Archive | Providence RSS feed for this section

Art in Ruins

22 May

Art in Ruins is a Providence-based organization that celebrates the city’s postindustrial heritage as a source of creative inspiration.  In their mission statement, they express that:

“We at ArtInRuins believe that decay is beautiful, but not necessary. Artists live and work in the buildings that the city or developers have often forgotten, and now that Providence is becoming a hip town (or a suburb of Boston) these buildings and the artists, musicians and businesses who lived and worked in them are getting used for purposes that do not contribute to the community in the same way. We are not against new development, we are only opposed to unsustainable or irresponsible development.”

Creative Placemaking: Providence, The Creative Capital, Fact or Fiction?

7 May

Thursday, May 24, 2012 from 5-7:30 PM (ET)

5-6pm – Reception
6-7:30pm – Panel Presentation & Discussion


Individual artistic practice can transform individuals. Bring those individuals together, with shared space, programs and experiences, and the transformation expands. The arts animate our communities, bring people together to share common experiences, stimulate our imaginations and help us foster a rich and varied quality of life.

The public value of the arts is an ongoing debate. There are those who believe that intrinsic benefits of the arts experience, such as aesthetic pleasure and captivation, have only private, personal value. Many believe, us among them, that both individuals and communities benefit from the arts.

On May 24th, AS220 and Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism will host the Pell Lecture, an annual lecture honoring the late Claiborne Pell, who represented Rhode Island in the United States Senate from 1961-1997. He is best remembered for being a champion of education, the arts and humanities.

The panel will discuss the role of arts and culture as a tool for revitalizing communities, looking at the structure and dynamics of community arts infrastructure.

The 2012 Senator Pell Lecture on Arts & Humanities, hosted by Mayor Angel Taveras, presented by AS220 and the City of Providence, with Special Guests:
Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD, Colin P. Kane, Manya K. Rubenstein, representatives from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the City of Providence, Moderated by Marc Joel Levitt

Investigating the power of arts and culture to recharge and rebuild communities.

Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD, is a senior research associate in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Center at the Urban Institute (UI) and director of UI’s Culture, Creativity and Communities Program. Her research expertise includes neighborhood revitalization and comprehensive community planning, the politics of race, ethnicity and gender in urban settings, and the role of arts and culture in communities. Her projects in cities throughout the United States have explored the role of intermediaries in comprehensive community planning, the characteristics of place that lead to cultural vitality, the measurement of arts and cultural vitality and the integration of new topics into policies and programs concerned with quality of life.
Dr. Jackson’s work has appeared in academic and professional journals as well as edited volumes in the fields of urban planning, sociology, community development and the arts. She has been a speaker at numerous national and international conferences focusing on quality of life, changing demographics, communities and cities of the future, and arts and society. She currently serves on the boards of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, the National Performance Network and the Alliance for California Traditional Artists. Formerly, she was on the board of the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation and the Fund for Folk Culture. Jackson earned a doctorate in Urban Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles and an MPA from the University of Southern California.

Colin P. Kane is Chairman of the 195 Commission, a Rhode Island workgroup tasked with the redevelopment of 40-acres in downtown Providence created by the relocation of Interstate 195. Preliminary planning and engineering studies on the former Jewelry District highway lands are underway. The Commission will buy and sell land, lead rezoning efforts, plan infrastructure and guide the redevelopment of 40 acres that is newly reconnected to the heart of the city by the relocation of the highway.
Kane is also the lead partner at Peregrine Group, LLC for project transactional activities, project planning, asset acquisition and sales, leasing, financial analysis, permitting/due diligence, and debt/equity capitalization. Recent projects include the acquisition, planning, and financing of Rumford Center (as a principal owner), a $40 million mixed-use redevelopment of a 9-building, 8 1/2 acre mill campus, the acquisition, permitting, financing and project management of The Ocean House, a $150 million seaside hotel and residences, and ongoing asset management of the American Locomotive campus, a 200,000 sf office mill adaptive reuse. Prior to helping found Peregrine in 2001, Kane worked as a Development Manager for Gilbane Properties. Kane currently serves as Admiral of the RI Commodores, appointed by Governor Lincoln Chafee.

