Gallery Night’s 2024 Season Begins: Hop on a bus and see some art!

Photo via Gallery Night.

As a recent college graduate who is always looking to save a pretty penny, I’m frequently looking for budget-friendly things to do. I was in luck this month, as Gallery Night Providence started back up with its free guided tours. On the third Thursday of every month from March to November, Gallery Night Providence offers free guided trolley and mini-coach bus tours to museums, galleries, and studios throughout the city and surrounding areas. I consider myself someone who likes and appreciates art, but rarely looks for “the deeper meaning.” So I hopped on the bus on opening night to see what they had to offer a novice art enthusiast such as myself, and was not disappointed. 

Gallery Night offers a variety of tours, which leave between 5 and 7pm, and each tour offers four stops. Depending on the tour you choose, you’ll either catch your ride at the Graduate Hotel or the WaterFire Arts Center, where you’ll be met by friendly and informative staff and while you wait, you can take in the absolutely stunning architecture of the Graduate Hotel or the current show at WaterFire.

My tour’s first stop was at the AS220 Aborn Gallery on Empire Street. AS220 is an artist-run non-profit that offers rotating galleries and is an unjuried and uncensored space for artists to create, perform, and exhibit their work. The current show on display is “Dear You” by Ruby T. Lopez Rios. Rios was at the gallery as our tour arrived and gave us the rundown on what inspired her. 

She said she was inspired by the composition notebooks she journals in and as you walk into the gallery, you walk into her inner thoughts that she collected in those notebooks. Paintings, textiles, and poems adorned the room. Journal entries embroidered onto fabric that looked like notebook pages caught my eye, as well as black and white paintings of her family members from important life events. She was more than happy to talk with the gallery patrons and answer questions about the art. I found the work to have something that everyone in our group could appreciate. 

The next stop at the David Winton Bell Gallery, located on College Street, was by far my favorite. Running through June 2, the “Barbara T. Smith: Proof” survey exhibition is on display. I had never heard of her before this, but a very knowledgeable curator filled us in upon arrival. Smith, who is still with us at a young and spry 93 years of age, is for a lack of better terms, pretty freaking cool. Smith is a performance artist who also works with mixed media as well as integrating a lot of technology into her work, which, considering her heyday was in the ‘70s is quite impressive for what she accomplished with it. I would highly recommend reading more about her. The exhibition featured everything from her early work with xerox, mixed media installations such as “trunk piece,”  to videos of her performance art and microchip panels she used in her work. My favorite piece by far was “Field Piece” which was an immersive installation that exhibited from 1969-1972. While the piece has been damaged over time, videos and pictures remain to tell the story. In brief, it consisted of 180 translucent 9.5-foot-tall flexible fiberglass blades, representing grass to make up a field. Each of these blades was activated by foot pressure which then would light up the blade that was interacted with. The use of technology here is insanely impressive to me and it’s definitely worth a deeper dive.

As a break from the gallery-style stops, we headed to Studio Hop, a local studio and art shop. They showcase art from many local artists, as well as artists from around the globe. On display they have unique jewelry, vintage clothing and accessories, pottery, hand-crafted plushies, furniture and more. A small shop, but packed with so much to look at.  Their backroom offers a few more unexpected pieces and overall the shop had good variety. The staff there was very attentive and was happy to let you poke around or answer questions if you had them.

Last but not least we headed over to the Rhode Island Center for Photographic Arts on North Main Street. This gallery was the ‘10th International Juried Exhibition’ and featured photographs from many different artists from all over the states. There was a friendly communal environment, and some of the photographers were there with their work. There was no singular theme and everyone in the group was able to find something that they found interesting.

I found that there was a good amount of time spent at each stop and I was able to fully enjoy what each had to offer. Each stop was different enough that it didn’t feel repetitive or that I was getting sick of a certain style or medium. I would absolutely recommend making it to the next Gallery Night to see what hidden gems you can find.