1

We Want You Back!: After a year without festivals, we miss them

Rhythm and Roots Festival, 2019; Photo by Phil Stewart

Some claimed that by 2019, we had hit peak festival and there was nowhere to go but down. But we didn’t quite see last year’s total festival cancellation coming. And like a jilted lover who only now realizes what we had, we want you back, festivals. We promise we’ll appreciate you better.

Although it appears that festival planners are baby stepping into the season, with many reluctant to announce their plans at time of press, some are diving right in with COVID protocols in place. We’ve rounded up a list of the best festivals the season has to offer (so far). And before you start complaining about the powdered sugar from your doughboy sticking to your sunscreen-coated face, just think about last year and how lonely you were without them.

Providence’s art, culture and culinary communities traditionally came together each year to kick off summer with PVDFest. But this year, it’s going to  be a little different. The festival is being coy so far by releasing nothing more than a slickly produced teaser video and some dates, but we’re here for it. Citywide events to take place all summer long, with a summer closer taking place the weekend of September 25 – 26. for more info, pvdfest.com

The 38th Narragansett Art Festival returns with artisans exhibiting their work, including acrylics, oils, pastels, watercolors, drawings, graphics, sculpture, photography and more. Jun 19 – 20. Veterans’ Park, 35 Ocean Rd, Narragansett. wakefieldrotary.com

For everyone who loves flowers and mansions (who doesn’t?), the Newport Flower Show is back in bloom with a reimagined presentation. The three-day event, held at the historic Rosecliff Mansion, offers self-guided tours of garden displays on the first floor of the mansion. Jun 18 – 20. 548 Bellevue Ave, Newport. newportmansions.org

Wickford Village is well-known for its eclectic shops and colonial homes, and it is also well-known for hosting one of the longest-running outdoor art festivals in New England. The Wickford Art Festival, produced by the Wickford Art Association since 1962, will invite more than 200 artists from across the country to exhibit their fine art. An added bonus: RI doesn’t collect sales tax on fine art sales, so shop away! Jul 10 – 11. Wilson Park, North Kingstown. wickfordart.org

The Narragansett Lions Club has been hosting the Blessing of the Fleet Celebration since 1972. Over the past 47 years, the event has grown from one day to a full three days of celebrating! The Blessing of the Fleet Celebration includes a three-day festival that includes a 10-mile road race on Friday and the blessing of the fleet on Saturday, with hundreds of vessels joining the parade! Jul 22 – 24. Memorial Square, Narragansett. narragansettlionsclub.org

The Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF), is a six-day festival that’s going hybrid this year. Screenings happen online and at various locations around the state. RIIFF has been a qualifying festival for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences qualifying event in three categories since 2002. Aug 9 – 15. film-festival.org

Dogapalooza Family Festival is a two-day festival with live music, children’s entertainment, food, vendors, crafts, raffles and contests. The festival offers free admission and free parking, with all committee tent proceeds benefiting the Pawtucket Dog Park. Jul 31 – Aug 1. Pawtucket Dog Park at Slater Memorial Park, Newport Avenue, Pawtucket. pawtucketdogpark.com

The 5th annual Looff Arts Festival brings together artists, authors, live entertainment and more along the scenic EP waterfront. The Looff showcases all types of art and a Writers Row. And don’t forget to take a spin on the Looff carousel! Aug 14. Crescent Park, 700 Bullocks Point Ave, Riverside. eastprovidencearts.org

Head on down to the 55th annual Washington County Fair! COVID-safe planning is still in progress, but planners have officially scheduled the 5-day event. Aug 14 – 18. Washington County Fairgrounds, Route 112, Richmond. washingtoncountyfair-ri.com

The 12th annual SENE Film, Music and Arts Festival will take place this summer, with a bonus fall SENE taking place in October. This festival is dedicated to giving life to independent cinema, music and art. Jun 17 – 19. Artist’ Exchange, 50 Rolfe Square, Cranston. senefest.com

Food Festivals

Attention all seafood lovers! The Charlestown Seafood Festival is a must-attend event – lobsters, steamers, fish and chips, chowder, a raw bar and more! Don’t like seafood?? No problem! The festival offers foods for every taste. Aug 6 – 8. Ninigret Park, Park Old Post Rd, Charlestown. charlestownrichamber.com/seafoodfestival.html

