National Ceramics Conference Lands in Providence

The Cate Charles Gallery on South Main Street — the combo efforts of mother-daughter duo Kim Charles and Catherine Schrage — offers up something unique this week in its “Porcelain in Three” ceramics exhibition. The gallery usually features paintings or sculptures, but opted for a porcelain ceramics display including works from Susan Schulz, Seth Rainville and John Oles. This no doubt makes the gallery a prominent stop in this week’s The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) conference hitting Providence from March 25 – 28.

cate charles

NCECA (pronounced en-see-kuh) works to cultivate new generations of ceramics artists by inspiring people at all levels of the artistic process, whether in working with the artists themselves or by fostering the greater art collecting community. Providence plays host to the NCECA’s 49th annual conference with the theme “Lively Experiments.” In addition to conference programming at the RI Convention Center, dozens of galleries across the state — just like the Cate Charles Gallery — will be included on guided bus and shuttle tours.

“Artists that we’ve talked to said to expect people in the thousands coming in for the conference,” said Catherine Schrage, the Cate Charles Gallery Press & Marketing Manager. “It’s a big deal on the national level. We’re very excited!” According to Schrage, NCECA draws massive crowds not only of enthusiasts, but collectors as well. At Cate Charles and many other galleries, all the work will be on sale at a 50/50 split between artist and gallery.

The Cate Charles Gallery’s exhibition “Porcelain in Three” featured three artists with distinct styles. Susan Schulz recreates objects both natural and manmade down to the intricate detail to produce assortments of objects so lifelike in some cases that you think you’re looking at shells or coral covered in dust.

One woman’s trash is another woman’s artistic inspiration.

Seth Rainville’s pieces are intricately detailed yet 100% usable bowls and teapots, one of which included a few tiny porcelain chairs he encourages exhibition attendees to move around.

A perfect landing place for your keys, wallet, and spare change? Or a work of art? How about both?

John Oles’ work included a whole section of porcelain meets stone, featuring small structures of contrast and balance in assorted positions. Among the most compelling was a piece aptly titled “Balance.”

The aptly titled “Balance”.

The NCECA conference runs through March 28. Take a look at the following links for more information:

Meet Your Maker This Weekend!

“Meet Your Maker!” is what Hope and Main is advertising as it opens its doors to the public for a Holiday Market this Sunday, Nov 23, in Warren. Of course, they used quotation marks appropriately so as not to give you the wrong idea that they’re threatening Armageddon; they’re just encouraging everyone to shake the hands of those who produce the wonderful new foods you’ll find popping up around the state. It’s a Meet and Greet as much as it is a Meet and Eat, and I plan to be first in line to sample truffles and jams, sip hot cider and cocoa, and get to know the local artisans who’ll be helping me spread holiday cheer this year.

In case you missed the ribbon cutting ceremony last month and are wondering, “What is this ‘Hope and Main’ you speak of?” it is a culinary business incubator. Their mission is to allow entrepreneurs to bring their culinary dreams to life and encourage the already blossoming food economy here in Rhode Island. The incubation takes place in a 100-year-old school building in historic Warren, once abandoned but now converted into a space that has three newly crafted commercial kitchens (including one completely gluten-free option), classrooms for workshops, and multiple food-makers working in close proximity to one another, which allows them to share resources, knowledge, and build community.

Several of the Hope and Main incubatees debuted at the Taste Trekkers Food Tourism Conference in October, and I consider myself among the fortunate because I got to sample their products and preview some of their talent. I tasted gluten-free cookies, pickled vegetables, spicy jams, coconut butters, almond butter toffee, and chocolate truffles that made such an impression on me, I’ve been dreaming about them ever since. Some of the familiar favorites, like Narragansett Creamery, will be present this weekend, too, as well as new-to-the-scene food-makers, such as Bella Piccolina who’ll be bringing Italy to Rhode Island as she demonstrates pasta making at 1:30 and 3:00pm (which is free to attend!).

This week I set about talking with just a small sampling of the dozens of participants, and here’s a taste of what you can expect when you “Meet Your Maker.”

