most recent work has been in response to what she calls the “crucial status of American politics and systemic oppressions.” Her mural will be unveiled in early 2020.
The Gallery at City Hall
Offering space to artists and organizations that might not have a permanent gallery, the Main Gallery at City Hall exhibits an eclectic array of work that highlights the artistic and cultural diversity of Providence.
The Gallery kicked off the 2019 calendar year with Here and Now – Drawings and multi-media works by Beverly Robertson featuring Providence Public School students participating in Turnaround Arts Providence and Trinity Academy of the Performing Arts. The exhibition featured work by over fifty young artists.
The March 2019 exhibition, Dear You, curated by ACT Gallery Assistant Paris Paris, featured DeadZest, BRIANLY and B Phivilay, three Rhode Island artists who examine interior moments from their lives to open up conversations about happiness, sadness, love and tragedy.
In May 2019, the Gallery hosted Invasive Beauty: New Works by May Babcock and Rebecca Volynsky. The exhibition asked what happens when artists interpret, and re-purpose imagery and materials from the natural world, inserting them into built environments, and other spaces, where they are not native.
The August 2019 exhibition at City Hall was entitled As Above, So Below: Visions of Transformation in Down City Providence by Carla Ricci and Roberta Kaufman. The artists’ works gave a robust, rounded, perspective on the moment we find ourselves in now watching the City transform.
TeenView, the final exhibition of 2019, featured new works that get to the heart of what young people care about today: their evolving identities; their friends, families and communities; and the politics, social inequities and precarious environment that adults have built for them. The exhibition came out of a youth arts program envisioned by George Adams, an aspiring photographer at Classical High School. With the help of Rhode Island-based photographers Mary Beth Meehan and Tina Tryforos, the “TeenView” program brought together a dedicated group of talented young people who met regularly over summer 2019, developing each of their individual artistic perspectives, working to articulate their concerns about the world they share, and becoming a tight-knit group of artistic colleagues.
City Hall Archives ACT Public Art Residency
ACT and City Archives were proud to announce artists Lynsea Montanari and Anna Snyder were awarded the residency at City Archives. This artist team conducted archival research for six months to develop new, original works in response to the prompt Colonial Providence. Montanari and Snyder have created new works that will act as a visual exploration of Providence’s colonial history from Indigenous and colonial viewpoints. New artworks will combine Ms. Snyder’s extensive experience as a multimedia public artist and Ms. Montanari’s work in the visual arts and on language revitalization (the study and teaching of the Narragansett language with the goal of bringing fluency to the Indigenous community). The pair will utilize archival material from Providence City Archives as well as support from the Tomaquag Museum for their 2020 exhibition, All That You See Is(n’t) Yours.
PVDFest Public Art
ACT commissioned three new large-scale installations for PVDFest that remained on the festival’s downtown footprint through October 2019:
Delivering City Services
The ACT City Services team processed 265 special events. This is up from approximately 150 events in 2016 and 2017. These events served approximately 320,000 people! This was the first year of fully implementing the online permit to streamline the process.
Film & TV Permits
RI Ranks 9th best place in US for best small cities hosting film and television shoots by Moviemaker Magazine! In 2019 Providence hosted 18 registered shoots, with two big TV shows, Netflix’ Rhythm & Flow and AMC’s second season of NOS4A2.
In 2019 National Endowment for the Arts awarded $40,000 to ACT to steward the Creative Providence cultural planning process. Planning activities will include public meetings, creative studios, in-person interviews and surveys to explore the current strengths and weaknesses of the capital city’s creative community.
In 2019 ACT made over fifty grants to organizations and individual artists, supporting nearly $150,000 worth of new works, creative workforce development, performances, exhibitions and more. Grants supported: musician Natále Tsipori; podcaster Dennise M Kowalczyk; the Mt. Hope Neighborhood Association’s Juneteenth celebration; AS220’s Queer Arts Fest; the Center for Reconciliation’s Se Aculliló exhibition, Hope and Change For Haiti’s drumming workshop; the RI Students of the Future Robot Block Party; Shakespeare to Hip Hop’s Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebration, Community MusicWorks’ Kinan Amzeh residency; the Providence French Film Festival; ECCAS Theatre’s English language super-titling; the Roger Williams Park Conservancy’s presentation of the RI Philharmonic Pops concert; Spocka’s “On The Lawn” artist market and showcase; the Jamaican Association of Rhode Island’s Independence Day Flag Raising Celebration; The Providence Children’s Museum’s Creativity Initiative; ONE Neighborhood Builders’ OV Multicultural Fest; the Providence Biennial for Contemporary Arts’ ReSeeding the City exhibition; DESIGNxRI’s 2019 Design Week; Providence Community Library’s Feria del Libro y las artes de Providence; Holly Ewald and Becci Davis’ Unpolished Legacies exhibition; Friends of Adrian Hall Way skate park performances; Trinity Rep’s America Too: It’s Our Health; RI Latino Arts’ 2019 season; and more!