Manya K. Rubinstein is co-founder and publisher of Outpost Journal, an annual non-profit publication on art, design and community activism in smaller cities, as well as Bandit Consulting, an online marketing consultancy. Prior to that, she worked at Google for 3 years as a Senior Analytical Lead and before then at CondeNast, with stints at PAPER magazine, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and CondeNet. She is currently an associate partner at Social Venture Partners RI, as well as an advisory board member for The Wooly Fair Art Carnival and the Institute of Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. Rubinstein holds an MBA from Columbia University, an MA in Media Studies from the European Graduate School, and a BA in comparative literature from Brown University.

Marc Levitt is a writer, storyteller, educator, radio and TV host, filmmaker and audio artist living in Wakefield, RI and NYC. He has won awards for his story recordings, for work in his unique musical/narrative historical storytelling style, for his work in radio and for his work in the arts and in the humanities.
A 1971 graduate of Cornell University, Levitt has also created the nationally recognized Charles Fortes Elementary School Museum-in-a-School Project and the educational philosophy called Site Specific Education. Marc has performed, lectured and given workshops throughout the United States and around the globe.

Sponsored by RI Council for the Humanities, The John Nicholas Brown Center for the Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage; Durkee, Brown, Viveiros, Werenfels Architects; Barbara Sokoloff Associates; The Hotel Providence; and Trinity Repertory Theater.

Show Us The Thumping, Pulsing ‘Heart’ Of Your City

12 Mar

Interesting competition on NPR. While some of our international partners might not be eligible, might be a worthwhile challenge for each of our cities…

"Straight to the heart" graffiti.

March 12, 2012

From the coffee shop on the corner to the park down the street, all urbanites have a place they think of as the heart of their city. It’s where you go when you want to feel like a citizen of Memphis, New York City or San Francisco. It’s the place you think of as synonymous with Atlanta, Washington, D.C., or Portland, Ore. It’s what you talk about when someone asks, “What’s Chicago like?”

And even if your local office of tourism has never heard of it, we want to know what and where it is. We want you to show us the heart of your city. Is it the subway platform? The view from your favorite bridge? Snap a photo or make a quick recording, then send it our way via email (nprcities at npr dot org), Flickr (tag your photo #nprcities), Tumblr (tag your submission #nprcities) or SoundCloud (make sure your clip is downloadable). We will use some of your submissions in an interactive graphic.

Include your name, the name of the person who took the picture or recorded the sound, the location of the photo or audio (full address or street intersection, including city and state), and describe your submission in 300 characters (!!!) telling us what makes it the “heart of your city.”

As long as you can photograph it or record it, nothing’s too small! But we do have some guidelines:

1. No Liberty Bells, Please. Tourist attractions are fun to visit, but we’re looking for the part of your city that gets left out of the guidebooks.

2. Limit Your Sound Recordings To One Minute Or Less. We’re looking for sound that gives a sense of place.

3. Remember, We’re A Family-Friendly Website. This probably goes without saying, but please keep your submissions G-rated.

4. Sorry, No Videos Or Animated GIFs. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative.

5. Think Public Spaces. The basement your band practices in may be SO Detroit, but we’re looking for places everyone can experience.

[NOTICE TO USERS: NPR reserves the right to read on the air and/or publish on its Web site or in any medium now known or unknown the emails, audio clips and photographs that we receive. We may edit them for clarity, brevity or format and identify authors by name and location. By sending us a photograph, email or audio clip, you agree to these terms. For additional information, please consult our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.]

Paved, but still alive

11 Mar

From the NY Times

Published: January 6, 2012

Yann Arthus-Bertrand/Altitude - A sea of Green? A working lot at Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

THERE are said to be at least 105 million and maybe as many as 2 billion parking spaces in the United States.