As summer winds down, check out the 9th annual Rhode Island Seafood Festival. Enjoy the delicious offerings from a wide variety of seafood vendors, live music, beer, wine and spirits, and planned activities the whole family can enjoy. Sep 11 – 12. India Point Park, 201 India St, PVD. riseafoodfest.com

Music Festivals

The Newport Music Festival’s month-long schedule includes an array concerts and events. Many of them are already sold out, so get your tickets now!. July. newportmusic.org

The Newport Folk Fest, recognized as one of the first modern music festivals in the country, made some COVID adjustments this year, and turned it into two 3-day events to allow for social distancing. As of this writing, the schedule hasn’t been announced, but it’s already sold out. Jul 23 – 25 & Jul 26 – 28. Fort Adams State Park, 90 Fort Adams Dr, Newport. newportfolk.org

The Newport Jazz Festival, will expand to three days this year, with reduced capacity each day. The event features four stages, beer and wine gardens, food and crafts. Jul 30Aug 1. Fort Adams State Park, 90 Fort Adams Dr, Newport. newportjazz.org

Blues, food, drink and the outdoors makes for a perfect summer afternoon at the Rhode Island Blues Festival. It offers everything from traditional to modern blues, the event showcases both established and up-and-coming blues musicians from across New England. Jul 17. Mulligan’s Island, 1000 New London Ave, Cranston. ribluesfest.com

There’s Labor Day weekend fun for the whole family at the Rhythm & Roots Festival. The annual event attracts attendees from all across the US and Canada. A perfect summer sendoff, R&R offers music, dance floors, delicious food, children’s activities, workshops and more! Sep 3 – 5.  Ninigret Park, 5 Park Ln, Charlestown. rhythmandroots.com

The Rhode Island Folk Festival, formerly Providence Folk Festival, returns this year with three stages of live performances. The free music event was the 2017 Motif Magazine Award winner for Best American Festival. Aug 29. Rose Larisa Park, 701 Bullocks Point Ave, Riverside. providencefolkfestival.com

Cultural Festivals

The Day of Portugal celebration, which has taken place since 1978, offers live entertainment, food, dance, a parade and a spectacular sunset torch procession. Jun 13. Waterplace Park, PVD. ridayofportugal.org

The Japan America Society of Rhode Island presents the 38th annual Black Ships Festival, celebrating the friendship between Japan and RI. The event is marked with Japanese arts, music, martial arts and a free drum concert. Jun 12 – 13. Independence Park, Thames Street, Bristol. blackshipsfestival.com




Hear Us Out!: Morning, noon or night, our expert helps you plan the perfect Newport outing

Surprise! You have a whole day to yourself! Why not go to Newport? I know what you’re thinking as you groan and roll your eyes in my general direction: lack of parking, zillions of people crowding the streets and long lines for that one weird bathroom on Bannister’s Wharf. I get it; however, Newport in the summer is home to some truly amazing experiences for the mind, body, and soul. That is, if you’re willing to venture off the beaten path to try them.

Morning:

Any good day in Newport starts with breakfast on Bellevue at Cru Cafe! This darling courtyard spot not only has the greatest avocado toast in town (order it “Twisted” style with smoked salmon and capers for a truly tantalizing treat), but is also BYOB. Don’t want to imbibe? Head across the parking lot to Bellevue Nutrition to fuel up with a Dunkaroo Protein Shake or a supersized Watermelon Jolly Rancher Mega Tea before tackling the Cliff Walk or, if you’re looking for something a bit less taxing on your feet, a leisurely stroll around Audrain Automobile Museum’s showplace of vintage vehicles might just be the stop for you. Check out their “Cars and Coffee” event, offered every other Saturday at various locations around the island.

Afternoon:

Newport is packed with history, but you could satisfy both your mind and your stomach on a Rhode Island Red Food Tour. Take a guided jaunt around Broadway where the funky flavors of local restaurants blend seamlessly into a neighborhood steeped in the essence of days gone by, and you have a wonderful way to while away the afternoon. Or if you want something a bit quicker without sacrificing any charm, dig into a Meat Pie at Megs’ Aussie Milk Bar, where owners Megs and Haydn Bugden serve up authentic bites and refreshing smoothies with relaxed Down Under hospitality. Cap off your foodie adventure with a Newport Classic Car Tour, where proprietor Ken Hudson is driven to ensure that every guest feels like a Gilded Age millionaire as he chauffeurs you and your friends in a 1924 Studebaker on a trip back in time that would make Gatsby proud.

