Tender Cargo: How can garments speak a person’s pain?

“What does it mean to wear one’s pain?” asks a new exhibit by textile artist Taleen Batalian at the WaterFire Arts Center though November 20. Inspired by her parent’s memories of the Armenian genocide that claimed her grandparents, Batalian developed a set of prints on fabric and some fabric designs that read almost like statues which try to embody the experiences related by her ancestors. To accompany this exhibit, she developed a runway show from some parallel universe, in which dim lighting and quadrophonic soundscapes support the slow, agonizing progress of three models in Batalian’s garb, as they traversed the length of the Waterfire Arts Center. The audience was set up on either side, much like a fashion show, but single file, facing the minimalist runway designed by Keri King. The music was developed from manipulations of Batalian’s Grandfather’s recorded musings, by audio engineer Antonio Forte.

“I thought of the movement as postures of grief. The choreography was really, ‘Go slow and sink sometimes.’ But keep moving, because to me that meant there was some hope as well. Otherwise, we would just end up on the floor the whole time,” said choreographer Heidi Henderson.

Batalian added, “It’s about shape. Shape and texture. The garments were refined based on what I saw as the dancers were wearing, but I really thought of them as garments I get to inhabit, as opposed to traditional costuming that’s meant to add to a dancer’s character.” The designs themselves came to form with “not intention, just trust.”

Waterfire Arts Center, 475 Valley St, PVD. waterfire.org through Nov 20.

Trying It On: Skye reaches deep

Jonny Skye, creator of the featured piece, “kweteelili/Try it On,” is an artist who has her hands in multiple projects. After closing the doors to Skye Gallery, she turned to small business consulting, helping local businesses launch and/or continue to thrive. Skye, a member of the Peoria Tribe of Oklahoma, has vast experience in the fields of both arts and education/human services (focusing on urban education reform). She uses her talents to help guide artists and businesses while advocating for education reform.

Skye Gallery was successful in its four years of existence. She curated 40 exhibitions in the joyful yet intimate space on Broadway before the pandemic hit. She adjusted and went virtual, but closed the doors in early 2021. 

“I am rooted in my commitment to the sensory experience of art and each other, so I opted not to continue the work virtually,” Skye says. “I am still available to buyers, artists and curate.”

Skye provides artist management services (offering a wealth of options to local artists looking to build and shape their careers) in addition to business consulting. She consulted with Coffee Exchange during the worst of the pandemic, which led to the opening of Rise ‘n Shine Coffee Bar in Smith Hill. She also worked with Central Contemporary Arts in opening their first exhibition. Currently, she is engaged in the launch of Ahh, Moments (a lifestyle brand centered on the benefits of plant medicine) and serves on the board of the Providence Biennial for Contemporary Art. She hopes for a new physical incarnation of Skye Gallery in the future. 

Having renewed control of her time, Skye could now focus her creative process in a deeper and more meaningful way. She is currently working on a body of paintings titled “oowiši, Peewaaliaki” (the native language of her Peoria ancestors, which translates to “In this Direction”) that focuses on ceremony and seeking connection to spirit.

“This work acknowledges a future in the return. It sits in the vision of global re-indigenizing/re-membering/re-balancing/re-discovering as a way forward from the quandaries of here and now,” Skye says.

Skye, also the descendant of Irish colonial settlers, has indigenous ancestors who came from the upper Mississippi and were pushed down to Northeastern Oklahoma from a series of reservations to a final allotment scheme scenario in Ottawa County, OK. As children, her grandfather and great-aunts were all forced by the US government to attend Haskell, an Indian boarding school.  

Her culture and upbringing are important aspects of her work, both on the canvas and in the community.

“I paint to find coherence in the incoherent, to bridge – prioritizing sensibility, erotic power, fertility and futility, and values of abundance and freedom. I am compelled by humbling the colonial norming of power, authority, ownership, and territory. Connecting earth with body. I seek to challenge hegemonic ideas of civilization and refinement while re-centering all that is natural and rooted. I work to address many dissonances – by connecting and remapping micro and macro, subject and object, human will and universal design.”

For more information, go to skye-gallery.com

On the Cover: November 2022

Ripples and Reflections is an original painting by Rhode Island artist Joel Rosario Tapia – a segment of the work was restructured for our November issue, to acknowledge Indiginous People’s month. And because it looks amazing.