A third of them are in parking lots, those asphalt deserts that we claim to hate but that proliferate for our convenience. One study says we’ve built eight parking spots for every car in the country. Houston is said to have 30 of them per resident. In “Rethinking a Lot,” a new study of parking, due out in March, Eran Ben-Joseph, a professor of urban planning at M.I.T., points out that “in some U.S. cities, parking lots cover more than a third of the land area, becoming the single most salient landscape feature of our built environment.”

Absent hard numbers Mr. Ben-Joseph settles on a compromise of 500 million parking spaces in the country, occupying some 3,590 square miles, or an area larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. If the correct number is 2 billion, we’re talking about four times that: Connecticut and Vermont.

Either way it’s a lot of pavement.

As the critic Lewis Mumford wrote half a century ago, “The right to have access to every building in the city by private motorcar in an age when everyone possesses such a vehicle is the right to destroy the city.” Yet we continue to produce parking lots, in cities as well as in suburbs, in the same way we consume all those billions of plastic bottles of water and disposable diapers.

What to do?

For starters we ought to take these lots more seriously, architecturally. Many architects and urban planners don’t. Beyond greener designs and the occasional celebrity-architect garage, we need to think more about these lots as public spaces, as part of the infrastructure of our streets and sidewalks, places for various activities that may change and evolve, because not all good architecture is permanent. Hundreds of lots already are taken over by farmers’ markets, street-hockey games, teenage partiers and church services. We need to recognize and encourage diversity. This is the idea behind Parking Day, a global event, around since 2005, that invites anybody and everybody to transform metered lots. Each year participants have adapted hundreds of them in dozens of countries, setting up temporary health clinics and bike-repair shops, having seminars and weddings.

That’s akin to the approach of an architecture and planning firm in Brooklyn called Interboro Partners. Several years ago it entered a competition in Los Angeles focused on dead shopping malls. Entrants picked malls they wanted to revive. Most contestants proposed erecting office parks or retirement homes or apartment buildings. Interboro took a different approach.

It chose the Dutchess County Mall in Fishkill, N.Y. Opened with fanfare in spring 1974 as another consumer paradise and symbol of automotive and suburban progress, it was built on the promising corner of a major highway interchange in the heart of a county poised for growth. But development ended up gravitating elsewhere, and by the early 1990s the mall was half-empty; by 1998 it was officially closed. To drivers passing it on Interstate 84 it looked like every other dead mall, floating in the usual asphalt sea of parking spaces.

But Interboro’s partners saw something else there: life.

Of course suburban and urban lots are not all the same, and it’s glib to say we should just buy fewer cars. Yes, we ought to wean ourselves from automobiles in favor of public transportation. We rely too much on cars because our public transit systems are often so abysmal. But cars aren’t going away anytime soon, certainly not in the suburbs or in cities like Los Angeles, and we can’t just wish away lots in which to park them. John Brinckerhoff Jackson, the landscape writer who died in 1996, years ago pleaded that the parking lot be treated like the city common, with its own community values.

But what does this entail? For big cities like New York it is high time to abandon outmoded zoning codes from the auto-boom days requiring specific ratios of parking spaces per housing unit, or per square foot of retail space. These rules about minimum parking spaces have driven up the costs of apartments for developers and residents, damaged the environment, diverted money that could have gone to mass transit and created a government-mandated cityscape that’s largely unused. We keep adding to the glut of parking lots. Crain’s recently reported on the largely empty garages at new buildings like Avalon Fort Greene, a 42-story luxury tower near downtown Brooklyn, and 80 DeKalb Avenue, up the block, both well occupied, both of which built hundreds of parking spaces to woo tenants. Garages near Yankee Stadium, built over the objections of Bronx neighbors appalled at losing parkland for yet more parking lots, turn out never to be more than 60 percent full, even on game days. The city has lost public space, the developers have lost a fortune.

