Fall in the stars: Autumn 2022

The Fall season promises to be full of surprises, from the political and financial to mother nature working her magic or wreaking her havoc. Wet and wild weather with sudden changes erase all traces of drought conditions. Longshots, upsets and bolts out of the blue rule the day. As the season begins, Mercury is retrograde and does not go direct until October 2. In between the Solar Eclipse on October 25 and the lunar eclipse on November 8, Mars goes retrograde while in the sign of Gemini. Mighty Mars won’t go direct until January 2023. Overall, things could and should get interesting. 

The New Moon on Sep 25 kicks the Libra energy into high gear. It’s a tangled web with Mars and Saturn in conflict while the Sun/Moon combo opposes Jupiter. Pluto thrown into the mix makes for excessive and over-the-top people and events. 

At the First Quarter Moon on October 2, Mercury goes direct. New information surfaces and we begin to look at things in a new light. The Full Moon on Oct 9 brings out some discordant energy. Constructive action can be taken but there is an element afoot that would inhibit the creative. Radical action meets resistance. As the Moon winds down to the Last Quarter on Oct 17, cooperation between those in conflict increases and issues can be resolved. 

The Solar Eclipse on Oct 25 has Sun, Moon and Venus aligned in Scorpio. This concentration of energy in Scorpio brings intense energy to the forefront. This energy encourages people to dive deep and dig to the bottom of any situation or problem. Scorpios can spot a phony a mile away and while this energy is in the air, so can a lot of other people. Pay attention to what is going on around you. A lot can be revealed now. 

As the Moon waxes to Full the energy builds. This is a lead up to a lunar eclipse on November 8. The weeks around this lunar eclipse are fraught with the sudden, unexpected, and weird “stuff.” Agriculture, weather, freakish accidents: Any and all things that upset the routine are on the agenda. The smart folks deal with what they can control. A lot of the goings on during this period are way beyond anyone’s control. So, try to remain steady through the turmoil. 

As the Moon winds down to the Last Quarter on November 16 Mars prepares to square off with Neptune. Mars is in the intellectual sign of Gemini while Neptune is floating around in dreamy Pisces. Mars loves to stir things up while the Neptune/Pisces combination rules gas, oil, pharmaceuticals and any avenue that is open to escape reality. Beware! The real world never really leaves you. And keep in mind that Mars loves an explosion.

The New Moon on November 23 puts us firmly in Sagittarius territory with Sun, Moon, Mercury and Venus clustered together at the beginning of the sign. Sagittarius brings optimism and hope into our lives. Venus here loves adventure, while Mercury may suffer from foot in mouth disease, speaking impulsively without thinking. Retrograde Mars is prominent once again, in Gemini, he is apt to shoot off his mouth as well. Mars will definitely stir up some action. Weather, health issues, the military or work force issues may pop up creating problems for those involved. 

The First Quarter Moon on November 30th brings a mixed bag of “war and peace” with Venus making the effort to smooth Mars’ ruffled feathers. Monetarily folks are torn between minding the budget, being frugal and not wasteful on one hand and on the other hand it’s like, “who cares?” The best bet is to find the middle ground.

The Full Moon in Gemini on December 7th finds Mars together in the sky with the Moon with the Sun opposing from Sagittarius. This is an interesting combination bound to create action. Conversations and arguments are about politics and religion and any of those topics that can never be truly resolved. Mercury, now in practical Capricorn, keeps things logical.

The season draws to a close with the Last Quarter Moon phase on December 16. We get a taste of the winter to come around this time, a cold snap, snow or rain storm. Conversations and tempers cool as well. The practical and mystical combine to bring some dreams to fruition. Creative solutions can be found to resolve everyday issues.

All in all, this will be a season of surprises. Some events may send shock waves across the country while others open the doors to innovation and positive change. It may be difficult to maintain our equilibrium while the earth shakes beneath us. Just hang on until the tremors subside.

