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Diff’rent Strokes

Fine arts are making a comeback. Maybe it’s because of our “been there, done that,” mentality in regard to everything else of interest a city has to offer, maybe the “snob” connotation associated with the fine arts has finally worn off, or maybe we’re in the midst of a renaissance (no, probably not). Regardless, Rhode Island has made another move in making the arts accessible and exciting to those of us who don’t actually have any idea what we’re doing by welcoming Pawtucket’s Paint and Vino.

Popular in most of the country’s major cities, drink-and-paint events are pretty much exactly what they sound like they are. Participants sign up for a class that supplies them with a canvas, brushes, paint and booze while an instructor gives step-by-step instructions so that participants can replicate the work on display in their own artistic style.

Paint and Vino is one of, if not the, first of its kind in Rhode Island, tucked away between the historic, less seedy, part of Pawtucket and the Blackstone River Waterfall. P&V contributes its allure to its “no-experience-needed” attitude for those who don’t want to spend massive amounts of money on local college summer programs or go on a paint-supply shopping spree only to encounter expensive frustration.

And of course there’s the vino side of the deal. Classes include two complimentary glasses of beer or wine, likely to get the creative juices flowing.

Held every Saturday evening with some occurring on Fridays and Sundays as well, each session is taught by a local artist. Pre-registration is required online where you can also find out which painting will be taught throughout the month.

www.paintandvino.com

150 Main Street, Pawtucket

The Motif team headed to P&V for some Saturday night debauchery and to put our artistry to the test. The work of the night was a scene from an African sunset …

 

Too Much Paint

Artisté: Jeffrey Folker

Before I begin, I want to assure you, I am not an artist. I will never be able to draw anything more than a stick figure (I am pretty much the Monet of stick figures), yet here I am, sitting in a place where I never expected to step foot – an art studio. The staff is exceptionally polite and welcoming, attentive toward everyone who walks in. They set out to assuage any worries as to my artistic abilities; anyone can paint. I agree, but silently, I still have my doubts.

As suggested by the very name of the event, and my aforementioned lack of artistic ability, I came for the vino (well, the birra). Brewed locally in Pawtucket, Foolproof Brewing was on deck and I tried all three – there was a golden ale with a nice balance of bitter hops and sweet malt, an India pale ale that surprisingly was not all that hoppy, and a porter that had hints of chocolate and an almost nutty finish.

Two hours after beginning my painting, I was staring in disbelief at what I created. It is not the best painting in the history of the world, but I was not expecting it to be the best. Nevertheless, it surpassed all of my expectations. Sure, I may have used more paint than Van Gogh did throughout his entire life, but nevertheless, I am proud of my work.

Full Frontal Elephant

Artisté: Caitlin Ardito

When it comes to art, I’m not “in the scene,” to say the least. I ended up at a Prov Gallery Night a few months back and fell in love with the concept of putting something onto a canvas. I haven’t made it far past putting something on a piece of construction paper, really. I also came of the legal drinking age a year ago, so I’d say that my excitement for attending an event outside of a bar that serves complimentary wine is justified (for now).

Acrylic paintings of landscapes are apparently all about mixing colors. After what probably averaged out to four glasses of said vino (yeah, you only get two drink tickets, but …), I turned in my rainbow palette for a plate of primaries and got my blend on. I have to say, making colors is invigorating.  By the last pinot noir I was in the zone and it was time to sketch in the silhouettes of the mom and baby elephants. No, no, I can do one better. I turned that bad boy around to the front.

I sold my first work of art for $6. I think I can make a career out of this.

Sahara Slime

Artisté: Drew Curry

Acryllic and alcohol. Color and cabernet. Paint and Vino. I was excited to say the least. I haven’t painted anything in about a year, so I was looking forward to a good kick-start. Having an artist provide you with guidelines is always a great way to begin a piece.