Mima’s Gluten Free 

food2Traditionally, there’s a stereotype when it comes to eating gluten-free baked goods, and that is the sensation is a bit like eating dirt, but Lois Mahoney and Betsy Shealy have worked hard to disprove the stereotype. “Usually there’s a bean-y or gritty undertaste, and something just doesn’t sit quite right after you eat them. It took us seven months of mixing flours, but we finally did it. If I didn’t tell you they were gluten-free, you’d never know the difference.”

The idea to create gluten-free, nut-free cookies came from the needs of Mahoney’s family. “My daughter-in-law has a gluten intolerance, and my granddaughter is allergic to nuts, so I thought of it as a challenge…and it was a good way to spend my time other than watching TV.” Evidently these two ladies rose to the challenge and blew it out of the water, and now they have 12 to 15 varieties of cookies, they customize birthday and wedding cakes, and they take orders online at mimasglutenfree.com.

I thought I knew how the name “Mima’s Gluten Free” came to be, but Mahoney confirmed it. “My grandkids called me ‘Mima’ and the name just fit.” It only makes sense that the best cookies — even the gluten-free ones — come from the hands of Grandma.

Uncle Truscott’s

I sought out Peter and Katie Kelly based on a photo I’d snapped of their booth when I sampled their truffles and almond butter toffee last month. I had to know what made their Cookie truffle so melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Katie revealed (part of) the secret: “The difference between our truffles and others’ is that ours are truly handmade. At no point are they touched with a machine. We keep our flavors simple. There’s a very thin shell and a generous portion of ganache.”

Unfortunately for me, the rest of the Cookie-flavored truffle is truly is a mystery, like the ingredients of Coca-Cola. “The other day my husband was asking where the recipe was, and I told him, ‘You’ve always just made it.’ It’s not written down anywhere — it’s an original.”

Over 1,500 truffles are in preparation for this weekend, plus enough poundage of almond butter toffee to give every man, woman and child a taste. “It’s a lot of preparation, but we want everyone to sample our product — we’re trying to get people addicted.” Consider this your warning of the Siren Song, dear people of Rhode Island.

Fox Point Pickling Company

food4You’ve heard of Del’s Lemonade, Iggy’s Dough Boys and the Rhode Island Weiner. Will the next in line be Fox Point Pickles? “Rhode Islanders love Rhode Island stuff, so I want to give Rhode Island a pickle,” said creator Ziggy Goldfarb. (And yes, I asked if that was his real name. “It’s a nickname. My parents made my initials spell Z-I-G because they wanted to call me Ziggy, but everyone else has always called me Ziggy, so it might as well be my real name.”)

The business began as a gag gift from Ziggy to his wife, a “Make your own pickle” kit, until he started using it and became obsessed. “We joined a CSA [Community Supported Agriculture], so we had all these vegetables lying around, and I started pickling everything I could.” Little did he know the hobby would turn into a career opportunity.

Fox Point Pickling Company has only been selling for three weeks and is already found in eight stores (you can find a list of venders on their website: foxpointpickles.com). It won’t be long before you’ll be thinking of Fox Point Pickles as a Rhode Island staple, and all out-of-towners will be flocking to try one.

First the Holiday Market, then the world.

Bella Piccolina

Daniela Mansella, CEO of Bella Piccolina and “Chief Eating Officer,” is a woman after my own heart. I knew we’d get along as soon as she signed off her email with the words, “Peace, love, and gelato,” the same way she ends each of her blog entries (www.bellapiccolina.com).

The former Miss Rhode Island contestant is an Italian American who claims that “My blood is still red, but it’s red for sauce.” She created the character of Bella Piccolina (her grandfather’s nickname for her, which means “beautiful little girl”) to encapsulate the girl at heart: “Someone who is fearless; even though she’s little, she’s larger than life. She’s curious, smart, an adventurer.” And, of course, she cooks.

BannerIf there’s one thing Mansella is passionate about, it’s food, but not just eating it — it’s about all that food represents. “It engages people, brings them together, attaches moments to memories, uses the five senses. I love the Italian culture because they remind us to slow down and enjoy meals together, and I want to bring Italy to the state of Rhode Island.” She’ll be demonstrating how to make pasta at the Holiday Market, and there you can find out more information about the cooking workshops she’ll be starting in January, for kids age 6 to 8.  Her vision is to replicate the feel of an Italian village coming together to create and enjoy food, as a family.