Tapia is a US veteran, author and Urban Aboriginal visual artist who has made it his mission to keep the Taino and Indian identities alive through his art. The topics of his art range from ideological, sociological, moral and family values. Each piece has a distinct story, often drawn from his culture in order to keep the true stories and true identities of his people and ancestors alive. He has spoken at schools like Brown University and at a wide variety of festivals and events all over the country. 

Tapia, who often goes simply by his last name, has become a staple in the city of Providence, presenting his ideas and giving platforms to other artists. He has a Bachelor’s degree in The Recording Arts and a Master of Entertainment Business Science from Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida. His career thus far has given him experiences in all realms of the arts from designing to performing and even teaching the youth how to work with steel at PVD’s The Steel Yard. “It’s important to use what you have to your advantage and to share all that you can with others,” says Tapia.

This piece for Motif holds special value to Tapia as both an artist and a spokesperson for the Cibuco Bayamon Taino Tribe. The flags of multiple Caribbean countries are found beneath the ripples of water and reflection. Above that, two blue macaws are symbolic to the Arawak culture. The feathers of these birds are often used on headdresses and symbolize a guide through the tough times and a way to persevere and share their story, the right way. Those very feathers create the ripples that carry change across the piece. “I’ve been working hard to get here for a minute now and I do this because I worked hard and because now, I can. Why wouldn’t I share what I’ve learned, so more people take from that? I’ve learned so much about my ancestors from really looking into their stories and the discrepancies in information we have been given,” Tapia says. “I want to help others do the same.”

Follow Tapia on Instagram @tapiauno1

George Marshall, Founder of Flickers and RI International Film Festival, passes: George conveyed his love of cinema to generations of viewers and makers

The spectacle of the big screen, the joy of a story well told and heartstrings left barely intact: George Marshall loved all these things, and that was reflected throughout his life’s prominent work. Marshall was the founder and, for 40 years, the director of the Rhode Island International Film Festival. He taught film – be it to teens through KidsEye programs, or to college students at Roger Williams University and URI – for nearly as long.

Marshall passed away on November 1 at Rhode Island Hospital at the age of 68. He is survived by his husband, Larry Andrade, and by an extended family of filmmakers, students, viewers of his “Double Feature” podcast, and fans that reach around the globe.

RIIFF was truly an international event, and Marshall directly or indirectly introduced people from around the world to scrappy little Rhode Island. The festival is one of the few to nominate films for Oscar contention, a fact that routinely raises eyebrows unless you’ve been to the festival and seen the scale and intensity of the programming. It’s one of the events that lends credence to PVD’s mantle as the Creative Capital.

“RIIFF is George’s legacy,” said Shawn Quirk, long-time creative director at RIIFF. “We will honor him through it, and it will continue for many years to come.”

George left his mark on many aspiring filmmakers who went on to create cinematic greatness, hosting Oscar parties and creating interactive opportunities at festivals that spoke to smaller niches. He loved an opportunity to call attention to a less obvious or harder-to-find piece of art – to any great cinema that was at risk of being lost outside the limelight.

“George was a kind, gentle man who loved the arts, his family and friends. I consider him a brother,” said Steven Feinberg, executive director of the RI Film & Television Office. “We will miss him.”

RI Fall Arts Festivals Preview

Nothing says “Fall” quite like a bustling art festival full of vendors, artisans and happy attendees. Luckily, RI has some great arts festivals going on this year to quench our thirst for autumnal gatherings. 

Burrillville Arts & Crafts Festival (September 17 & 18) 

Happening in Burrillville this fall is the annual Burrillville Arts & Crafts Festival, which takes place at the Assembly Theater Grounds, which is only a stone’s throw away from the Harrisville Waterfall. This year’s festival is set to be jam packed with a pretty phenomenal list of activities and entertainment. 

One of the biggest events of the festival will be a laser light show, held on Saturday, September 17, at 8pm. The light show will be put on by Dynamic FX, and it is one of director Lisa Bevilacqua’s most anticipated events. In addition to the laser light show, there will be over 150 vendor booths including some local non-profit organizations; one exciting component will be the inclusion of service dogs, with a booth educating people about the benefits of service dogs and how they help the community. The Town Common will also hold a farmer’s market, along with some food trucks and acoustic entertainment. Among the list of acoustic performers will be Real Carpentier, an author who will multitask by selling his books and playing acoustic guitar on Sunday. 

