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 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.