The Pensacola Parking Syndrome is a term of the trade used to describe a city that tears down its old buildings to create parking spaces to entice more people downtown, until people no longer want to go there because it has become an empty lot. Cities should let the free market handle the construction of new parking spaces. People who buy or rent new homes can pay extra if they want someplace to park a car. Municipalities can instead cap the maximum number of lots or the ratio of spaces to dwellings and offices.

Back in 1973 Boston instituted a successful parking freeze in concert with the Environmental Protection Agency, an approach that Los Angeles attempted to follow until Congress blocked the tactic, bouncing the ball over to city courts. Since then Cambridge, Mass., has set its own limit on parking spaces. More cities could now do the same.

As for the perception that parking spots are hard to find, as if everyplace were Midtown Manhattan, the reality is that a space may not be open precisely when and where a driver wants it. But the journal Transportation Science has shown that drivers who parked at the first available spot and then walked to their destination on average saved considerable time (never mind savings in gasoline and anxiety) over those who cruised around until a “better” spot opened.

Driver behavior is revealing. We ignore the stripes and take shortcuts when lots are not full, but then are inclined to slow down and become more alert to pedestrians when we do so, a fact that led a Dutch traffic engineer to remove lights and other markings in the town of Drachten. Traffic accidents there declined. Various cities in northern Europe have followed suit, experimenting with removing traffic controls in areas shared by cars, pedestrians and cyclists — creating lots that function, in effect, as public squares.

I recently called John Kaliski, who runs Urban Studio in Los Angeles, and asked him whether this approach might work in car-centric Southern California, and he said it could. “But you would have to be rigorous about how you applied it,” he cautioned. “Liability is different in the United States than in Europe.” He recalled the case of an elderly driver in 2003 who killed pedestrians as he plowed through a farmers’ market in Santa Monica, prompting a slew of legal suits and new regulations.

It’s a no-brainer to argue that lots should be greener. The biggest advancements in lot designs have involved porous surfaces, more trees for shade and storm-water collection facilities. In Turin, Italy, Renzo Piano transformed part of the area around Fiat’s Lingotto factory by extending a grid of trees from the parking lot into the building’s formerly barren courtyards, creating a canopy of soft shade and a ready metaphor: nature reclaiming the postindustrial landscape. At Dia:Beacon, the Minimalist museum up the Hudson River, the parking lot designed by the artist Robert Irwin in collaboration with the firm OpenOffice is one with the art inside, trees in rigorous ranks rising subtly toward the front door. It’s an example not only of green design but also of treating parking lots the way people actually experience them: as the real entrance to a building.

But these are exceptions.

Which gets us back to Interboro and the parking lot of the Dutchess County Mall. By the late 1990s its developer had decided to land-bank the site, hoping its price would rise along with property values in the area. This meant that the mall and its lot had an absentee landlord.

But Interboro noticed that the parking lot was quietly being used as a depot and stop by bus lines. A hot dog truck had set up shop there. Patrons at a drive-through McDonald’s ate in their parked cars. Truckers slept there overnight. The Fishkill flea market took over on weekends, and a graphic design firm and a couple of banks and a post-office processing center converted vacant mall stores into offices.

In short, said Daniel D’Oca, one of Interboro’s partners, “what looked dead wasn’t, but you would have missed it if you just passed by it with a predisposed idea about sprawl.”

The firm wanted “to be responsive to the ways people already used the space,” elaborated Tobias Armborst, another partner, by making temporary interventions that “enhanced its urbanity.” The notion was that these interventions might open the door to various possible futures. Interboro proposed that the lot become, in effect, a laboratory for “small, cheap, feasible experiments,” is how Georgeen Theodore, a third Interboro partner, put it. “We embraced the fact that it was functioning for Fishkill as a version of Jane Jacobs’s sidewalk,” she said. “No one would disagree with permeable surfaces or solar panels. But it’s not as obvious to see lots for what they are, as public spaces where diverse people meet.”