Music and live performance, which can be heard all day both Saturday and Sunday, are a major focus this year. The genres performed are diverse: country can be heard from Whiskey Knights, classic rock can be heard from Jailbreak and Wicked Rhode, and some good-old-fashioned Godsmack covers can be heard from Headsmack (which I’m pretty stoked for). Full days of entertainment call for plenty of food and drink, and the festival does provide on this point. A variety of food trucks and vendors will be present selling a range of items, such as kettle corn, hot dogs, tacos and breakfast food. Chris Mishoe, the owner of the local Bravo Brewing Company, will be sponsoring the entire beer tent, serving his own brews and some special items with a portion of the sales being donated to veterans. 

Bevilacqua emphasizes how immersive and diverse of an experience this festival will be — with so many vendors, artists, musicians and authors, there is so much to do and so much to see, and who wouldn’t want to visit such a beautiful part of RI? 

Pawtucket Arts Festival (September 9 – 18)

This year, the Pawtucket Arts Festival has a ton of diverse events and activities to keep all sorts of crowds engaged. Festival director Anthony Ambrosino notes how the festival is meant to “celebrate the city’s creative and cultural life by presenting vibrant arts events to Pawtucket residents and visitors” in its 10-day timespan, with events spanning music, dance, theater, film and folk-traditional arts that “evoke the City’s historic legacy and diverse communities.” 

The opening weekend of the festival is being held on September 10 and 11, and it’s locally known as “Downtown LIVE!” This year’s Downtown LIVE! will feature a YMCA Community Block Party to celebrate local diversity, Empanada Fest to recognize the local restaurant community with a friendly competition, and Windows on Pawtucket, a public art gallery that visitors can either walk or drive by. For the week following, September 12 -16, everyone will be able to enjoy interactive crafts, engaging exhibits, and live performances to highlight “not only New England’s tremendous arts talent but the many beautiful locations featured within the Blackstone Valley.” 

Within the greater Pawtucket Arts Festival is the Slater Park Fall Festival, held on both September 17 and September 18 in two parts. Day one will feature the start of their arts marketplace and food court, and will finish off with a highly anticipated performance from the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and fireworks. Day two continues with some great entertainment, local food vendors and activities – for instance, you can catch the Pawtucket Library Bookmobile on site! 

All of the events going down at Pawtucket Arts Festival can be found on their website, pawtucketartsfestival.org. 

Scituate Art Festival (October 8 – 10)

Happening on the Village Green this October is the Scituate Art Festival, which will feature original fine art for purchase, interactive crafts, and antiques in an open-air market environment. Throughout the weekend, there will also be showcases of live music, like the high-energy Jesse Liam Band on Saturday, the jazz performing Kelly Lennon Band on Sunday and even an open mic on Monday! 

Alongside the festival entertainment and arts offerings, attendees can enjoy a wide variety of foods from the festival’s food court, which is organized by 11 nonprofit groups from the town of Scituate. From the Rotary Club’s doughboys, chowder and fries to the Shepherd of the Valley’s Willow Tree chicken salad, pumpkin pie and pulled pork. There’s a little something for everyone to snack on. Personally, I’m excited for the Potterville Fire Department’s apple dumplings. 

With food in hand, you can travel the Village Green to see a range of exhibitors present a range of works, with concentrations in antiques, ceramics, clothing, glass, illustration, jewelry and more. Hopping from vendor to vendor and checking out all of the amazing works on display can surely fill up a day, and in that case, it would be a day well spent!

Painting for Hope: Cathren Housley’s Wall of Hope fosters optimism among the youth of PVD

Cathren Housley began her work with community art projects and installations in 2007 when she worked with the RISD Museum and community members to create a wall mosaic depicting the Great Serpent Mound found in Adams County, Ohio. It was at this moment that Housley saw how community art could inspire children.

“When I saw the effect that being real artists had on kids and how it inspired them, I just kept wanting to do more of these,” said Housley.

For the last 15 years, Housley has worked on a number of community art projects, one of the biggest being the Great American Flag project which was done in conjunction with Ginny Fox and the Peace Flag Project in 2015. A series of three large tapestries of the American Flag were made out of small square pieces called “peace flags,” including squares contributed by then-RI Governor Gina Raimondo and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

Now, Housley has moved on to her next big project, the Wall of Hope at the Smith Hill Library in PVD. The Wall of Hope started in early July and is a planned art installation with the central concept that the content will be contributed by community members.

