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Call for Artists – Providence Commemoration Lab


Summary

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.

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.

Nine, twelve-month (one-year) artist residencies will begin in spring 2024. The total budget for the Providence Commemoration Lab is 1.4 million dollars to be spent down over two years.

This call closed at 11:59 PM, December 1, 2023.

An info session for interested parties took place at noon on November, 15 2023. To view the session documentation, follow this link. Questions received by Deputy Director Micah Salkind (msalkind@providenceri.gov) by noon on November 22, 2023 were collated in a shared FAQ.


Program Goals

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 will be spaces where the engagement process and culminating works challenge lab stakeholders and the larger public 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 as per recommended activity 7.3.A.5 in PVDx2031, A Cultural Plan for Culture Shift. The producers hope that Lab work is also relevant and provocative for those who feel proud of the existing statuary and sculpture that largely 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. ACT and RIHS hope Labs will activate stakeholder groups who will use the City’s growing online inventory and that they will generate interest in future lab work, or other creative commemorative projects. The continued development of an accessible, comprehensive inventory of commemorative works is a particularly important component of the overarching project.


Location and Siting

Columbus Square is a small park between two busy roads in the Elmwood section of the City. It was previously the home of a controversial Bertholdi Columbus statue, fabricated at the nearby Gorham Manufacturing Company and gifted to the City by local elites at the end of the 19th century.

Roger Williams Park, also known as “the people’s park,” is 102 acres of green space on the City’s southern border with neighboring Cranston. An important part of the area watershed, still recovering from decades of industrial harm, the park has numerous commemorative works scattered throughout its grounds.

Public Street between Broad Street and the industrial waterfront was once a thriving saltmarsh. Walking to the eastern edge of Public Street is a reminder that the tidal shifts and brackish water of the river still host a biologically rich and culturally diverse ecosystem. Click here for information about proposed designs advanced by the Office of Sustainability for the area between Allens Ave. and the Providence River.

The three priority public sites (all are on public property) proposed for Providence Commemoration Lab (Three Paths) have been selected because they pose critical questions about the practical and philosophical realities of commemoration in the City. Further, they have already been embraced by various stakeholder communities.


Project Budget Per Artist

Cost Center Budget amount (Pay rate) Deliverable
Lab Design Fee for organizing and research $48,000 ($50/hr) 20/hr week reported on in monthly timesheets to Lab Director
Programming costs including materials, installation costs, equipment rentals, insurance and permitting $15,000 Drawn down with budget requests that are paired cost estimates and backup price quotes/documentation; will involve submitting receipts for all purchases

In addition to support for the Lab Design Fee and programming costs, the Lab will provide shared studio space for the nine selected artists/artist teams. 


Eligibility

  • This call is open to community-based/social practice artists and artist teams working in a variety of media including but not limited to sculpture, poetry, light projection, video, photography, performance, theatre, puppetry etc.
     
  • Lead applicants must be twenty-one (21) years or older and hold a current residence in the Providence metropolitan area, which includes all of Rhode Island and the neighboring communities of eastern Connecticut and Southeastern Massachusetts.
  • Artists who can demonstrate that they have the cultural capacity to work with diverse Providence residents; have interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary arts practices; and work in tradition-bearing and/or indigenous art forms and intercultural modalities that foster innovation, diversity and relevance with new audiences will be preferred.
  • Considering that many residents in South Providence are native Spanish speakers, bilingual and/or bicultural applicants are preferred.
  • Artists who show that they understand and respect the cultural wisdom of migrant communities, have cultural humility, understand the immigrant experience, have superb listening skills, and root their practices in empathy and cultural understanding are preferred.
  • While the Lab’s design does not necessitate collaboration, selected artists will be working in close physical proximity to each other in shared studio spaces and with similar groups of stakeholders. Artists who can demonstrate experience with and interest in collaborating with other artists are preferred. 


Art Selection Method and Timeline

Artists will be selected through a competitive, two-tiered process. Qualified artists may submit their Artist Statement, Resume/CV, a cover letter and three to five examples of relevant past projects by 11:59 PM December 1, 2023. Applicants must apply online through ACT here: (Application Site Link). An info session for interested parties will take place at noon on November, 15 2023. To participate send an email with the subject heading “Providence Commemoration Lab Info Session” to cabotsi@providenceri.gov. Questions received by Deputy Director Micah Salkind (msalkind@providenceri.gov) by noon on November 22, 2023 will be collated in a shared FAQ.

In early December 2023, The Art Selection Panel (ASP) will review complete applications and score the submitted qualifications, limiting the selection pool to no more than six artists for each site. The ASP’s recommendations for semifinalists will be reviewed and approved by the Art in City Life Commission (ACLC) in late December 2023.

Approved semifinalist artists and artist teams will then be invited to a virtual interview with the ASP in January 2024. Prior to the interview, Artists will be asked to develop a brief presentation detailing how they will engage with residents; ACT and RIHS staff; and the sites themselves.