Fall Fun for Everyone: A guide to fall festivals around RI

The Ocean State knows exactly how to spice up the fall season. While the leaves brown and fall to the ground, RI gets busy. The summer is great for leisure, taking that extra day off to go to the beach or sipping Del’s lemonade, but as it comes to an end you might find yourself antsy to see old friends.

Autumn is the perfect time for a get-together, and why not make it a blast? Fall festivals are a great way to step out of your work life and inhale a breath of fresh air with friends and family. Here are a few of RI’s reputable festivals you can look forward to.

Woonsocket’s Autumnfest

In its 44th annual festival, Woonsocket’s Autumnfest is ready to live up to its glory on Columbus Day weekend. Acclaimed as the largest family festival in RI, Autumnfest has prepped its best for this year’s festival. Every year the Autumnfest brings a variety of activities to the table for attendees. The festival prides itself on the community it brings together, as many people attend as part of a reunion with family or friends.

This year they have an assortment of arts and crafts, a food court, amusement rides, kids play area, and an entertainment stage. The food court is one of the festival’s most attractive traits. The vendors, profit and non-profit, are often brought back year to year, and their return doesn’t go unnoticed. Many people comment that they treat themselves to certain delectables once a year and only at this festival. This stems from the hosts allowing only one vendor per product, producing plenty of varied options for everyone. 

To top off the attraction, Autumnfest has recently expanded their food court with more delicious options. All-new hosts of this year’s 21+ drink area are vendors Savani’s Pomodoro and Ciro’s Tavern

Hitting the main stage will be headliners James Montgomery and the Zac Brown Tribute Band. James Montgomery will perform on Saturday, October 7 and the Zac Brown Tribute Band will perform on Sunday, October 8, followed by fireworks that evening. 

As every year since it began, Autumnfest will be held at World War II Memorial Park located in Woonsocket, RI. Admission is free. Food and amusement rides are not included. For more info, visit festivalnet.com.

Norman Bird Sanctuary Harvest Fair

The Norman Bird Sanctuary Harvest Fair is a chance to celebrate this harvest season. The festival has run for 45 years and is located in Middletown, RI. 

With a variety of activities and challenges, some of the classic activities include tug-of-war, the Home & Garden Competition and hayrides. 

The Home & Garden Competition is a chance to showcase your best products in the categories of: Flower and/or Tree, Home Grown Edible (not that kind of edible!), From the Kitchen, and Outdoor Décor. Apply ahead of the festival on their website, normanbirdsanctuary.org

Keeping up the variety, the event will also host many local food trucks and restaurants. The food options will vary, providing everyone with a tasty choice. Alcoholic drinks and other beverages will also be available for purchase. 

Tickets will be available starting early September; they are also purchasable at the door. For more info visit normanbirdsanctuary.org.

Johnston Apple Festival

This fall the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce hosts the 34th annual Johnston Apple Festival at the beginning of September. Over the two days, the festival will celebrate apples with the public, providing many engaging activities for the whole family. 

The festival has become a traditional event for the community, as it is free and open to anyone. Its Artisan Row will include many area businesses and there will be food and item vendors galore over the course of the weekend.

The Johnston Apple Festival runs Saturday, September 10 and Sunday, September 11, 10am – 5pm in Johnston, RI. For more visit members.nrichamber.com.

Misquamicut Fall Fest

The Misquamicut Fall Fest will be held mid-September for an eventful three-day weekend, Friday, September 16 – Sunday, September 18 at Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly, RI.

The festival will be filled with many attractions each day, such as Rockwell Amusements which will supply carnival rides for adults and young kids. The carnival rides will be paired with musical talents performing throughout the weekend in the music tent.

The festival doesn’t stop at the entertainment; a beer and wine garden will be settled near the music tent throughout the event. There will also be many crafters and vendors at the festival offering commercial items from henna tattoos to housewares. 