“This was my next opportunity to really do a project where I was bringing the entire community together and the idea behind it is that everyone who’s putting something on this piece of art is putting their thoughts for hope,” said Housley

Housley’s main inspiration and drive to create this collaborative piece was that she wanted to give the youth of lower-class neighborhoods in PVD the chance to express themselves and to discover the powerful outlet that art can be. She, along with Alan Gunther, the director of the Smith Hill Library, held workshops to help youth create their pieces for the wall. She was very successful with the participants and was even shocked by how well some of them were doing.

“They all had this idea that art was just a picture you hung on your wall… to say that they had no materials at home is putting it mildly… they didn’t have anything,” said Housley. “When we started giving them all this stuff to work with… it was just astonishing! You could see that the future was opening up for them in a new way and that’s why I’m inspired to keep doing it.”

The Wall of Hope will be a permanent installation located in the main entrance room of the Smith Hill Library with the idea that the messages behind each piece will inspire and bring a sense of optimism to those who view it.

“The idea is to have a magnetic centerpiece when it’s done so that everyone who comes and stands in front of it feels a sense of hope, is affected by the hope and the positive energy that everybody who worked on it contributed,” explained Housley. “Every kid who’s painting has got something special that they are bringing, and we’re going to feature all of it and give them credit in the final art.”

After the Wall of Hope, Housley hopes to expand the project and have one added to more community libraries in PVD. She also hopes (haha) to get back into collaborating with the Peace Flag Project and working on projects that represent women and people of color in the US.

“I feel like our connectivity to each other, our sense of community, is one of our biggest prospects for power, for people in ordinary life to have power,” said Housley. “When you get hundreds of people together, and you can combine their energy together in a cohesive form for power, for positive energy, wow! You can do a lot with that.”

Fall on the Streets: Walking around PVD artfully

Stationary Creature Envelope Windows by Erminio Pinque, @MinioMindWarp. Credit: The Avenue Concept

Despite the blazing heat of this summer, a number of artists – local, national, and international – have been changing the cityscape throughout Providence through the installation of several new public art pieces. As we enter the fall, with its cooler, comfortable temperatures and golden light, it is the perfect time to grab a cup of coffee, stroll or drive through the city, and explore some new artistic offerings. Here are some starting points.

Over in the Jewelry District, located between Clifford and Friendship Streets at the Garrahy Judicial Complex, is Del Pasado al Futuro – From the Past to the Future. This mural, completed in June, features a vibrant sunset over a multi-toned mountain range with a majestic moose crossing the terrain as the center focal point. The array of colors is striking: over 800 hues were hand-blended by the installation team to achieve the visual potency. 

The natural scene may feel remote because this is not what Providence looks like –and that’s the point. The artists behind the piece, Keir Johnston and Linda Fernandez of Amber Art and Design, a Philadelphia-based artist collective, wanted to evoke the history of the land before colonization. This mural recognizes the historical use of this region by the Narragansett people for moose hunting. Using the moose also as a symbol for fortitude and environmental sustainability, the piece connects both the past and the future. Funded by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts through the state’s Public Art Law, the mural is set to be in place for five years – but don’t wait until 2027 to see it!

Around the corner at 140 Friendship Street is one of The Avenue Concept’s newest installations, ARYZ x Emblem 125. The Avenue Concept is the local non-profit dedicated to fostering, curating and installing public art of all sorts in Providence. Internationally-renowned street artist Aryz was in Providence this July working on the two-part mural. Drawing on Rhode Island’s industrial history, the larger piece is a portrait of a woman with a sledgehammer resting on her shoulder, while the smaller mural features laborers pulling on a rope, tug-of-war-style, with the opponents just out of the frame. 

The addition of Aryz’s work to the Providence public art array is a remarkable accomplishment for the city. Born in California, but raised in Barcelona, Spain, Aryz is one of the leading street artists working in the field (or on the streets) today, having completed several large-scale murals across Europe and other major cities like Tokyo, Casablanca and Kyiv. Aryz’s two murals join those in Providence by other artists working on national and international stages like BETZ, Gaia, and Garden of Journey, all of which strengthens the city’s placement on the global street art scene. 