The Art Selection Panel will recommend awarded finalists and alternates for all three sites to the Art in City Life Commission (ACLC) for approval at the February 2024 regular meeting.

Selected finalists will begin their year-long engagement upon signing a contract with the City and RIHS following approval of the ACLC and the Board of Contract and Supply, which generally meets every two weeks (March/April 2024). The Department of Art, Culture and Tourism will announce the commissioned artists no later than April 2024.

Selected finalists will plan for their public engagement during spring 2024 with the idea that local stakeholders will be brought into their process in early summer 2024. Final productions/products will be proposed by February 2025 and reviewed by the ACLC and/or the Special Commitee for Commemorative Works depending on whether they are physical installtions at the various sites.

While the formal engagement period ends a year from the signing date of the contract, it is expected that the selected finalists will steward and participate in any culminating aspect of their work (performance, physical installation, release of finished product) as well as press events and public celebrations to take place in summer 2025.


Art Selection Panel

The Art Selection Panel will comprise five members including:

  • Art in City Life Commissioner
  • Parks Museum Director or Designee
  • Local Artist
  • ACT Director of Special Projects
  • Rhode Island Historical Society Designee


Selection Criteria

Semi-Finalists will be selected based on the following criteria as evidenced by their submitted materials:

  • Strength of community-based social practice
  • Relationship of the artist’s method of engagement to the context of the Program Goals stated above.
  • Artistic excellence and innovation, as evidenced by previous work.
  • Ability to manage budgets and complete projects on time, as evidenced by previous work.
  • Cultural humility and understanding of teamwork; experience working with diverse populations; and demonstrated interest in working with Providence residents to co-create a final work.

Awarded artists will be selected based on the Artist Selection Panel’s evaluation of submitted materials as well as their interview.


Interviews

If selected for an interview, applicants should be prepared to speak about their vision for working with Providence residents (including any specific information about potential collaborators); their ability to engage bilingual or multilingual speakers; their commitment to collaborating with intergenerational communities; and their understanding of the project’s goals.


Artist Scope of Work

Upon award notification and acceptance, the artist shall sign a contract with the City and RIHS for the activities outlined below:

  • Participate in regularly scheduled check-ins with staff from the Department of Art, Culture and Tourism, the Rhode Island Historical Society and other relevant stakeholders.
  • Immerse themselves with their site’s stakeholder communities to develop and lead arts-based organizing strategies and engagement activities.
  • Engage local residents in the co-design of a culminating public work.
  • Submit for approval a project proposal and budget that includes completed and intended engagement strategies and a description of the proposed approach for developing content for a final work. Artists may work collaboratively at a site to propose final work.
  • Participate in an unveiling and dedication ceremony in summer 2025.


To Submit

To apply, submit below.

Submission Checklist:

Cover Letter:

  • Please tell us what excites you about this call and how you see yourself positioned to succeed in the proposed role. You can speak to your interest to work at any of the three sites. (no more than 1 page single-spaced)

Artist Statement:

  • Please provide a brief artist statement to introduce the Art Selection Panel to who you are as an artist and some of the themes and ideas you explore in your artwork. Please do not insert a resume or list of accomplishments here. We look forward to learning about your practice. (500 word max)

CV/Resume and References:

  • A resume/CV of no more than 3 (three) pages in length.
  • Your resume must include three professional/personal references. You should include the references’ names, contact information, and position.

A portfolio of 3 to 5 work samples:

  • For each work sample submitted, the following should be included:
    • Artwork title
    • Year of completion
    • Medium
    • Dimensions
    • Total budget / cost
    • Brief description of artwork (100 words or less) – please include the commissioning entity (if applicable), and state your role in the creation of the artwork if other artists or design professionals were involved in its creation.
  • Please tell us what excites you about this call and how you see yourself positioned to succeed in the proposed role. You can speak to your interest to work at either site or both. (no more than 1 page single-spaced)
    Accepted file types: pdf, doc, docx, Max. file size: 5 MB.
  • Please provide a brief artist statement to introduce the Art Selection Panel to who you are as an artist and some of the themes and ideas you explore in your artwork. Please do not insert a resume or list of accomplishments here. We look forward to learning about your practice. (500 word max)
  • A resume/CV of no more than 3 (three) pages in length. Your resume must include three professional/personal references. You should include the references’ names, contact information, and position.
    Accepted file types: pdf, doc, docx, Max. file size: 5 MB.
  • For each work sample submitted, the following should be included: -Artwork title -Year of completion -Medium -Dimensions -Total budget / cost -Brief description of artwork (100 words or less) – please include the commissioning entity (if applicable), and state your role in the creation of the artwork if other artists or design professionals were involved in its creation.
    Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: pdf, doc, docx, Max. file size: 2 MB, Max. files: 8.
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