Destination Development Through Signature Events
In 2019 PVDFest brought an estimated 131,000 visitors to downtown Providence, creating economic opportunities for nearly 2,000 local artists, local artisans and merchants, downtown businesses, food vendors, hospitality and tourism partners, and other small businesses who support the production including printers, sound and lighting companies, rental companies, sanitation services, communication services, and other specialty vendors. Highlights include:
- More than 24 hours of free programming over the 4 days
- More than 20 stages throughout the downtown
- 65 corporate sponsors
- Estimated economic impact ($775,000 total budget)
- Generated $4,594,095 total expenditures
- $233,998 local government revenue
- $243,343 state government revenue
Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, ACT and the Providence Tourism Council once again brought about 10,000 people together for the City’s annual Independence Day Celebration at India Point Park. The event featured a live performance from The American Band, a fireworks display and food vendors from around the Ocean State. The 2019 Independence Day celebration was made possible with support from the City of Providence, Providence Tourism Council. Additional sponsors of the celebration include the Department of Parks and Recreation, GoProvidence.com, and Lite Rock 105.
Summer Salsa Blast
ACT collaborated with the Bank Newport City Center (formerly ALEX + ANI) and Mambo Pa Ti to present two free Summer Salsa Blasts in summer 2019. The events, which served thousands of dancers and spectators, featured performance exhibitions by Mambo Pa Ti’s salsa and bachata teams, as well as live music by Robertico y su Alebreke.
Rhode Island Philharmonic Pops in Roger Williams Park
ACT co-presented the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra with The Roger Williams Park Conservancy, Providence Parks Department and Rhode Island Foundation on August 7, 2019. The 60-piece orchestra played two free 45-minute sets with a 20-minute intermission for hundreds of audience members.
Providence River Pedestrian Bridge Dedication Ceremony and PRONK 2019
ACT supported the Department of Planning and Development’s celebratory inauguration of the City’s new Providence River Pedestrian Bridge by liaising with the Providence Honk Festival (PRONK) producers and bringing the event programming from India Point Park to Water Street. The event had upwards of 5,000 people in attendance.
Pell Lecture 2019: I Love The Nightlife
The 2019 Pell Lecture featured guest speaker Dr. Shain Shapiro (Sound Diplomacy). Providence has a flourishing night life and many musicians call the city home, but there are many ways the live music economy can be improved. Dr. Shain Shapiro of Sound Diplomacy discussed his work with local governments across the globe with Providence’s night life entrepreneurs, advocates, and artists. His talk was followed by a panel discussion with Anthony Santurri (Co-Owner of The Colosseum Nightclub and Freeplay Bar Arcade), Roz Raskin (Records and Performs as NOVA ONE), Spocka (Recording Artist and Co-Founder of Public), Tom Weyman (Director of Programming at The Columbus Theatre), and Travis Escobar (President of Millenial RI) moderated by Lizzie Araujo-Haller (Deputy Director of ACT)
Winter Lights Market and Holiday Tree Lightings
ACT and Mayor Elorza once again partnered with the Downtown Parks Conservancy and the Providence Tourism Council to produce a weekend full of family-friendly programming at in the Bank Newport City Center and Burnside Park. On Friday, December 6, ACT collaborated with Pride RI who hosted its annual toy drive and Pride on Ice, featuring a performance by figure skating drag queen MILK. On Saturday, December 7, the Winter Lights Market tent opened at noon with a full menu of family activities and vendors selling one-of-a-kind gifts. After dark Burnside Park was illuminated with public art installations by Masary Studios and local design collective Pneuhaus and the City Center hosted a 60-minute skating show will also feature 2014 Olympic Bronze Medalist Ashley Wagner, 2018 National Silver Medalist Ross Miner, and Rhode Island’s very own 2014 Olympic Bronze Medalist Marissa Castelli as well as World Theatre on Ice Medalists, Ocean State Ice Theatre, National Synchronized Competitors the Ocean Blades.
New Years Eve
Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, ACT, East Commerce Solutions and Skyline at Waterplace produced the third One Providence New Year’s Eve by Skyline taking on Tuesday, December 31, 2019 at Waterplace Park. Free outdoor programming included a ball drop, laser show and fireworks.
The City of Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism (ACT) ensures the continued development of a vibrant and creative city by integrating arts and culture into community life while showcasing Providence as an international cultural destination.
Access: Art and culture are a part of everyone’s lives regardless of whether they have a disability or do not speak English.
Cultural Equity: Art and culture are relevant to the people of Providence; they foster relationships and conversations among the City’s diverse residents. For more on the City’s population, see here.
Change and Transformation: Artists and culture-brokers learn to take on new challenges, building capacity through planning and professional development.
Responsiveness: Art and culture are informed by significant engagements with specific cultural and/or neighborhood-based communities.
Impact: Art and culture support the livelihoods and creative pursuits of artists and culture-brokers and are engaged with by significant numbers of audience members.
ACT envisions a Providence that is a global destination for arts, humanities, and design, where neighbors celebrate diverse cultural and artistic experiences, and where all residents and visitors feel that a relationship to arts practice, making, and culture is a part of their everyday lives.