In addition to ARYZ X Emblem 125, The Avenue Concept has funded several other new 2D and 3D pieces in the city throughout 2022. To get an easy two-for-one viewing while on your jaunt, head over to 35 Weybosset Street to the Providence National Bank Facade. This curious Providence feature – just the free-standing exterior wall of a former building – showcases artwork by two local artists in the former windows of the structure. On the street side is Fu’una’s 401: After Winter Must Come Spring. Inspired by gardening lessons from her father as a child in Gloucester, RI, she depicts large-scale flowers interwoven with flames and smoke, illustrating the generative power of nature and the cyclic rhythm of life. Walking around to the parking lot side of the Facade, one will find STS by @MinioMindWarp, art moniker for Erminio Pinque, comics page editor for Motif. The alien creatures in STS, colorful and robust, echo the visuals of the Big Nazo characters who often pop up through Providence (and on our comics page!) and beyond. 

Heading over to South Providence, painted at the intersection of Daboll and Public Streets, is a new ground mural by local artist Rene Gómez. This installation was funded by the City of Providence through a grant from the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Asphalt Art Initiative, a national program aimed at projects that use art to improve street safety, increase community engagement and activate public spaces. The application was open to all US cities in March 2021, and Providence was one of 26 selected to receive funding. 

Multi-disciplinary pop artist Rene Gómez was selected after PVD put out an open call for submissions. Composed of brightly colored, angular shapes, this piece is eye-catching whether you’re on foot or in a car. Gómez, who was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the US at age four, was inspired by the vivid hues often found in the Caribbean. The mural, painted onto the asphalt of a narrow intersection, can creatively function as a stage: Rhode Island Latino Arts hosted a pop-up bachata lesson in August, one of what will be many engaging public events. 

Interested in public art, but looking for a guide? Local arts organization Gallery Night is offering two free, family-friendly walking tours on Sunday, September 11, at 11am and 1pm. If you can’t make either of those, they also regularly offer free tours on the third Thursday night of the month. Check out gallerynight.org details. 

Jennifer Wilson is a Rhode Island based artist in multiple media and participates in Gallery Night Providence as a tour guide and tour planner.

Fall Theatre Guide

Temperatures may be falling, but things are heating up in the theater community with the start of a new season. Between musicals, straight plays and new works, there is something for any theater lover to enjoy among this fall’s varied selections.

A new school year means the collegiate theater scene will soon be up and running. First up, Rhode Island College begins its season with Radium Girls, a true story of a miracle cure-turned-deadly and the fallout that ensued. Next up is the beloved rock musical about teenage angst and sexuality in a repressed society, Spring Awakening. University of Rhode Island will be presenting Polaroid Stories, a blending of myth and modernity based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Finally, Roger Williams University starts the year with a staple of community and school theaters, Almost Maine. They conclude the semester with Orlando, an adaptation of the Virginia Woolf novel about a young nobleman’s affair with Queen Elizabeth I.

The professional theater circuit isn’t shying away from heavy subject matter, with some hard-hitting season openers. Trinity Rep kicks things off with the critically acclaimed The Inheritance, an epic two-part play that weaves together three generations of gay men attempting to forge their future in the aftermath of the AIDS epidemic. In the capable hands of director Joe Wilson Jr., this is sure to be a can’t-miss production. Trinity Rep invites members of the community to make their own mark on this production by contributing the names of loved ones who have passed away from HIV/AIDS to appear in a soundscape memorial. 

The Gamm begins its season with another epic, generation-spanning play, Describe the Night, which follows the stories of eight men and women interwoven through Russian history and conspiracy. Later on, they will be tackling Sweat, a Pulitzer Prize winning play that tackles race and class issues through the lens of the working class of Reading, Pennsylvania.

Wilbury is kicking off its season with the world premiere of Silhouette of a Silhouette by Rose Weaver, a play dealing with loss and heartbreak through music. Next up is the Rhode Island premiere of The Humans by Stephen Karam, a play centered on four generations of an Irish-American family gathered for Thanksgiving.

If you need something a little lighter between these heavy dramas, rest assured, there’s comedy abound this season, too, beginning with The Community Players production of the madcap comedy Moon Over Buffalo. Down in Westerly, Granite will be presenting Oscar Wilde’s classic The Importance of Being Earnest. The Arctic Players has in store some much-needed levity with Social Security and Noises Off. Things will get extra noisy with another production of Noises Off presented by Swamp Meadow in Harrisville. Return to childhood with Peter and the Starcatcher, the prequel to Peter Pan, at Attleboro Community Theatre.