Some time passes. Every artist is in their zone. I look around the room, but I see nearly the same painting on each canvas. I decide to wander a bit. I want my piece to be different. I try altering the color scheme, using different brushes and strokes, and just getting funky with it. I throw a little twist on the tree, add some monkeys, and try making the sky a trip all in itself.

I may have gone too far in that respect.

 

 




Rhode Island College Metalsmithing Students Present Scintilla

skull necklaceEach year, students in Rhode Island College’s metalsmithing/jewelry department are asked to organize a gallery exhibition featuring the work of both current students and students who have graduated from the program in the last year. Attendees of Scintilla, this year’s exhibition, will be able to view everything from fine jewelry to larger works of metalsmithing.

During the exhibit opening, which takes place on May 31 at Machines with Magnets, artists will be available to discuss with the viewing audience their work, their processes, and how they developed their concepts. This provides attendees with a unique opportunity to not only view beautiful works of art, but learn about the artists who created them.

Many students of the program credit its success with their professor Dianne Reilly. She challenges her students with projects such as creating a self portrait in the form of jewelry, designing a vessel to hold a tangible object and another to hold an intangible object, and creating a ring that pushes the boundaries of the traditional definition of a ring. Working on interesting assignments like these while learning various metalsmithing techniques allows students to practice their skills and let their imaginations soar.

View the fantastic results at the gallery opening on May 31 from 7 to 9 pm at Machines with Magnets, 400 Main Street, Pawtucket, RI. Additional viewing dates are June 1 from 12 to 6 pm and June 3 from 12 to 9 pm.




Who Will Represent Providence in the National Poetry Slam?

With the passing of 2013’s National Poetry month, I mourn the random email notifications that there is a poetic happening within moments from where I’m standing, all of my poet friends engaging in a NaPoMo 30/30 (that’s when people commit to writing a poem a day for 30 days) , and most of all, the words. But fret not, May is upon us.
In case you missed it, The Providence Poetry Slam held its semi-finals to preliminarily pick who will represent our capital city at the National Poetry Slam happening this summer in Boston, Massachusetts.
National Poetry Slam is an annual poetry slam tournament that gathers teams of four or five people from all over North America and Europe to compete for the national team title. The organization calls the event part Super Bowl, part poetry summer camp, and part traveling exhibition. The high-profile showcase is held in a different city every year, and Providence is a well-known powerhouse in this competition. Our city has proved itself year after year as being more than formidable when it comes to creativity and moving performances.
May 2 will be the Providence Poetry Slam Finals, something you won’t want to miss. The semi-finals proved to be not just a shaking of the tree, but a bulldozer monster truck trail blazing through the Garden of Eden. Hosted by “Women of the World Poetry Slam” finalists and Providence residents, Laura Lamb Brown-Lavoie and Franny Choi, everything from the open mic to the reading of the final score big-banged brilliance into every dark silence attempting to remain inconspicuous at a poetry slam. Eleven poets showed up like gunfighters at high noon, but only eight could make it to the big show. This eight includes three long-time poetic pugilist veterans, an international slam champion, two brothers keeping it in the family, and a couple of freshmen and sophomores who can definitely carry the torch for a couple of legs in this race. So don’t miss this event. It will definitely scare away any bit of winter hanging around.
At As220, every last Tuesday of the month and totally unrelated to Providence Poetry Slam, is CousCous. Started by Mairead Byrne, CousCous is the exact opposite of Olympic-styled poetry. Mairead has handpicked her performers since its conception. Because of her deliberate choices, CousCous is a mix of music and poetry that blends the academic aesthetic with the hip wobblies’ community of Providence. Doors are at 8 pm, and be sure to get there early because there is an open mic that fills quickly.  Also happening is Got Poetry Live. You can find it every Tuesday at Blue State Café on Thayer at 8 pm.