“I think it’s important to bring the lifestyle of today back around the table,” she concluded, and I couldn’t agree more.


Meet the rest of your makers this Sunday at 691 Main St in Warren, and enjoy the treats, listen to live music and take home delicious goods for the holidays.

Peace, love, and gelato.

To see a complete list of Makers and to register for the event, which is free (!) and allows you entrance into the raffle drawing, visit makefoodyourbusiness.org/2014/11/10/hope-main-invites-community-to-meet-your-maker-at-holiday-market-on-november-23/

Art Seen: Stadium Theatre Performing Arts Center — the Pride of Woonsocket

At the start of my professional life I had the opportunity to work at Trinity Square Theatre, building scenery designed by a world-renowned set designer: Eugene Lee. Lucky me! Theater offers so much in the way of great positive interaction with other creatives all working toward one common goal. It’s a vast soup poured into a funnel leading to opening night. Just great. Theater is second to none as an educational experience, and Rhode Islanders are very fortunate to have so many different performing arts facilities, studios and classes to choose from. On the top of my new list is the pride of Woonsocket, the Stadium Theatre Performing Arts Center, and there’s a bright future ahead with the passing of Question 5 on the recent ballot.

I decided to pay them a visit as there are great rumors circulating about the theater, its terrific team, and what looks to be more major renovations to add to their already beautifully restored theater and facilities. What a glorious place to visit. First an introduction by executive director, Cathy Levesque, and the seasoned president, Armand Desmarais; then a red carpet tour by the building manager, Jim Keegan, all before interviewing Lisa Surrette, the educational director who I was there to meet and interview. What a great team of friendly, warm and articulate folks. These impressive folks are proud and positive in their mission.

Lisa Surrette is a sparkling example of the people you hope to meet in theater and especially in education. Still with a twinkle in the eyes, she offered impressive numbers of the summer and year-round enrollment and the ongoing productions, performances and activities (too much too mention here), and we chatted about shared experiences in teaching and her role as the education director at the Stadium. Amidst many distractions (she’s a busy lady) she graciously toured me through a class in progress and showed me some of the tech-people working on stage, all spiced with joyful facts she shared. Soon we were joined by a member of their staff, 20-year-old Adam Landry, who, among other roles at the Stadium Theatre, is currently directing this fall’s Willy Wonka… production as part of the Stadium’s Young Actor’s Academy. The young director is already deeply immersed in the life of theater and while sharing a few smile-filled sentences, I felt one of those Zen moments in life; seeing the young me, while he was speaking to the older version of himself. It was wonderful.

A society can be appraised by its treatment of its own youth. As a lifelong creative and active participant in the arts, I cannot stress how important this gem of an organization is to the area and community at large. This is a remarkable place for great things to happen for young people. With its expert team of terrific professionals, selfless volunteers and the overall community support, we can expect only good things can come from the Stadium Theatre, which boasts a colorful lineup of professional productions and first-rate entertainment. If you haven’t already, you should visit them at 28 Monument Square in Woonsocket or online at stadiumtheatre.com.  And most of all, please support the local arts.

Atomic Bride of X Minus One Invades AS220

Alien_1The current show of Counter-Productions Theatre at AS220 is their delightful, every-other-year homage to classic stories of science fiction. This year, the show named Atomic Bride of X-1 is a collection of four one-act stories originally written as radio plays in the 1950s. Says Ted Clement, artistic director of the Counter-Productions Theater, “From the far horizons of the unknown come transcribed tales of new dimensions in time and space. These are stories of the future, adventures in which you’ll live in a million could-be years on a thousand may-be worlds.”

Do not scoff that these may be old-fashioned or dated stories. In fact, it is fascinating that in our contemporary storytelling (e.g., Interstellar), collectively we still pursue the same questions. Is there life on other worlds? Will the earth crumble and force us to move to distant outposts? What happens if Earth is invaded? These stories are cleverly transcribed for the stage. This time Clement serves as music coordinator and Host, with Christine Fox as producer. Clement’s additional notes to each story in between the plays is reminiscent of “The Twilight Zone.”