The recently launched West Bay Community Theater is planning a Halloween-themed musical showcase for its fall show. Auditions are pending as of this writing. Also pending is the rebirth of Kira Hawkridge’s OutLoud experimental theater, which is currently constructing a new space above Jordan’s Jungle at 545 Pawtucket Ave, Pawtucket, coincidentally right next door to Motif’s current offices. The Players at the Barker Playhouse, whose new (pre-COVID) space is right next door to where Motif’s offices usedtabe, will be showcasing 20th Century Blues, a sweet-hearted comedy by Susan Miller about aging and art being directed by local theater veteran Lynne Collinson. The Contemporary Theater Company is focusing on humor this fall, hosting the Ocean State Black & Funny Improv Festival from Oct 6 – 8, featuring headliners, guest troupes, workshops, parties and other activities. They also have, in addition to their regular improv comedy nights, The Thanksgiving Play covering late October and early November, a madcap satire by Larissa FastHorse about a group of “woke” art teachers throwing a pageant to bridge the backstories of Native American Heritage Month and Turkey Day. Mixed Magic also tackles indiginous issues with their October show, to be announced, and are excited for their Holiday Celebration starting in November.

Of course, there are plenty of offerings in the musical department as well. First off, the national tours swinging through PPAC this fall include Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, Mean Girls, Tootsie, and Les Miserables. For more homegrown talent, catch Jamestown Community Theatre’s Little Women, Stadium Theatre’s Cinderella, and Rhode Island Stage Ensemble’s Little Shop of Horrors. Youth talent will be on full display as well with JDP’s Young Frankenstein, Swamp Meadow’s youth production of Rock of Ages, and Matilda at Academy Players. For a new take on an old classic, check out The Assembly Theatre’s production of a new musical adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

Speaking of new works, we’ve got a few more of those in the pipeline. Local playwright Lenny Schwartz’s Bill Finger: Rise of the Bat, the story of long-uncredited Batman co-creator Bill Finger, will be performed at RISE before taking New York City by storm for a one-weekend engagement. Following previews at RISE last spring and FringePVD over the summer, Permanent Solutions by Cass Caduto, a play about mental health and human connection, will get its full run at AS220 in October. In addition to these new works, there is also a new female-founded theatre company on the rise in Barrington. Until the Fat Lady Sings Theater will be presenting the bard’s All’s Well that Ends Well as their first production this November.

48 Hour Film Project To Reveal Winning Films

You have to be a little crazy to try to write, plan, cast, shoot and edit a short film in just two days. Yet 16 teams of people who are that exact kind of crazy took part in the 48 Hour Film Project Providence in August.

The 48 Hour Film Project is an international competition, and Providence has been participating for 16 years now (full disclosure – the author was the Providence 48 Producer from 2006-2010).

Here’s how it works: Participants sign up with no idea what they’ll be filming. They can prepare equipment and crew, and line up possible cast and locations, but they can’t do anything else in advance. On the Friday night of the weekend there’s a kick-off event where required elements are revealed. A prop, a character and a line of dialog must be included – this year, those were a basket, Christy or Chris Nattingly, Hotel Employee, and “I have a question for you.”

One clever filmmaker featured a basket sitting randomly on its own by the roadside as characters race by. The characters stop suddenly and give the basket the hairy eyeball – a covert nod to the audience – they then both begin chasing each other again. To an audience in the know, it’s hilarious, but in general the idea is to try to come up with a story that relies fundamentally on those required elements. However you use them, you have to quickly come up with your story, produce and edit a film of 4 – 7 minutes. Ideally, but not always, a coherent film. Occasionally, a really great film. And it gets harder: At that kick-off event, each team pulls a genre out of a hat – anything ranging from Rom-Com to Horror, Mockumentary to Sci-Fi. The film needs to match that genre. It all comes together to ensure that teams conceive and make their films over the course of a single weekend.

The 48 HFP recently changed leadership, and the current Providence Producer is Melinda Rainsberger, who also led the project for a stint several years ago. “I love seeing the creativity and energy this experience brings out of people,” she explains. Rainsberger is a video artist, UX designer and motionographer based in PVD (more full disclosure – she also created the logo animations Motif uses on its video channel – check FB or YouTube for examples).

The annual event featured screenings on the Wednesday after the films were turned in. “In the spirit of the 48 and what the teams go through,” says Rainsberger, “I created all of the promo reels, programs and support materials in 48 hours.”