There’s Beauty in the Decay

I’ve been known to plan entire vacations around street art. Give me a dilapidated building and a dusting of spray paint, and I’m putty in the hands of the graffiti gods. One aspect of Lisbon that originally drew me to the city is its wealth of murals, most of which marry architectural details with carefully crafted compositions.

Just off Praça Marques de Pombal stands this piece by Blu (Italy) and Os Gémeos (Brazil). The street artists were brought to Lisbon along with others from around the world as part of the 2010/2011 CRONO Project in an attempt to breathe new life into the city’s worn buildings. Click here to see a video of its creation.

Italy’s Erica Il Cane painted this kooky crocodile on an adjacent building, brightening its once wan front. After wandering around this neighborhood and heading up the hill on the right side of Hotel Fénix Lisboa, I stumbled upon a ton of camera-worthy designs. If only every city had this much personality.

After I met my boyfriend on a flight from Lisbon to Philly, I visited him in San Francisco where he was living at the time. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, he told me he had planned a surprise. He hailed a cab and asked the driver to bring us to Balmy Street. As we drove deeper into a seemingly rough neighborhood, I wondered what it could be.

He helped me out of the car, and held my hand as we approached the street sign. I turned and feasted my eyes on the most charming pedestrian street, covered top-to-bottom with graffiti. I looked at my guy as if he had given me a million dollars. It was the perfect gift, and so thoughtful; he’s not even into street art.

I think I’ll keep him.




Art is Accessible at Gallery Night Providence: Video


I am not an artist. I can’t paint or draw or analyze a landscape. My friends aren’t artists. We don’t discuss art. Our outings are uncultured to say the least. But I fell in love with Gallery Night Providence. And you will too.

GNP is, in simplest terms, an art crawl. On the third Thursday of every month from March through November, 25 Providence galleries and “art spots” participate in a city-wide event. The concept is simple: Hop around the map on your own or take a tour. School buses leave from the Regency Plaza throughout the night, taking tour-goers to a series of four or five spots on the map. Fun fact: Prov is the only city in the country that offers free transportation on their gallery night, making the event one of the best free outings the state has to offer.

Most of the participating art spots coordinate their opening nights and events to Gallery Night, so its essentially a moving celebration. Before ever stepping foot into a gallery, the only exposure I’ve ever had to the scene was from television. Old swanky ladies and men in berets, chicks with purple hair, men in suits and women in outrageously high heels sipping on wine and nibbling cheese while discussing the art that surrounds them with the people that created it. This is actually what its like. This exists in Rhode Island.

The general population stays away from these types of events because if they’re anything like me, they figure first, they’ve never touched a canvas so they won’t “get” it, and second, it will be boring. What I didn’t realize until standing face-to-face with a painting was that looking at art is just as stimulating as listening to it or reading it. If a sculptor or painter is putting extensive amounts of time into a piece, the story it tells can be  just as dynamic as a scene in a film or lyrics in a song. And more often than not at GNP its creator is there to tell it to you.

The art you’ll see on the stops at GNP goes beyond pastels on a canvas. See for yourself this coming Thursday, April 18. Head to www.gallerynight.info.

In the meantime, see what Debralee had to say about it at last month’s edition below.

 




Got Poetry Live!

It’s Tuesday night at Blue State Café on Thayer. Like any night, the staff is serving specialty drinks and pastries in a brightly lit room surrounded by the décor of a local artist, which expels the classroom-like feel created by the standardized tables and chairs. But tonight is different. It’s Tuesday night, which means it’s Got Poetry Live!

Got Poetry Live! was started in 2006 at Reflections Cafe in Providence by Tony Brown, John Powers, and Nate Hutnak. It was created from the ashes of The Spoken Word reading that had, in one form or another, existed since the early 1990s. In the passing of that reading, the three wanted the tradition of Tuesday night poetry to continue, as well as provide a non-Slam alternative. Ryk McIntyre came on as co-host in late 2007. In 2008, the reading moved to Blue State Coffee, where it has been ever since.

