Sites and Stories Explored

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 explore 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. Each artist began their process through discussion with a local scholar and with a walking tour that engaged the community. The 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.

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 Images, Films, and Performances

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.

Earnscliffe Woolen Mill/Paragon Worsted Co.

Rebecca Noon and Jed Hancock-Brainerd will research 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 will create 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

State House Lawn

Deborah Spears Moorehead will first perform research on the Colonial, Industrial, and Contemporary uses of Providence waterways. Her work will result in a mural that addresses several aspects of water usage, including how bodies of water can sustain differing cultures. Her research and production will involve 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

Broad Street Synagogue

David Wells will create a video that will engage 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 is core to his project. The video will consist 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 will create a handmade hardcover artist book focusing on Knight Memorial Library. He will start with documentation and

Knight Memorial Library

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 will be influenced by how the library and the neighborhood have interacted in the past and how they do 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.



This project is made possible by a grant from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The project also received support from Dr. Joseph A. Chazan, the City of Providence Department of Art + Tourism and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, through an appropriation by the Rhode Island General Assembly, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and private funders. PPS is currently seeking additional finding to support the project.


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