This year’s films were all turned in on time, which might be a city record. A few were disqualified for length or for misusing required elements. One film tragically dropped a line of dialog – the character says it, but the audio goes silent for a single random line, which turned out to be the required line. Better luck next year! At Wednesday’s screening, there were some less successful and some really engaging pieces, all conveying inventiveness and enthusiasm. Plots varied from the vengeance of undead relatives (a strikingly shot film by repeat participant Alyssa Botelho and Chicken Dinner Productions) to gangsters escaping a desert, and from a completely amoral team of burglars pulling a heist to the misadventures of a hotel-based serial killer (Who stays there? I guess all the guests do.) 

The award winners are selected by judges and from audience voting – you can see the winning films at an encore screening on Thursday, August 25 at AS220, 115 Empire St, PVD at 6pm. The screening will be followed by a QA with filmmakers whose weekend war stories can be as entertaining as the films themselves. You can also check back here after the event for a link to the winning films.

20 Years of Art and Expression: Riverzedge Arts has been an outlet for Woonsocket youth for two decades

“Riverzedge Arts is celebrating our 20th Anniversary with this cool new logo designed by the teen artists in our Graphic Design Studio.” Source: Riverzedge, Facebook

Nestled between 2nd and 3rd Avenue in Woonsocket stands a nonprofit art school housing students from around Rhode Island scrambling to finish their projects for an upcoming block party. Throughout the building, students are working on projects including graphic design, screen printing, woodworking and murals as a means of expressing their ideas and interests and giving themselves a stronger voice in the community.

Founded in 2002, Riverzedge Arts has, for the past 20 years, been dedicated to providing a creative outlet for youth from Woonsocket, Lincoln and other local communities while helping them build a skill set they can use in their future careers.

Though Riverzedge Arts is, at its core, an organization focused on bringing out the creative abilities of its students, they also offer academic support for the attending you such as connecting them with tutors. The organization also used to host an Expanded Learning Opportunities program where they worked directly with schools to design and administer alternative academic credits to students however, the program was recently let go.

I went on a tour of Riverzedge with Communications and Development Assistant Geo Darrow, who showed me around the school, provided a glimpse into the daily life at the organization and gave more insight into what Riverzedge does for the students who go there.

“So, what we do is we provide career training for local youth, particularly from underserved communities” explained Darrow. “We pay them to participate in the program, so they do get an hourly wage and then they’re in one of our four studios where they design and create different kinds of pieces and different kinds of projects.”

Executive Director Kristen Williams Williams explained that, while Riverzedge does not push for a specific agenda to be promoted in students’ art, they do support the messages that students choose to express.

“We want youth to feel welcome here,” said Williams. “We want to be able to say whatever our youth is saying.”

I also spoke with Kim Keiter who runs the print studio at Riverzedge about the kind of work they do there whether it be commissioned pieces or original designs.

“So, the way it works down here is somebody prints, either the whole shift or half a shift…and we check them for quality. Pretty much, from beginning to end, somebody is in charge of making the invoices correct…making sure everything looks good” explained Keiter. “For our own merch, it’s all hivemind stuff, really, what do we want to work on? What do we want to represent? What do we want to do? Then, we’ll come up with designs and polish them up”

In 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Riverzedge switched to virtual sessions and also set up a program where the students could come in and take any food or hygiene products to help them get by. Originally envisioned as a short-term program, it soon became a permanent fixture of the school.

“In response to the pandemic and all of the supply chain disruptions…we offered at the time what we thought was an emergency program to provide relief for the kids,” explained Darrow. “But we quickly realized that this is not a short-term problem…so now it’s a permanent part of our program and the kids can take anything they need for themselves or their families.”

Just outside is a public community garden that, as Darrow explained “…used to be run by a studio we used to operate called the Green Design Lab…they were the ones that grew everything in this garden, and then we gave it away so the community would have access to fresh local produce.”

Though Riverzedge eventually closed the Green Design Lab, the garden stayed open for use by the local community.

“We opened the community garden to the public so people can reserve a plot here a no cost,” said Darrow. “Since this is open to the public, they grow [the food] and do whatever they want with it.”

With this year marking 20 years of Riverzedge being open, the school celebrated with a block party. This block party was a youth-led event meant to showcase their work and let the community know what Riverzedge has meant to them.

Looking to the future, Williams hopes that Riverzedge can expand and continue to serve the local community. She explained their strategic planning which includes getting input from various stakeholders about how Riverzedge can continue to support the community.

“Woonsocket is a really impressive community,” said Williams. “The youth here are really involved. They want to change the community.”