Evening:

The Top of Newport roof deck at the Viking Hotel is the best place in town to watch the sunset, and local troubadours The Yacht Club Rejects provide the soundtrack to summer nights as they serenade locals and tourists who come to drink in the panoramic views and creative cocktails like the classic Best Seller Espresso Martini, made with local Rhodium coffee vodka. If you’re in the mood for food, head to Broadway, where you’ll find Leo’s Market, which serves up the best Latin cuisine in town. Step right up to the counter in the back of the store to order my personal favorite, the Al Pastor Tacos, featuring marinated adobada pork topped with fresh veggies, lots of cilantro and handcrafted spicy salsa verde. If you’re looking to channel your inner Gossip Girl, you can’t go wrong with Clarke Cooke House’s iconic Summer Sushi Bar, where you can see sushi chefs nimbly assemble tuna hand rolls, local shrimp sashimi, and seemingly endless plates of wakame seaweed salad. Get a seat by the open-air windows on the first floor — it’s the best people watching in town! After your feast, burn off the calories with a fun Newport Silver Screen walking tour offered through collaborative experience space Huddle. This 90-minute excursion takes guests to all the spots in town where film fabulousness was made, and even includes popcorn pairings from Inpopnito Popcorn along the way – Bacon and Waffles popcorn for The Demon Murder Case, a flick starring a 19-year-old Kevin Bacon, anyone?

Late Night:

Caffeine-addicted Rhode Islanders, rejoice! The Nitro Bar just opened a third location on Thames Street in Newport, but what sets this locale apart from the rest is the welcome addition of a late night menu, served on Friday and Saturday evenings ‘til 10. Select noshes include a housemade Crunchwrap that puts Taco Bell to shame, a giant hunk of Chocolate Pretzel Cake oozing with caramel in every bite, and of course, an affogato made with freshly brewed espresso and local black raspberry ice cream that will keep you up through the wee hours. Head down the street to take in a show at the Bit Players, another BYOB venue for improv comedy that’s been making folks laugh for over 10 years, and after a year of hiatus from the pandemic, they’re back with a full slate of shows for the summer, and as a lover of live theater, I couldn’t be more excited! Finally, after an exhausting but super fun day, you’ll want to crash at the Chart House Inn on Clarke Street, a comfortable and homey oasis just steps away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Newport. It’ll be easy to dream sweet dreams of your day in the City by the Sea as you drift off, and waking up to innkeeper Margaret Pardee’s homemade lemon poppyseed muffins at breakfast in the morning isn’t so bad, either!

There’s something truly special about Newport — it’s a meeting ground for travelers and townies alike, with something for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a low-key or super extra way to spend the day, because you’ll find it here, as Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, “in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, Solar System, Earth, Milky Way.”




Irish Eyes are Waiting

Last year, many of us soothed our disappointment over St. Paddy’s related cancellations with what we now know was an erroneous thought: Well, there is always next year.

So, it’s deja vu all over again. And while the City of Pawtucket went ahead with their parade in 2020 and Newport officials engaged in a much-publicized back-and-forth over whether to hold their famous event, eventually deciding to cancel it, this year it’s certain there will be no marching through the streets in March in either city (the Newport City Council is eyeing a September date).

But all is not lost. With some barroom restrictions likely to remain in place come St. Patrick’s Day, we can be certain Rhode Island denizens will be searching for whiskies and pints wherever socially distanced seating is available. 

And according to the President of the Museum of Newport Irish History, Michael Slein, though the traditional revelry will have to wait a while longer, people can still take the opportunity to learn about the reasons for the annual celebration in the first place. Rhode Island has the fifth largest population of Irish ancestry in the country, after all. 

“I tell people [to visit places] that are characteristic of Irish culture and history,” he said. “One of them is [the Cliff Walk’s] Forty Steps, where all of the mansion workers went on their one night off of work from the mansions to dance and to court and sing songs.”

Another Newport site recommended by Slein is the Barney Street Cemetery (officially known as St. Joseph’s Cemetery), situated behind the Touro St. Synagogue. “That was the first Irish Catholic parish in all of Rhode Island,” he said. “It’s a beautiful little park and an enjoyable spot to walk to when you’re in town.”