Along with Clement’s commentary, music from old sci-fi shows plays while clips of ancient space travel films display on the back wall when actors are not on stage. This time, there are four different directors, chosen by Clement, to direct each of the four stories. Rufus Qristofer Teixeira directs Junkyard, written by Clifford D. Simak. A great audience pleaser, this one-act opens the show with a “Star Trek” feel. The actors wear uniforms much akin to the “Star Trek” crew. They use phasers, communicators and even the whirling-sound gizmo used by the Doctor. It’s played with just enough camp to elicit laughs.

On a much creepier note is Perigi’s Wonderful Dolls, written by George Lefferts and directed by Erin Archer. Stuart Wilson gives an outstanding performance as the mysterious Perigi. No spoilers, but for goodness sake, if you ever inherit, find or are given a doll that shortly becomes weird or creepy, get rid of that thing! Costumes and vintage hairdos are wonderfully realized for this story.

Skulking Permit, written by Robert Sheckley, is directed with humor by Billy Flynn. This is a story with a unique twist on the “What if” premise of colonizing other planets or moons. It also demonstrates how communications can be warped over time and evolve into a completely different message. I particularly enjoyed Jeana Ariel Garcia as Tammy Fisher and Erin Archer as Edna Beer. No one is sure how things will work out. But the writing is very clever.

Laura Minadeo directs the chilling Zero Hour, written by Ray Bradbury. The story starts out innocently, with a normal family. Haley Pine plays the daughter, Mink. Pine has no problem holding her own with the adults on stage. She is playing a new game with her friend, Art (Alex Rotella). Parents often don’t understand the games their children create, but Mink’s mom becomes worried when she finds the game to be more and more puzzling after speaking to her sister in another city.

Overall, there is very fine acting and direction in this collection. I was a bit distracted by the slow set changes done in between scenes, which slowed down the pace at the top of the show. It was opening night — perhaps the stage hands will become more efficient as the run progresses.

The Atomic Bride of X Minus One continues at 95 Empire St., Providence, Nov 14 and 15 at 7pm, and Nov 16 at 2pm. For tickets go to brownpapertickets.com


Feeding the Masses

The doors won’t open for another 30 minutes, but already a crowd is gathering at the side entrance of All Saints’ Memorial Church on the west side of Providence. Right at 4 o’clock a sea of people crams through the entrance, along a downstairs hallway, around a corner and into the parish hall where one of the best meals many will have this week awaits.

Welcome to City Meal Site. Started in the mid-1980s, it got new life when the operation moved from the East Side two years ago. The Rev. David Ames is the priest-in-charge at All Saints, founded in 1872 and the largest Episcopal Church in the state. But like some parishes in the diocese, All Saints was experiencing declining numbers when Father Ames arrived four years ago.

“All Saints is the only Episcopal church on the west side of Providence now and it has to bring value to the surrounding community, as historic buildings have to do. I saw a need and saw what was possible here and began to develop a number of programs that could meet those needs,” Father Ames said. “And the meal site is one of them.”

When the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint John, the home sanctuary for the diocese and the City Meal Site for decades, closed in 2012, Father Ames agreed to bring the program across town. With it came Alane Spinney, who became head chef after graduating from culinary school six years ago when the program was still at the cathedral.

“I walked into that kitchen the first time and I’ve been doing it just about every Tuesday ever since,’’ said Spinney, who works as a barista at a bakery just up the street, but volunteers her time and talents here. “We try to put out the very best meal we can on our budget. Things that maybe other meal sites wouldn’t serve. And we run it like a restaurant.”

And like a restaurant Spinney quickly learned what the customers like: Lasagna is a hit, tuna casserole not so much. She also has to keep in mind that many of those who come every week have dental issues and some have high blood pressure or diabetes.

Spinney and a staple of others arrive mid-day Tuesday to begin food preparation. They are joined as the day goes on by an army of volunteers who all make it work as 4 o’clock approaches. “Our volunteers are the heart and soul. They make it happen. We serve between 100 and 250 people a three-course, sit-down meal, and we’ll do it in an hour,’’ she says.

“There are a lot of very hungry people out there, and I’ve learned there are all kinds of hunger,” Spinney said. “There, of course, is the physical hunger. We can take care of that of that physical hunger. But a lot of people come here just to see friends. And to sit down, be served a meal and talk to each other.”

