Funded by the Mellon Foundation and the American Rescue Plan, The Providence Commemoration Lab is a program co-administered by The Department of Art, Culture and Tourism (ACT) and the Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS). The Lab will site and stage new, temporary projects on public property that invite unexpected ways of understanding commemoration as a communal process of historical redress and spatial reclamation.
Concurrent with the Lab, ACT and RIHS will work with College Unbound to support courses that will advance the City’s online inventory of Commemorative Works. See here for the pilot inventory created by Dr. Renee Ater and students at Brown University in fall 2022.
Program Goals and Context
The primary goal of the Providence Commemoration Lab is to create a platform for Providence residents to own and be accountable to new commemorative traditions. We anticipate that the labs may also become spaces where new and expanded forms of commemoration challenge lab stakeholders and the audiences that will be addressed by culminating works to re-think not only whose stories get told, but how they get told – in what forms, using what media, and for what durations?
The primary intended beneficiaries of this project are Providence residents who do not see themselves represented in the substance or style of the City’s existing commemorative works, but the producers hope that Lab work is relevant and provocative for those who feel proud of the existing statuary and sculpture that comprise the City’s commemorative landscape.
Ultimately, the Providence Commemoration Lab aims to bolster civic participation in work conducted by the City’s Special Committee for Commemorative Works, activating stakeholder groups using the City’s growing online inventory and generating interest in future lab work, or other creative commemorative projects. The development of an accessible, comprehensive inventory is a particularly important component of the overarching project because it can empower resident advocates to better understand what work pertains to the Special Committee so that they can use its resources to address problems and gaps in the commemorative landscape.
Location and Siting
Working with local artists, scholars, community stakeholders and neighborhood champions, ACT and RIHS will commission 9 creative practitioners to interrogate the ways that Providence residents construct and share memory and culture at three distinct sites: Columbus Square, Roger Williams Park, and Public Street.
The call for artists will be open to all artists living and/or working in greater Providence (including Rhode Island and Southeastern New England) aged 18 and older who work in conversation with dominant strains of public commemoration. The twelve-month opportunity will require a combination of in-person, on-site community engagement and planning work with community stakeholders, as well as planning work in lab studio spaces, which will be shared among artists working at each of the three sites.
More information about the call to artists will be released in November 2023.