But for those determined to eke out as much of the stout, meat and potato tradition as possible, he reminded everyone that the state’s plethora of Irish pubs could use all the help they can get.

“There are so many good restaurants that need to be supported,” he said. 




Get Out!: Free, fun and socially distanced things to do

The weather is changing, and we’re sick of being quarantined, of being inside, and we want something to do. Right? Well, here are a few socially distanced and unique activities to add to your spring bucket list.

Are you even a Rhode Islander if you haven’t paid a visit to Mercy Brown’s grave? A famous “vampire” who has been featured on notable podcasts such as “Lore,” Mercy died young of tuberculosis after her mother’s and sister’s death of the same disease. When Mercy’s brother turned ill, townspeople and the town physician exhumed the family members’ bodies to test the theory that the dead were feeding on the living boy. Skeletons were in the graves of Mercy’s mother and sister, but Mercy’s 9-week-old corpse was undecayed. So, the logical conclusion was that she was a vampire. They burned her heart and liver, mixed the ashes with water and had her brother drink it to cure him of his own tuberculosis, but yep — he still died. This is a weird local piece of lore, and I highly suggest paying her grave a visit. She’s located in a quaint cemetery in Exeter at 467 Ten Rod Road that belongs to the small church on its grounds. Be respectful during your visit – there are many family plots here. (Also, I’m looking to start a band called ‘Rhode Island Vampire Panic,’ – I play no instruments, can’t sing, and cannot read music. Hit me up.)

And, speaking of famous Rhode Island residents, if you haven’t been to Lovecraft’s grave, it’s in Swan Point Cemetery off of Blackstone Boulevard in Providence. Fun fact? The headstone that currently marks his grave was not there when he died — fans raised funds in the 1970s to purchase it. And whether your pilgrimage is for history or fandom, please remember that Lovecraft was increasingly problematic and though we tend to claim his as our own, he’s got a deep-seated history of racism and misogyny. 

Let’s step away from cemeteries and into the movies. Moonrise Kingdom, one of Wes Anderson’s best films, was shot throughout the state. Although many of the film locations are private (eg, Suzy’s house, the church where she and Sam are married) a few are public. First are two beaches that were used for the film, both located at Fort Wetherill State Park (3 Fort Wetherill Road) in Jamestown. One of the beaches appears in the scene where they run away from their parents and pitch their tent for the night, the other is where “Moonrise Kingdom” is written into the sand in the film. The other public space you can visit is the Point Judith Lighthouse, which is used for multiple shots throughout the film. I recommend getting takeout from one of the clam shacks nearby and eating it in your car in the lighthouse’s parking lot. Maybe ponder some of the themes of the film? I mean, what is love, really? Seems the perfect convo for clam cakes and lighthouses. 

One of my favorite random Rhode Island facts is that in the year 2000, Hasbro decided to celebrate Mr. Potato Head being from Rhode Island by installing 37 life-sized (maybe a bit bigger) and themed Potato Heads around the state. No one knows what happened to all of them, but 21 years later, you can still find a few around the state. The easiest one to get to is in the parking lot of Hasbro’s headquarters (he’s currently wearing a mask, so no risk of Mr. Potato head COVID-infections). I’ve seen the Fourth of July potato appear in Bristol.  I’ve also seen one in Warren at the Dunkin Donuts located at 670 Metacom Avenue. There are a few others rumored to be out there, such as a Betty the Elephant (who I just learned about!), Ms. Potato Head in Chepachet and a glamorous mosaic-esque potato at the Westerly airport. There are said to be fewer than 10 hanging around after 21 years, and they’re not always out – so take this one as a big challenge. How many can you find? What condition are they in? And remember: Don’t trespass just to high-five the spud.

One of my absolute favorite stops is The Newport Tower, which is in a grass field near the art museum in downtown Newport. No one knows with certainty the history of the tower. In fact, I’d argue this is one of the most controversial buildings in all of Rhode Island. Carbon dating shows the structure was built between 1635 and 1698, and there is speculation throughout Rhode Island about what this tower is about (it was built by pirates, it was built by the templars, it was built by aliens … okay, I haven’t heard that last one but let’s start a rumor). It’s fascinating and a truly beautiful structure to behold. Think of it as Rhode Island’s Stonehenge. Next to the tower is the Newport Tower Museum, where you can find a gentlemen who has a theory on what the tower is, and it’s fascinating. 