City Meal Site feeds an average of 150 to 200 people a week, depending on the time of the month. And it does so on an annual budget of just $20,000 a year in donations and grants. That works out to under $3 per meal.

Jack Nolan was recruited by Father Ames seven months ago to serve on the board of directors for City Meal Site, which is incorporated as its own non-profit entity and not under the umbrella of any one church, even though it operates out of All Saints.

“When was the last time you bought a meal for $2.70 that was balanced and hot and served over your shoulder?” Nolan asked. “That’s incredible and can only be done with volunteers. That is enormous bang for the donated buck.’’

Father Ames said the weekly meal helps bridge a gap for many. “They can’t make it and a meal like this helps. And one of the goals of this is to help lift people out of that poverty trench, which is so pervasive. And I think if people can get a little help, even if they’re working two or three jobs, and find a meal for themselves or their family once a week, that’s a big help.”

So what’s the message?

“That this is a hospitable place, that it’s welcoming, that the food is excellent and that they will go home feeling satisfied.”

If you want to see the video version of this story go to wwwRhodeIslandSpotlight.org. If you know a person or organization who you think deserves the Spotlight, send an email to jim@RhodeIslandSpotlight.org.

I Pity the Foo Who Misses Foo Fest

Taking over Providence and AS220 is the 18th annual Foo Fest. Saturday August 9, Empire Street will be turned into a summer block party with 12 hours of music, alternative art, performances, kid-friendly activities and plenty of food and drinks. Foo Fest highlights the creative and cultural scene that Providence has to offer, showcasing DIY technology with local artists and vendors.

Headlining this year’s Foo Fest is Psychic TV. Formed in 1979, the group is still led by original member Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Psychic TV’s punk, psychedelic, electronic experimental twist is the kind of high-energy artistic style that Foo-goers have come to expect from the fest’s headliners. Genesis, alongside local screen print artist and mentor Ian Cozzens, is a recipient of Foo’s annual Free Culture Award. These winners are chosen based on the work they do that incorporates freedom of expression — they embody the organization’s uncensored and unjuried missions. The Free Culture recipients break boundaries in the cultural arts, paving the way for new art and artists.

Along with 22 other local and national musical acts on the main stage all day, there will be interactive activities for all ages. Hands-on arts and crafts for children, like jewelry making out of paper beads, will be available from 1pm until dusk. Some highlights for the big kids? Live screen printing, 3D printing from the staff of Make Magazine and info about October’s RI Mini Maker Faire, RPG game character compatibility testing, ceramic demos with kickwheel and handbuilding from The Steel Yard, and new this year, The Dream Reliquary. This participatory art installation incorporates audience members’ dreams and includes an animate GIF photobooth where you can experience an original polaroid shoot or take a few digital shots that will be turned into a GIF file that you can take home.  Theatrical arts also get some love with a special performance from members of YASI Shakes at 87 Empire at 2pm. Join them to see pieces of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Food trucks and vendors will be sticking around for the day and evening, giving a chance for vegans, vegetarians and carnivores to grub on items from Julians Omni Bus, Like No Udder, AS220 FOO(D) and many more.

The Best Roast? Yours! Coffee Roasting 101

Picture entering a coffee shop that roasts its own coffee. The first thing that appeals to your senses is the rich aroma of freshly roasted coffee. Two steps in the door and you are hooked — you’ve got to have that coffee. The barista pours you a cup of this freshly roasted just ground coffee, and if like me, you have it black. Nothing should impair its taste. The coffee looks, smells and tastes heavenly. This coffee will never taste this good if shelved for a week, let alone a month or more as many whole bean coffees are sold. This is why I home roast.

I began roasting coffee on a whim, purchasing a Cafe Roasto, a hot air roaster, from Mal, the barista and owner of Cafe Bon Ami. From there it was off to the internet to learn the art of roasting and to purchase green beans (green beans are unroasted coffee beans that can be purchased online or from local vendors). The internet has been a great help in providing background information, but the site that is far and away the best is Sweet Maria’s. It has many resources, emailed questions are answered and their forums are useful. Local people in the business also have been a great help — they love discussing their trade.

