RI Profile: Shey Rivera

_JS_1642What do you remember most fondly about Foo Fests past?

Oh, so many things – what I love is that the core focus is on LOCAL artists and local entrepreneurs and food vendors, so you walk in and see all these folks who are involved with the community. It’s a great snapshot of what’s going on locally without pretense. You just go in and chill and enjoy what this city comprises. Its quirkiness, wildness, weirdness and its friendliness.

I especially love the artists’ booths we typically have underneath the large tent. They can be full of crazy surprises. Booths with arms and tentacles, surprise tea parties, fortune telling, performances and so much more. There was one installation with a peep hole and when you looked in, you saw a whole different world and arms came out and people’s reaction was, “What is happening here?!”


Two of my favorite headliners were Big Freedia and Psychic TV. When Big Freedia was performing, it was really awesome to see so many people I know jump on stage and start twerking. So awesome to see everybody jump in and have fun and dance on stage. Psychic TV gave a powerful performance; everyone was just mesmerized. They’ve influenced so many artists throughout history. The audience was entranced, swaying together to the music. They’re such a spiritual band.

A year ago, Dan Deacon headlined and we had sod on the street in the evening. There was a fractal light installation by artist Tony Balko and people dressed like garden gnomes, with the artists from Computer Computer performing and Jason Curzake was a walking lifeguard chair. People were sitting on the grass with the gnomes and the computers and the performers. Like an alternate wonderland. So great!

And this year?

This year I’m way excited about our two headliners and to see those two genres and communities coming together.

I’m also looking forward to La Feria market, produced by powerhouse  Sussy Santana – a dear friend and poet. She had the dream to create a Latin American artists market. It’s the third year we’re doing it, but this year its been incorporated into Foo Fest. Local artisans and makers will take over the black box to sell and showcase their wares. There will be AfroCaribbean performances and flower installations.

Does being outdoors make a difference?

Absolutely. Its about maximizing visibility and spontaneous connections. Art-making being approachable and part of the city.

Did you have to install extra lightning rods for Lightning Bolt to perform?

No, but that’s a great idea – we should have a whole lightning rod installation.

If you had to describe Providence in just a few words, what would those be?

“Spontaneous” … “Genuine.” This is tricky – I love the secret pockets that it has. For me, living in Providence is about discovering and exploring this whole secret world. Can I say, “Secret World?”

In honor of NecronomiCon, what scares you?  I’m scared of ghosts, that’s for sure.

Anything else? Alien abductions. Demon possession. I like all the movies, but they keep me up. Which is fine ‘cause that’s when I go into my creative practice and make things.

You know what else frightens me? Deep Sea Diving. You’re in a world that doesn’t belong to you and you don’t belong there. You rely on complex equipment that is to a certain degree beyond your control, and then anything can come at you from any direction and it already has an advantage. Crazy. But I want to try it someday.

You recently had a month-long one-woman show called “Fantasy Island.” Tell us how that went!

It was awesome, it had great reception. People left knowing about what is happening back home on my island [Puerto Rico], which is the purpose of the piece. Huáscar Robles, a friend of mine who’s a journalist and documentary photographer, presented a performance as a developer and spoke about the debt crisis and gentrification in Puerto Rico. The point was to explore the island’s economic crisis by zoning in on the high-end real estate market and luxury tourism – how the island is sold as a place to escape to, to fulfill the dreams of tourists. The images projected out into the world are disconnected from the reality of the people who live there. We talked about the debt crisis, the fiscal control board, how hypercapitalism played a role in the colonization of the island. And how that’s not uncommon. Detroit and DC have both had fiscal control boards. PR is the third fiscal control board established by the US. Lots to talk about. The installation emulated a real estate office, with monitors showing a body of work of animated .gifs that were collages of images of luxury property in the island and corporate and religious iconography. There’s more to it though. We are presenting the show in New York City in October at a the gallery space of an amazing arts center in the Lower East Side. We’re not allowed to give more details yet, but we will announce it in September.