And last, but not least, head to Providence to find public art that you may not have noticed or known about. I recently was walking through downtown and stopped to really look at the Gun Totem in front of the Federal Courthouse. This 3,500-pound statue was made from more than 1,000 reclaimed guns by artist Boris Bally, and I’ll bet you’ve seen it, but never really looked at it. 

Please note that a few of the things on this list welcome the public, but are still on private property, so be smart here, and don’t be a jerk and trespass. 




Moving Images: Newport Art Museum selection highlights the plight of domestic abuse survivors

The Newport Art Museum has added a collection of works by world-renowned documentary photographer and activist Donna Ferrato, and will be displaying a curated selection in the Howard Gardiner Cushing Gallery that documents the plight of domestic abuse survivors. 

Donna Ferrato: Selections from Living with the Enemy will run from Feb. 6 to June 6. The exhibition includes defiant, vulnerable portraits of various subjects who wear on their faces the psychological trauma (and physical scars) of the violence they have experienced. Other photographs illuminate the perilous world navigated by battered women, such as the image of a man being led out of a kitchen in handcuffs while a crying woman and child look on, to a close-up of Becca Jean Hughes — standing behind the bars of a jail cell — who spent decades in a Missouri maximum security prison for shooting her husband while he strangled her. 

The judge in Hughes’s case disallowed the introduction of her abuser’s violent history as evidence. 

The exhibition is being arranged by Newport Art Museum senior curator Dr. Francine Weiss and curatorial assistant Megan Horn. The museum was given a broader collection of Ferrato’s work in 2020. Weiss said the exhibition’s timing is no accident. With the rise in every form of abuse since the onset of the pandemic, it’s important to use art to tell these stories, she said. Opening 2021 with selections from a newly expanded permanent collection was one way to accomplish this.

“I’ve [always] liked the idea of doing an exhibition of collection works to show visitors what we have in the museum’s permanent collection that’s not always on display,” said Weiss. “But the idea to show these photographs at this time had to do with current events and the rise in domestic partner violence during COVID.”

Working as a photojournalist on assignment in New York, a chance encounter in 1982 led to Ferrato’s foray into using photography to document domestic abuse. She witnessed a physical assault in New Jersey of a young woman by her husband. The incident resulted in the first photo in what would become a decade-long project culminating in her 1991 published collection Living with the Enemy. Ferrato spent the bulk of the 1980s traveling the country, even staying in women’s shelters and accompanying calls with law enforcement, documenting in hyper-realistic detail what she saw. 

Ferrato is a tireless advocate for domestic abuse survivors. She founded the nonprofit Domestic Abuse Survivors Inc. and served as the organization’s president. With awards and accolades too numerous to mention, Ferrato’s work has been featured in more than 500 solo exhibitions. She launched the I am Unbeatable campaign in 2014, a multimedia archive meant to raise public awareness.

“For her, photography and activism go hand-in-hand. The photographs are linked to the reason she made them. She has the intention of promoting awareness of domestic partner violence and violence against women and children,” said Weiss. “Ferrato caught pivotal moments. She has a real gift for creating striking compositions.”

Ferrato’s earlier works display the freewheeling liberation brought on by the sexual revolution, exploring erotic subject matter deemed taboo in mainstream society. However, a darker side emerged. In her second book, Love and Lust, Ferrato wrote about her aesthetic transition: “I was now driven to reveal the unspeakable things that were happening behind closed doors.”

“It was intended to make people aware and even to bring about changes in the legal system. Living with the Enemy was groundbreaking in this regard,” said Weiss. “It didn’t pull any punches…. It was at a time when abused women who killed their abusers to protect themselves could not use ‘self-defense’ as a defense.”

Weiss hopes the viewership of their latest exhibition transcends the museum’s usual crowd. They are now in the process of planning a panel discussion, shooting for a date sometime in March, in partnership with local nonprofit organizations.

“She has already reached beyond standard museumgoers with her own work,” she said. “The intention was to show that abuse exists and its impact. Documenting the physical injuries, the presence of children in violent homes, even the deaths confronted people with a harsh and undeniable reality.”




Open/Closed

SAY HELLO

Notes Coffee Company: 508 Armistice Blvd, Pawtucket. They held their grand opening on July 17, this java shop is dedicated to melding music with a cafe scene.