One big surprise I encountered was that there are many different roasts. In my mind there were only three: light, dark, and espresso, but there are many more. Not all beans should be roasted dark because they lose their individual character and taste burnt, which is a common complaint about Starbucks Coffee. On the opposite side of the spectrum is under roasting, which makes coffee bitter — a complaint about Dunkin Donuts. When purchasing beans, ask which roast is recommended. The most common roasts range from a city roast (light) through a French roast (dark). It all depends on where in the cracking phase the roasting ended.

Cracking is the sound the beans make as they roast. Green beans are a lot like popcorn. Both coffee beans and kernels contain water, and under intense heat the water boils within the bean. When the green bean makes a popping sound, the water is released and the chaff, an outer layer of skin on the bean, comes free. When this step is complete, it is a city roast. If a darker roast is desired, keep roasting into the second crack. The sound of a second crack is a lot like the sound of the crackling of burning wood. Some roasts are stopped in the very beginning of the second crack, and darker roasts, later in the crack, but no beans should be roasted till the end of the second crack or they’ll end up burnt.

Choosing the coffee beans to roast, though a personal preference, is also important. There are two types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans are a better quality bean and most commonly used by all roasters. Robusta are a cheaper, lower quality bean that has twice as much caffeine as an Arabica bean. These beans are used in almost all canned coffee. Did you know that a can of decaf coffee could have more caffeine than a caffeinated Arabica bean?

I choose beans I roast by asking questions about the quality of the bean when I purchase locally through Mills Coffee. But if I purchase online, I read the descriptions and coffee ratings. Once roasting on a regular basis (at least monthly) you will have a good handle on which beans you want to roast. The hardest beans to roast are decaf, because it is very difficult to hear when the first crack ends and the second crack begins,  because the process that turns the beans into decaf affects the amount of water in the bean. Regardless of the bean I use, I have to sit by the roaster and listen for the cracking. My first roaster was the Cafe Roasto, a hot air roaster, but after a year I switched to a Behmor 1600, primarily because it is quiet, which allows you to hear the cracking more clearly. It also roasts a larger quantity, up to a pound depending on how dark you want it.

There are several types of roasters available, but none in the $300 to $1,000 range roast much more than a pound. Roasters that can do 3 pounds or more are commercial roasters cost a significant amount of money. Start small in price and size, then move up to meet your needs.

Once you’ve roasted your first batch, you’ll need a way to grind the beans and brew a cup of the fruits of your labor. Beans are best ground in a burr style grinder, which are found just about anywhere that sells coffee makers. A burr grinder will do anything from a coarse grind to a fine powder. Selections are made by simply turning a dial. The coffee is at its best when ground just before use, but because that is not convenient during the morning rush, I usually grind a batch for several days, then store it in an airtight container.

There are countless ways to make a cup of coffee and which you choose is a matter of preference. Pure coffee enthusiasts usually prefer a French Press, because you get full flavor of the bean. Pod style coffee makers are not the choice of coffee purests. The water passes through the coffee much too fast to absorb the flavors, the ground coffee is sitting in the pods for an extended time, and you have little control over the brew. They sell strictly because they’re convenient.

Home roasting is not difficult. With practice you will recognize the different cracking sounds and know the time between cracks, the characteristics of the bean, and the little idiosyncrasies of your roaster. Expect some rookie problems in the beginning. I often missed the stages of the cracking because I was preoccupied with something else and the hot air roaster was so noisy that it obscured the cracking sound. I either ended up with coffee under roasted and too bitter to drink or a barely drinkable dark roast. And smoke detectors were always going off in my house and still do despite my practice — medium and dark roasts produce smoke.

As a home roaster, you can be creative. Blend two or three different kinds of beans or roast the same bean as a dark roast and again as a light roast then blend them. If decaf is your desired roast, home roasting gives you more choices than the two or three offerings in most cafes. There are more decaf green beans available, and through blending, you extend your options. Above all, have fun and enjoy the process from shopping for beans to drinking the freshest, tastiest cup of coffee you will ever drink.