Ryk McIntyre (the now host) opens the night with a cover poem, then starts the open mic. “The chimneys release waves of cedar smoke over the horizon that put historic college hill to shame.” Katrina reads from her bible palmed journal, and one can see the crowd snuggle into the bed and blanket of words that warm the silence.

Referred to as a “listening room,” Got Poetry Live! provides a reading for those who choose not to slam or who want a quieter, more relaxed environment. The open mic and features draw from the world of performance poetry, academia, and Hip-Hop poets. “We also have musical features,” says Ryk, who readily exclaims, “We try to mix it up.”

One by one, the word quilters stich their patch onto the night. “Leave your message after the beep, hope you are not out in the cold, this blizzard is Murda,” an over exaggerated Boston accent entwined within a gruff, rugged voice spews from a plaid-shirted beard behind the microphone. “I write my letters in planet dust, I write love letters in binary code, the words are more 1s than 0s,” says Rachel. “The clouds quarrel over gossip and truth,” goes Darmont. If fostering a room for listeners to hear poets is the goal, Got Poetry Live! is hitting its mark.

I asked Ryk what he likes the most about his venue, and he replied, “There are too many great moments to remember. What I like most is when a first-timer comes to the mic. Whatever the reading series, wherever, you are only as good as the flow of new poets, new ideas, and new blood that comes through the doors.”  Harboring a supportive community, I’m sure there will be no lack of new blood entering through the doors.

Got Poetry Live! is every Tuesday at 8 pm at Blue State Café. Our March features include Dana Rowe, Kris Weinrich, Jason Henry Simon-Bierenbaum, and Ryk McIntyre. Other happenings are Mairead Byrne’s  Couscous, which happens the last Tuesday of every month at AS220. For other poetic goings-on, you can check the AS220 website.

 




“Ways of Seeing: American Art” at RISD

The RISD museum furnished a soft light which set a relaxing tone for the “Ways of Seeing: American Art” workshop, on Thursday. Attendees, from varying backgrounds gazed into the neoclassical artworks of Thomas Cole and other American landscape painters on display. Workshop facilitators, Horace Ballard and Deb Clemons, led an interactive forum that captivated the crowd with personality, history, and of course – art.

The crowd seemed comfortable and interested. There was a air of curiosity, in the gallery. Ballard soon introduced Thomas Cole’s “Landscape”, painted in 1828, as the topic of discussion. His description – followed by a historical reference and an Emily Dickenson poem, written in the same year – conceptualized art through time. By connecting individual paintings to historical contexts, discussions encouraged those attending to make connections across multiple mediums of expression.

“Ways of Seeing: American Art” is a part of the “Ways of Seeing” series that explores everything from American landscape painters to French Impressionists. In just one hour, Ballard and Clemons provided entertaining conversation; while encouraging attendees to view classic artworks on a deeper level. The RISD museum’s once monthly workshop, “Ways of Seeing”, sheds a soft light on the beauty of art, time, and perspective.

 




Analyzing the artists of North Kingstown’s Shady Lea Mills


I scan my memory searching for a life jacket story, but all I can think about is how clean her studio is. I thought artists were supposed to be messy. It suddenly became clear to me that I over analyze everything each time I walk into an artist’s studio space. And at Shady Lea Mills 15th Annual Open Studio Tour earlier this month, I feel more like a giddy psychoanalyst than a reporter on the job.

There were over 40 studios to peruse. My original plan was to interview Michael Richardson, Justin Tarducci and Timothy Underwood of Anchor Bend Glassworks, but my plan failed beautifully because they were too busy popping popcorn inside of freshly blown glass to an amazed crowd. While I waited for the flock to dissipate, I wandered from studio to studio, mentally deconstructing each artist’s psyche.

Casey Weibust’s space has a warm, cozy feel, almost every inch covered in art. “You don’t have to be an amazing artist to do printmaking; you can just experiment and be free to create,” Casey says. “This is how we used to make images before we had computers.” I found myself wishing for a time machine to transport myself 50 years into the past.