So the firm imagined installing fitness and day care centers, which the postal workers said they wanted, and turning part of the mall over to a nightclub, so that the parties already happening in the lot could move indoors. The lot would get a beer garden, a recycling facility, a used-car business, a hiking trail entrance where the lot abutted protected wilderness, and a summer stage that exploited, as a readymade band shell, the existing porte-cochère of the mall’s defunct Jamesway.

“The point was to think of the whole lot not as a blight but as a space for architectural invention worth engaging with, warts and all,” Ms. Theodore stressed.

In the end the developer didn’t take up Interboro on its plan. But the scheme served its rhetorical purpose. Lots don’t need to be dead zones. And the best architecture can be light on its feet.


This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 5, 2012


A column on Jan. 8 about the future of parking lots overstated what was known about the cause of an accident in which an elderly driver plowed through a farmers’ market in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2003, killing 10 pedestrians. The driver did not have a stroke at the wheel as suggested in at least one news report at the time. (The authorities are still not certain of the cause.)

Videos from the Winter 2012 Symposium

13 Feb

Artist talk by Betsey Biggs on “The Providence Postcard Project”

13 Feb

UCHCP Team meet with Bert Crenca, Director of AS220

31 Jan

On Saturday 28 January 2012, the UCHCP project team met with Bert Crenca, Director of AS220 – Providence’s international renowned unjuried and uncensored art space and community. The ongoing work of AS220 in working with urban communities and artists and in revitalizing the city through the development of dilapidated historic properties in downtown Providence was a remarkable and inspirational case study for the project team in thinking about the impact that collective creative action can have on the form and manifestation of urban life.

Providence Postcard Project opens at the Granoff Center

31 Jan

Friday 27 January 2012 in the Fribourg Family Atrium of the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts at Brown University:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Winter 2012 symposium hosted at Brown University

31 Jan

On Friday, January 27, 2012 the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage at Brown University hosted the winter 2012 symposium to discuss issues of Urban Cultural Heritage and Creative Practice.  The morning session, included presentations from our international partners:

  • Cape Town: Nick Shepherd (University of Cape Town, Center for African Studies)
  • Dublin: Pat Cooke (University College Dublin, School of Art History and Cultural Policy and Director, Arts Management and Cultural Policy)
  • Hong Kong: Oscar Ho (Chinese University of Hong Kong, Department of Cultural and Religious Studies and Director, Arts and Heritage)
  • Istanbul: Lucienne Thys-Senocak (Koç University, Department of Archaeology and History of Art)
  • York: John Schofield (University of York, Department of Archaeology and Director, Cultural Heritage Management)

Also included was a special artist talk by Betsey Biggs who spoke about The Providence Postcard Project which launched at the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts that evening.

In the afternoon session all participants took part in an Open Space meeting to collaboratively elaborate and explore the issues related to issues arising from the presenters work and the development of this form of interdisciplinary creative practice.

Postcard Project in the Providence Journal

28 Jan

Wish your were here: Providence Postcard Project opens Friday

January 27, 2012 10:08 am

Next month, she’s flying off to Southeast Asia. But before she goes, Betsey Biggs, a composer and artist who’s winding up her postdoctoral work at Brown University, wanted to say goodbye to the city she’s called home for the past few years. The result: The Providence Postcard Project,” a collection of more than 1,000 photographs of the city that Biggs and a team of collaborators have turned into old-fashioned 3″x5″ postcards.


On Friday, about half these mini-me views of Providence will go on display at Brown’s Granoff Center for the Creative Arts (154 Angell St.). Among the highlights: a close-up of the New York System sign on Smith St., a side view the Mr. Lemon lemonade stand in Wanskuck and a wonderful shot of the inside of Scialo Bros. Bakery on Federal Hill.


The show runs through Feb. 24. An opening reception takes place Friday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. For more info go here. For a slideshow try here.