Worldwide Movie Culture Returns At This Year’s Rhode Island International Film Festival

riffSLIDEEntering its 18th year since its founding by George T. Marshall, the founder of the Flicker Arts Collaborate, RIIFF has become a focal point of international films by everyone from up-and-coming filmmakers to highly seasoned actors and directors. Between August 5 and 10 this year, roughly 270 films will be shown including Flavio Alves’ Tom In America, Marcelo Mitnik’s En las nubes (In the Clouds), and Selcuk Zvi Cara’s Mein Leztes Konzert (My Last Concert)

Since 2002, the RIIFF has been a qualifying festival for the Academy Awards in short film categories. Numerous stars and celebrities have attended RIIFF over the past decade including Seymour Cassel, Andrew McCarthy, Kim Chan and Michael Showalter. Some have had the honor of receiving the Festival Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2001 it was awarded to Breakfast At Tiffany’s director, Blake Edwards, accepted by his wife, renowned actress Julie Andrews. In 2009, the honor went to the multi-Emmy and Golden Globe nominated Academy Award winner Ernest Borgnine.

This year’s recipient is Theodore Bikel, known for originating the role of Captain Van Trapp in “The Sound of Music” on Broadway and Oscar nominated for 1958’s The Defiant Ones. Bikel speaks 10 languages, and will be presenting his film, “Journey 4 Artists” a multi-lingual, musical piece that seeks to bridge cultural gaps through folk music and stories, including Bosnian, Jewish and Arabic samples. It will be paired with Cara’s Mein Leztes Konzert, a short Yiddish film about a composer, which Quirk calls, “A visual poem. I haven’t really seen a film like this before.” They screen Sunday at 2:30 at RISD’s Metcalf Auditorium.

Events during this year’s festival include the Rhode Island Film Forum, a symposium of film industry leaders and the local film community, assembled to discuss a variety of topics from the technical side of cinematography to the future of film festivals. Also, a workshop on balancing your film’s budget will be presented by Tom DeNucci of Woodhaven Productions.

“We’re very excited to have two nights of screenings at PPAC this year,” says Festival Artistic Director Shawn Quirk. That includes the opening night screening and gala at 7pm on Aug 5th.

Scriptbiz, a long-standing screenwriters workshop, and KidsEye, a celebration of children’s film, will also be taking place during RIIFF, as will a midnight horror show on Friday night, featuring the post-apocalyptic Another World by Israeli filmmaker Ellan Reuven and Ben Gordon’s short Dracula & My Mother, starting at 11:30pm at the Bell St. Chapel.

Local films will also be showcased. “We have a great mix of local and global,” says Quirk. There will be Steel Shoes, a documentary about horseback riding by Cranston filmmaker Alyssa Migliori, featured shorts by locals Eric Latek and Bill Smith, and an afternoon “Underground Fest” dedicated to up and coming local filmmakers (8:30pm Saturday at Bell St.).

To view the film schedule, showcase locations, and purchase tickets, go to: riff.festivalgenius.com

Kongos made Providence dance with their African inspired upbeat alternative rock

By: Josh Estrella

There are a few bands that stand out when you hear them– bands you know are going to make it big–and Kongos are definitely one of them. Last Friday all those gathered in Waterplace Park for the fifth installment of WBRU’s Summer Concert Series had the opportunity to hear their unique African inspired sound live for free. Judging by all of the singing and dancing in the area, the crowd loved them. The night started off with WBRU 2012 and 2013 Rock Hunt semifinalists and rising local band, Satellites Fall, who got the large crowd moving from the start. Although they are not as well known as Kongos, they were able to keep the crowd jumping around to their music and clearly made some new fans along the way.


Next up was the headliner, Kongos. Kongos are based out of Phoenix, Arizona but first gained popularity in South Africa where the four brothers and bandmates, Dylan, Daniel, Jesse and Johnny grew up. Their first album, Lunatic, showcases a new kind of upbeat alternative rock music that just makes you want to hear more. If you haven’t heard them yet, their hit songs “Come With Me Now” and “I’m Only Joking” epitomize what their catchy sound is all about and show why they have been rising up the charts. After becoming popular in South Africa, Kongos re-released their album in the US in 2013 where it is gaining popularity just as fast.

