ACT Public Art: Sidewalk Tattoos



The City of Providence and the Art in City Life Commission invite RI-based writers and artists to submit poetry or word-based art for permanent display on City sidewalks. The curatorial prompt is Ode to Providence.

The Art in City Life Commission will oversee the Art Selection Process and ultimately award 30 artists $1000 each for a total of 30 poems or designs.

The poems and designs will later be stamped into newly repaired sidewalks beginning as early as fall 2021. The stamps will then be stored by the City and applied in the future as funding and site conditions allow. This opportunity is made possible by the Providence Percent for Art Allocation, which calls for one percent of capital improvement dollars allocated for public art.  Ode to Providence marks the first allocation of its kind in the City’s history.

We are looking for poems that reflect our diverse residents, Providence history, and visions for the future of the City. This call is open to RI-based individual artists or artist teams, which can include teacher-led teams, writers’ groups, and youth organizations. Black Indigenous People of Color and multilingual writers are highly encouraged to apply.

The deadline is May 2, 2021.

Questions about this call to artists may be directed to Gina Rodriguez-Drix, Cultural Affairs Manager at

Photo Credit: Public Art St Paul.

Background Context

Providence has always been home to a rich community of literary artists whose multiplicity of voice has defined and challenged what it means to be a part of this community. From the fantastical horror of HP Lovecraft to the raw and vulnerable poetry of AS220’s nationally award winning poetry slam, as a City we recognize the power of our poets, storytellers and wordsmiths. As important as the words are the way they are formed on the page. Providence’s tradition of typeface art, championed by the RI School of Design and the Providence Public Library’s Updike Prize is one of our most unique and rising artforms.

Providence’s ACT Public Art Program channels the creative energy of the city, manifesting it in a range of artwork and projects that contribute to shaping the city’s visual identity, improve the quality of life for all residents, and create opportunities for engagement, connectivity and community building.  The ACT Public Art Program is outlined in the Art in City Life Plan, Providence’s first master plan for public art, published in 2018.

The Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) is a five-year program of planned improvements to Providence’s public infrastructure. The purpose of the CIP is to facilitate and coordinate future capital improvements within the City’s current and future financial framework. The Capital Improvement Budget, adopted in coordination with the City’s operating budget, funds the projects listed in the first year of the CIP.

The Art in City Life Ordinance (Ch 80-39 Article XXII Sec. 2-351 –2-360) requires that the City allocate one percent of all infrastructure spending to public art. The CIP includes an allocation for a Landmark Art Investment as well smaller allocations for public art and public monument preservation in adherence with this Ordinance.

The Capital Improvement Plan: Fiscal Years 2020-2024 This CIP is broken down into four categories, administered by the respective departments: Public Works, which includes streets, sidewalks, complete streets, bridges, dams, sewers, and stormwater; Parks, which includes playgrounds, trails, and related equipment and amenities; Public Property, which includes recreation centers and facilities and fire and police facilities; and Planning, which includes critical improvements for urban trails, bicycle and pedestrian amenities, and other public realm improvements.

Department of Public Works: The requests for FY2020-FY2024 include roadway repair, maintenance, and reconstruction; bridge and dam repair; parking infrastructure maintenance; complete streets work including curb extensions, striping, traffic calming, and bicycle and pedestrian amenities; and sewer and stormwater management system maintenance, repair, and construction, including the installation of green infrastructure.

Sidewalk project allocations are determined by the DPW in accordance with the Sidewalk Management Program (SMP). There are 625 miles of existing sidewalks in the City, and another 26 miles where sidewalks are not installed, but could be considered for construction. The estimated cost to construct, maintain, and repair sidewalks to achieve a “trip-free” standard is between $142-183 4 million. To achieve the City’s short-term goal of improving the current condition of roads and sidewalks and long-term goal of maintaining excellent quality mobility and transit infrastructure, $15 to $17 million will need to be allocated annually in the CIP for roads, sidewalk and complete street investments.

Locations and Siting:

The Art in City Life Commission, Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism and Providence Department of Public Works shall select sidewalks for siting the poems based on the sidewalk repair schedule.

Project Goals:

Art incorporated into Civic Infrastructure Projects should:

  • Contribute to Providence’s identity as the creative capital.
  • Create opportunities for people to experience art in their everyday lives.
  • Enhance the design of civic infrastructure; improve people’s experience of using these places and interacting with the City.


  • Applicant(s) must be 17 years or older and hold a current Rhode Island home or studio address to be eligible to apply. Providence residents and/or artists and cultural workers with a history of working in Providence are preferred.
  • This call is open to individual artists or artist teams, which can include teacher-led teams, writers’ groups, and youth organizations.
  • Artists working in languages other than English are encouraged to apply.
  • Black Indigenous People of Color, women, LGBTQIA+ community members and multilingual writers are highly encouraged to apply.

The Artist Selection Method:

The Art Selection Panel will review the applications and make their decision in May 2021.  The Department of Art, Culture + Tourism will announce the commissioned artists in June 2021.

Art Selection Panel:

The Art Selection Panel will be comprised of seven community members including poets, educators, arts administrators, and designers.

Selection Criteria:

Awardees will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • Artist statement that clearly describes the artist’s medium, previous work, and response to the prompt, Ode to Providence. Artists, classes or groups applying as a team shall provide one collective artist statement – let us know how you came together and why you decided to apply! 500 words max.
  • Artistic excellence and response to curatorial prompt as evidenced by the submitted work.

An artist may submit up to 3 poems and/or designs submitted in one PDF document. Please number each submission within the document.

  • Poetry: Each poem may be no more than 10 lines, 40 characters per line including spaces, and 250 characters overall including spaces and punctuation.
  • Designs: Word-art designs must be submitted as PDFs in the application, but if awarded will need to be re-submitted as CAD files for stamp fabrication.

To Apply

Eligible artists or artist teams may submit their artist statement and up to three poems or word-based art designs by May 2, 2021.



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