Industrious Spirits Company: 1 Sims Ave, #103 PVD. iscospirits.com. Providence’s first distillery since the days of Prohibition. They specialize in gin and vodka, with bourbon currently aging. 

Wayfinder Hotel: 151 Admiral Kalbfus Rd, Newport. Formerly the Mainstay Hotel, this North End Newport hotel went under a $16 million renovation, with brand new walls, floors and ceilings. It has the largest hotel room of any establishment in Newport, and they are currently in the process of installing a fitness center (which is quite a workout). More than 1,000 pieces of local Rhode Island art have found their way there.

Open Air Saturdays: Every Saturday in August, Westminster Street in PVD will be closed to cars, so patrons can enjoy social distance shopping. Local businesses are hoping it will draw customers back to the downtown area. Who likes driving down Westminster Street anyway?

Crepe Corner: 1577 Westminster St, PVD. This breakfast/ Belgian eatery opened a new storefront in PVD on Westminster St.

Durk’s BBQ: Closing their Thayer Street location, this southern fried inspired eatery will be reopening sometime this month on Aborn Street.

WAVE GOODBYE

Loie Fuller: This art-deco styled restaurant was a jewel in PVD’s Armory District for over a decade. It closed July 29, with no plans to reopen.

Duck and Bunny: Under renovations since 2019, owners have announced it will not be reopening before 2021. Their satellite bakery in Pawtucket’s Hope Artiste Village, the Cafe and Sweetery, recently closed.

Greenville Inn: Owner-operators Diane and Jim Belknap ran this Greenville eatery for more than 23 years. While they thought of reopening for takeout, they enjoyed the time off at home and have officially retired. 

Knead Donuts: The Custom Street, downtown PVD location closed. Knead still has two other locations in Providence, and a new location in East Greenwich.

Luxe Burger Bar: When the weekday lunch crowd dried up, the fat lady sang for this Providence burger place.

Red Fin Crudo: This Washington Street eatery announced just last month they would be closing permanently due to the pandemic. Fin.

Public Art Gallery: Sadly even the biggest community boosters among us are facing a pinch. Public has been closed for five months, and due to a revenue shortfall, it will be vacating its current space when the lease ends this month. They’re planning to reopen in a new location in 2021. Anyone interested in donating to them to help with costs go can to: publicshopandgallery.com

Brickley’s in Wakefield has announced it’s temporarily closing. The decision comes as numerous beach businesses in Rhode Island face rude and unsavory customers who are upset by new COVID regulations.

Mulligan’s Island has been for sale for a while, and it may have a buyer. Developers from Massachusetts are seeking a mixed use planned district for the area, envisioning putting in a CostCo and other smaller scale commercial retail and restaurants. 

Pier 1 is the latest national retail big box chain to close. It had only two locations, one in Westerly and one in Warwick, but its closure shows it’s not just local business feeling the fallout from a pandemic.




Reading Across Rhode Island: A conversation with Kate Lentz of the Rhode Island Center for the Book

Photo credit: Rhode Island Center for the Book

Around the world, shared-reading programs bring communities together to experience a single work of literature. Canada’s public broadcaster sponsors a nationwide Canada Reads campaign. In Dublin, Ireland, One City, One Book welcomes readers into a narrative tied to the city. As Ocean State residents begin a new year by collectively opening Rising: Dispatches from a New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush, Motif’s Sean Carlson interviewed Kate Lentz, executive director of the Rhode Island Center for the Book, about the nonprofit organization and its 2020 Reading Across Rhode Island selection.

Sean Carlson (Motif): Now in its 18th year, how did this Rhode Island-wide reading initiative begin?

Kate Lentz: We created Reading Across Rhode Island in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, when fear, loathing and misunderstanding were palpable in our communities. Librarians, readers and educators committed to civic engagement as a way to create greater understanding across differences came together to select an inspiring book and to engage in a statewide dialogue. Through the power of stories, we designed the program with the intention of sparking discussion, creating spaces for sharing multiple perspectives and promoting new understandings of ourselves, our neighbors and the critical challenges that we face as a community. It was a positive step forward in the aftermath of such a tragedy, and it continues to be a powerful model to promote the common good. 

SC: What’s your process for managing partnerships and raising awareness about the 2020 program? 