When the Kongos hit the stage the crowd went crazy. The lucky people in the front rushed to the stage while everyone else in the crowded park stood up and fought to get a glimpse of the band. They played through the entirety of Lunatic, giving off a vibe that made the crowd move with their blend of different rock elements, hints of African rhythms and even an accordion. The Kongos knew how to work the crowd, getting all of Waterplace Park into their music quickly. Towards the end of the set the band heightened the excitement of the crowd with an interesting rendition of “Come Together” by the Beatles which even had some rapping. Finally after putting on one of the longest sets of this Summer Concert Series, the Kongos gave the crowd what they came for and finished the night off with their hit single “Come With Me Now” getting the crowd to sing with them.

This upcoming Friday, August 1, the WBRU 2014 Summer Concert Series will be coming to a close with the last two bands, Sleeper Agent, who once played at Coachella and appeared on Jimmy Fallon, and local Experimental Americana Roots rock band, The ‘Mericans. Make sure you stop by Waterplace Park early for the last free concert of the summer.

Friday, August 1 at Waterplace Park, WBRU hosts its last free concert of the summer @ 7pm.

Making the Stage: Local open mic picks up

There is a stage in Providence looking for performers. Join the PVD Hoot for a chance to perform or sit in the audience for an opportunity to cheer on local musicians of all types.

The PVD Hoot is an open mic that makes its home at Anchor, a work-exhibition space on Rice Street in Providence.

Started by Josh Aromin and Sarah Mead in October of last year, the Hoot has embarked on a year-long venture to bring a performance space for all to the city. The performance stage has gone walkabout in an effort to become more of a “mobile mic” bringing the stage to the people who want to perform on it, and to audiences in the heart of downtown. The Hoot is using Grant’s Block to get outside, but this past Sunday, the rain moved them inside to the Providence Polaroid Project (the old Craftland location), across the street.

This collaboration between the PVD Hoot and Providence Polaroid is the only the first of many, or so hope Hoot co-founders Aromin and Mead.

“People keeping saying, ‘we need to work together,’” said Aromin. They have been looking to work with more of the projects that are part of Popup Providence initiative.

A rainy Sunday didn’t see the turn out that the Hoot usually gets. Only four people performed, two of whom are involved with the Hoot, including Aromin. When the stage is set at The Anchor, between 30 and 40 people usually show up. When the performance has been hosted at Grant’s Block they’ve drawn crowds of up to 100 people.

“We got rubberneckers,” Mead said with a smile.

The Hoot started when Aromin’s cousin, Armand Aromin, a violin-maker, moved his workspace into the Anchor. The Anchor provides free performance and exhibition space to its residents. Armand asked Josh for ideas of events to host.

“I said, ‘An open mic would be great,’” Aromin recounted. Cafes and restaurants often will host open mics, but inviting people in to perform or to watch people perform does not necessarily turn a profit, and the open mic remains secondary to the goal of establishment, namely selling food and beverages.

Aromin wanted to re-create the vibe that the erstwhile Tazza Cafe had at their open mics.

When they’re at home at The Anchor, they serve free beer and coffee, donated by Narragansett brewery, and New Harvest, respectively.

“We wanted to be an open mic that just happens to have free coffee and beer,” Aromin explained.

When Aromin was set to make the open mic happen, he invited friend and co-worker Mead to help him put it on. Mead has a degree in marketing, and had experience putting on events.

“Sarah had never done an open mic before,” Aromin laughed.

But Mead took on the planning and they’ve been successfully drawing a crowd since.

“Once you’ve done the first event, you figure out what to do. Every time we do it it’s tiring, but definitely worth it,” Mead said.

Sunday’s Hoot was also a send off party, because Mead is moving back to her home state, Connecticut. Aromin sang her a song he wrote, I hope when you pass through Providence it still feels like home.

One goal of the Hoot is to expand the project to other cities, so Mead’s move signals a future for the Hoot outside Providence. Until then, the Hoot will be continuing at The Anchor until this October.

Aromin recited the Hoot’s unofficial motto, “Our stage is your stage. I don’t care what your talent level is.”

For more information visit their website at http://pvdhoot.com

You can head out (and perform) 2PM performances at Grant’s block, 5PM at The Anchor:
Aug. 10 – Grant’s Block
Aug. 20 – The Anchor
Aug. 24 – Grant’s Block
Sep. 7 – Grant’s Block
Sep. 17 – The Anchor
Sep. 28 – Grant’s Block