In 2019, as a part of our Sites and Stories Explored Through Community Engaged Art and Scholarship project, PPS unveiled five original artistic works that explored hidden and layered narratives of several endangered historic sites in Providence. We selected five artists and artist teams to create new works related to four sites that are featured on our 2018 Most Endangered Properties list. The artistic works provoked conversations about the meaning of place, what happens when a site tells more than one story, and what kind of reparative work can ensue when a site erases some of its narratives in favor of others. Additionally, each artist collaborated with a local scholar to produce a walking tour to explore the history of their site.
Since 1994, PPS has used the Most Endangered Properties program to engage the public in thinking about the future of significant historic buildings, landscapes, structures, and neighborhoods. With “Sites and Stories,” we aimed to expand this engagement through the work of committed Rhode Island-based artists, involving the community in the re-building of narratives around the human beings who inhabited these important properties.
Walking tours with artists and scholars were held in the Fall of 2018. Click here for tour images and content!
Sites and Stories Explored
“New Lives of Some of Rhode Island’s Former Synagogues,” a film by David Wells
“She Died for Our Convenience,” a performance by Strange Attractor (Rebecca Noon and Jed Hancock-Brainerd) + prologue
Unveiling Ceremony for Parcel 1A mural by Deborah Spears Moorehead
David Wells Presentation at Broad Street Synagogue (April 2019)
Walker Mettling Presentation at Knight Memorial Library (April 2019)
David Wells and Walker Mettling Q&A (April 2019)
Sites and Stories Culminating Event + Artist Q&A (May 2019)
Earnscliffe Woolen Mill / Paragon Worsted Co.
Rebecca Noon and Jed Hancock-Brainerd researched the female workers who held jobs at the Earnscliffe Woolen Mill/Paragon Worsted Co. located at 25 & 39 Manton Avenue. Noon and Hancock-Brainerd will create a song and performance based on and dedicated to these “unsung” women. Community members will be engaged to perform as a chorus in or near the Paragon Mill buildings.
Project scholar: Evelyn Sterne
Evelyn Sterne is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in History at the University of Rhode Island. Her teaching and research focus on modern American history, with an emphasis on religion, class, immigration and politics.
Megan and Murray McMillan created an immersive cinematic experience at the Earnscliffe Woolen Mill/Paragon Worsted Co. featuring choreography for performers based on the history of the site and the adjacent Woonasquatucket River.
Project scholar: Xander Morro
Xander Morro is a co-founder and leader of The Dirt Palace, in Olneyville, where she has also long been involved in Olneyville Housing Corporation (now known as ONE Neighborhood Builders).
Parcel 1A / State House Lawn
Deborah Spears Moorehead performed research on the Colonial, Industrial, and Contemporary uses of Providence waterways. Her work resulted in a mural that addressed several aspects of water usage, including how bodies of water can sustain differing cultures. Her research and production involved both the State House Lawn and Parcel 1A, two landscapes that relate directly to the Woonasquatucket, Mosshasuck and Providence’s Rivers.
Project Scholars: Jane Sawyers and Ned Connors
Jane Sawyers is an environmental planner at the Department of Environmental Management where she oversee water quality standards. She is extremely interested in the past, present and future quality of Rhode Island waterways.
Ned Connors is an historian with a special interest in Providence’s industrial heritage and an independent historical preservation consultant.
Broad Street Synagogue
David Wells created a video that engaged the residents of the area now to share their voices about the Broad Street neighborhood along with those who worshiped at the now vacant Broad Street Synagogue. The intersection of these two communities was core to his project. The video consisted of two kinds of visual storytelling creating informative accounts of place, thereby expanding the collective understanding of those who breathed life into these spaces.
Project scholar: Richardson Ogidan
Richardson Ogidan is Executive Director of Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island, located in historic Trinity Square. He believes the Broad Street Synagogue can once again be an asset to those who currently live in the neighborhood.
Knight Memorial Library
Walker Mettling created a handmade hardcover artist book focusing on Knight Memorial Library. He started with documentation and
research of the now inactive reference storage stacks, the horse-drenched reliefs banding the main room, and the stained glass symbols set into the windows of the smaller quiet rooms. His work was influenced by how the library and the neighborhood have interacted in the past and how they do so today.
Project scholar: Channavy Chhay
Channavy Chhay is Executive Director of Center for Southeast Asians. Knight Memorial Library was where she learned to love reading as a recent immigrant from Cambodia.