I am soon lured into a studio with couches, low lights and a strong aroma of sandalwood incense. “I work on keeping it a certain vibe,” said Claudia Flynn. She continues to talk, but I’m distracted by the baby doll head on the body of a deer. Flynn’s voice begins fading in and out because I swear her creations are so powerful they speak louder than words.

I arrive back where I started at Anchor Bend Glassworks. Co-owner Michael is more than willing to give me what is probably his 10 billionth glass blowing lesson of the day. He is an amazing teacher and made me feel like I created a grand piece of art. Not to sound cliché, but there is something mind blowing about making art out of liquid glass. Oh, and as for my “professional” diagnoses, I have none. Let’s just say I was blown away.

Yosefa Leora is a journalist based in Rhode Island. She can be contacted at yomotif@gmail.com or at DareMe Yosefa on Facebook. She can also be followed at @goagnome on Instagram.

Image Credit: Claudia Flynn




2nd Story Answers the Call

J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls opens on a family at a dinner party, coat tails and white bowties in abundance. Everyone is snooty, and often, characters retire to the drawing room. I have no idea what a drawing room is. And unless you were choking on mustard gas in the trenches in the Great War, you probably don’t either.

2nd Story’s production of An Inspector Calls is a worthy examination of our relationships and our interconnectedness with society. The patriarch of the Birling family, Arthur (Tom Roberts), whose character falls somewhere between Thurston Howell, III and J.P. Morgan, asserts that he “Cannot let the Upton Sinclairs do all the talking … a man must mind his own business.” This isolationist attitude was popular in Victorian-era America. The wealthy were content and complacent and this script provides some heavy conflict to completely ruin that attitude for the Birling family.

As the Birling dinner affair winds down, Inspector Goole (Vince Petronio) comes to the estate and begins an unwelcome inquisition. A working class girl named Eva Smith committed suicide, and it seems each Birling is connected. As the Inspector, Petronio almost comes off like a supervillain. His psychological probing borders on devious, and he casts the weight of villainy onto each person he interrogates. Petronio is all at once smooth, animated, commanding, and subdued.

The dinner party the Inspector interrupts is the celebration of Sheila Birling’s (Laura Sorensen) engagement to Gerald Croft (Tim White). It’s revealed that Sheila got Eva Smith fired from her job because Eva laughed when Sheila was too fat to fit into a dress, and Gerald had an affair with Eva while she was under an alias. Gerald is initially a pretty unremarkable character. He has the kind of lifelong affluence that results in a Romney-esque personality of room-temperature oatmeal. But when White recounts the evening he first met Eva, he is engaging and honest, and you are left helpless but to immerse yourself in the film reel of memories that follows.

Sybil Birling (Joan Batting) is kind of like Cruella de Vil with some Nurse Ratched peppered in. She refuses to take responsibility for anything, and Batting plays her with a coldness that is almost decadent. As black sheep/slacker son Eric, Jeff Church offers great contrast to the uptight snobs of the Birling family. From his first entrance, he is slouching and completely disinterested in the ongoings of family life. Eric has the most tragic connection to Eva Smith, but you are unaware of the humanity of his character until the connection is revealed. I always appreciate characters who are more than what they seem; and moreover, actors who recognize that quality.

Ultimately, each family member is made to realize that their position of privilege has somehow negatively impacted the world, if only epitomized in Eva Smith. The Inspector leaves as mysteriously as he came, leaving the Birlings in wonder.

An Inspector Calls questions responsibility and truth. Can we really take credit for all we have? Are we worthy of those we love? Do we learn from our failures, or are we doomed to repeat them? Even fabricated circumstances can bring about a realization of profound truth.

Performances will run through December 2 at the 2nd Story Theatre in Warren. For ticket information, call 401-253-9300 or visit www.2ndstorytheatre.com.