KL: Rhode Island Center for the Book distributes thousands of books to libraries, schools and senior centers across the state. Our January kick-off event at the Save the Bay Center in Providence aimed to showcase resources and available programs for teachers, librarians and book-discussion leaders, to help infuse their conversations with scholarship and context. These enrichment materials include a resource guide, developed by our committee, and a curriculum guide, created by RI high school teachers. A collective of artists and educators called Living Literature will bring the subject matter to life through performance, amplifying the themes of Rising by organizing a theater adaptation and facilitating talk-back discussions for intergenerational audiences. These efforts are designed to promote discussion at libraries, bookstores, community centers, senior centers and businesses across the state and to inspire our community partners to develop their own programs and enrichments related to the book’s themes. 

SC: Although a local connection isn’t required, have you taken proximity into consideration?

KL: Our 2017 selection, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, reinforced for us the importance of proximity in achieving social change. Stevenson showed how we cannot isolate ourselves, that to create change in the world we each need to get closer to other people on the margins of society. We’ve tried to stay proximate since then, viewing each of our selections as a catalyst to talk about racism, environmental justice, democracy, immigration, identity and more. There’s something so powerful about how books propel critically important conversations and raise consciousness. Literature can take us places it’s often difficult to go.

SC: What kind of meaningful and measurable impact have you seen following previous picks?

KL: I believe the 2017 program featuring Just Mercy helped move the needle on the Justice Reinvestment Initiative in Rhode Island [ed. note: criminal-justice reform legislation signed into law by Gov. Raimondo in October 2017]. The following year, I received one of my favorite emails from a Providence teacher, describing her students’ enthusiasm for our pick, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: “I cannot believe how interested and involved the students are. They’re begging to take the books home and some are actually hiding them and sneaking them out of the school!” Last year, the Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management started agency book groups and brought Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha to speak to an inspired crowd about her memoir What the Eyes Don’t See detailing the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. It was meaningful that the event was sponsored by the two administrative branches of our state government most closely aligned with the themes the book explores. And the Childhood Lead Action Project in Providence further connected with our local communities, helping to educate audiences about childhood lead poisoning and environmental injustice here in Rhode Island. 

SC: Elizabeth Rush’s Rising examines the significance of rising sea levels with scientific research woven into deeply personal stories. What do you hope to see with this year’s selection?

KL: We’re really lucky to have a local author who has gifted us such lyrical prose, while including our state’s landscape in the narrative. Rising is a fascinating book, and it can move the needle on Rhode Islanders’ awareness of the climate crisis. Rather than be overwhelmed by the ominous prospects we face, we’ll be partnering with groups and focusing on presentations from folks pursuing positive action to give people a sense of the movement afoot that’s working to address this issue.

SC: And what kind of response have you heard thus far? 

KL: Before we even kicked off the 2020 program, we already had requests for books from more than 40 schools, libraries and senior centers. I don’t think we’ll be able to meet the demand. There is so much happening across our state, and it has been overwhelming in the best way possible to connect with all of the people and organizations who want to be involved.

As part of the 2020 Reading Across Rhode Island program, Elizabeth Rush will participate in events on Thu, Mar 12 at 6pm at Barrington Public Library and on Thu, Apr 2 at 1:30pm at the University of Rhode Island (South Kingstown) and at 6:30pm at Salve Regina University (Newport). Living Literature performances of Rising will take place across the state, and other events are planned. For more information, go to ribook.org/rari




Free and Oh So Fun: An endless Rhody summer

After surviving the truly menacing phenomenon that is the bomb cyclone and enduring chilly 40-degree weather in May (?!), we deserve some summer fun. And there’s hardly a better way to celebrate the best season than with free events. Sunscreen? $8. Del’s? $4. An out of this-world-summer? Priceless. Art lovers can attend the RISD Museum for free on Sundays and every third Thursday; the zoo is free on first Saturdays; and the library is, of course, easy on the wallet. And almost everyone knows about WaterFire. But if you’re looking for more summer-specific (and free) happenings, check out our roundup.

Movies

Sure, seeing a film in a theater is cool. But have you ever seen a movie outside while being caressed by summer air? According to their Facebook page, PVD’s Movies on the Block will be returning this year, but they have found a new home, with a kick-off screening date TBD. With films like The Big Lebowski and Dr. Strangelove, Movies on the Block has an array of movie tastes covered. If you’re not feeling like a film in the city, you could always check out Mount Hope Farm’s “Flicks in the Field” in picturesque Bristol. Screenings will be June 15, July 20 and August 17.

Music

Beer meets free tunes. Starting on July 12, the Burnside Music Series and Trinity Beer Garden returns. Grab some friends and catch the local stylings of DJ Justin Case every Thursday at 4:30pm for some live outdoor music. Bands like Boo City, Death Vessel and What Cheer? Brigade will all make an appearance. If you’re feeling fancy, the Rooftop at the Providence G will play music throughout the week, from reggae to rock. Westerly Town Beach’s signature free concert series is Tunes on the Dunes. Go for the lineup that features local blues and “Monday Night Jamz” from bands such as The Blues Beatles.

Beach

RI has some of the best beaches in the country — dare I say the world. Beach loyalists have their favorites — Narragansett? Second Beach? Misquamicut, anyone? — but whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong. You can swim, you can kayak, you can even surf. Beaches are magical.

Hiking

RI might not offer high peaks to scale, but we definitely have gorgeous scenery to explore by foot. The Mohegan Bluffs in Block Island offer particularly dramatic and stunning views. Sachuest Point in Middletown is striking for its views of the ocean and general solitude. The Cliff Walk nearby is touristy, but it’s popular for a reason! The views are truly unparalleled. The lush Narragansett Trail will take hikers across state lines — from Connecticut to our very own Hopkinton.

Awful Awful Mondays might not be free, but exploring beautiful RI is. With options like beach days to free music, hiking to art museums, Little Rhody packs a big punch.




Dancin’ on the Dock of the Bay: The Tipsy Seagull offers a bar experience like no other

 

The Tipsy Seagull is a seasonal floating outdoor bar located at the mouth of Narragansett Bay at Borden Light Marina, easily accessible from RI via RT195W. Whether you come by car or boat, you can enjoy the feel of the Florida Keys, dancing under palm trees and soaking up some rays. It’s not just for the daytime, though!Dan_Valcourt_

Musical entertainment can be enjoyed seven days a week from June through September. Vikki Regine, who is the keyboardist/vocalist for local rock band The New Nasty, enjoys performing here. “Love the Tipsy! Part of the charm is that it’s small, so we all kind of get to know each other by the end of the night.” She adds, “A lot of people just dock their boats next to it for the night and have their own party.”

This place is hopping, so be prepared to feel like a sardine among the other fishes, but if you’re lucky you might snag one of the dozen or so swings up for grabs at the bar on the upper deck. If you’re dancing below, or watching the water action from above at the railings, seating is a non-issue.

The Tipsy Seagull is open for lunch or dinner with a limited pub-style menu. If you wish for a more sophisticated pub menu, just a short distance up the road is their sister establishment, The Tipsy Toboggan Fireside Pub, which offers a quieter indoor or outdoor experience and an amazing goat cheese pizza.

There is a free public parking lot nearby and on-street parking is available. Attire is casual, but there is a strictly enforced dress code. For more information and events listings, go to thetipsyseagull.com

 

 




Salve Regina French Film Festival Returns

The 14th annual French Film Festival at Salve Regina University screens six films Sunday, Mar 17, to Friday, Mar 29, all open to the public.

L'Atelier ("The Workshop"), dir. Laurent Cantet
L’Atelier (“The Workshop”), dir. Laurent Cantet

Films include: Un beau soleil intérieur (“Let the Sunshine In”), 2017, by Claire Denis, starring Juliette Binoche as a woman in middle age who has relationships with difficult men; the classic Le Crime de Monsieur Lange (“The Crime of Mister Lange”), 1936, by Jean Renoir, showing the circumstances leading up to the electoral victory of the Popular Front; L’Atelier (“The Workshop”), 2017, by Laurent Cantet, about a novelist teaching a summer class that includes a right-wing student who may be a terrorist; Félicité, 2017, by Alain Gomis, filmed in the Congo about a nightclub singer in Kinshasa frantically trying to raise money to save her 14-year-old son injured in a motorcycle accident; Le grand méchant renard et autres contes (“The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales”), 2017, by Patrick Imbert and Benjamin Renner, an animated collection appropriate for children.

All screenings are on campus at the Bazarsky Lecture Hall in the O’Hare Academic Building, Salve Regina University, 100 Ochre Point Ave, Newport. salve.edu/french-film-festival Tickets are available at the door, but buying a festival pass online is encouraged. For questions, call 401-341-2197 or email frenchfilmfestival@salve.edu