On Sunday, the fest features the annual Classic Car Show from 11am – 3pm with no entry fee. All classic and specialty cars will be accepted at this event with trophies, prizes and other giveaways to win. Classic and specialty car drivers are allotted free tickets to the festival for them and their passengers. 

Tickets are purchasable online or at the gate, but it is cheaper to purchase your ticket ahead of time online at eventbrite.com. Tickets for the rides are separate from the admission fee and can be purchased at the event. To learn more visit misquamicutfestival.org.

There’s more to life than pumpkin spice: Fall latte alternatives to warm your senses

It’s no secret that Autumn brings with it a bunch of delicious flavors to keep you toasty and calm during those chilly nights once the summer sun begins to set.

And we all know too well which one takes the cake every year: Pumpkin spice anyone?

The Pumpkin Spice Latte, launched by Starbucks back in 2003, has been all the rage every Fall during the last decade. Coffee shops far and wide bring back the tasty concoction far ahead of the first day of Autumn due to customer demand.

And while this foamy, fragrant drink is undeniably tasty, I can’t help but think about all the potential alternatives that deserve the spotlight too. There’s gotta be more to Fall than pumpkin spice, and I took it upon myself to explore what else is out there.

Local Shops Weigh In

As part of my futile quest to find pumpkin spice’s potential successor, I hit up a few PVD coffee shops for some leads. While some dare to test the waters with new creations, others are kicking up the coveted pumpkin flavor in new ways.

Brew Grindz calls the shots

Brew Grindz in North Providence is serving up hot lattes with pumpkin cheesecake, pistachio, or cookie dough shots, which patrons are not complaining about. Katelyn, a Barista at the cozy shop on Mineral Spring Avenue, said it’s all about becoming a mixologist to start someone’s morning right. “There’s so much more than [pumpkin] spice,” she said. “We just like to mix flavors to create those alternatives for the Fall.”

The Nitro Cart’s Rival Drink

While pumpkin spice is the contender for lattes at The Nitro Cart in Providence, it has a rival best-seller. “I would say the Maple Sea Salt Latte is pretty comparable to the Pumpkin Spice Latte,” said Jake, Barista at The Nitro Cart. “People buy it as much as they do pumpkin spice and seem to really like it.”

Keepin’ it Spicy at Latte Love

Pumpkin spice remains the go-to at Latte Love in Johnston as well, with customers requesting it in early August, but there are other flavors working their way up the ranks. Alternate flavor requests include honey cinnamon and brown sugar as well as maple, per Barista Sarah.

For those with an aversion to pumpkin, simple spiced chai is the best bet. “Spiced chai is also very popular with customers, mainly selling from September to January,” said Oliver, another Barista at Latte Love. Oliver has also gotten word about other cafes experimenting with squash flavor. Hmm, not too sure about that one.

White Electric Cookin’ Up Maple/Apple, Caramel Delights

When it comes to innovation, White Electric in Providence takes the gold. They currently have a brand-new maple/apple flavor in the works, which has gotten the green light from the shop’s staff after initial taste testing. 

Although not a latte per se, the drink includes apple butter, maple syrup, apple cider, 

cinnamon, and your choice of milk for a creamy texture. “It’s a sweet, creamy, apply-y beverage that I think rivals a hot apple cider or even a hot cocoa in the winter,” said James, Barista at White Electric.

The eclectic shop on Westminster Street may also introduce a Salted Caramel Praline Latte with salted caramel, hazelnut and brown sugar, which will become official once vetted by staff. “If enough people like it and are enthused about it, we’ll put it on our specials menu,” he said.

In the meantime, White Electric currently offers “The Cereal Killa” on their specials menu, which Barista Chloe considers a good latte alternative. It’s made with Oat Milk along with house-made lavender and hibiscus herbal syrups that are “good for the soul.”

They have yet to decide if they are bringing back their house-made pumpkin spice syrup for their Fall line-up, which will probably start by the Autumn Equinox on September 22.  “I think it’s very likely it will make an appearance here again since I hear it was very popular last year,” said James.

Word on the street

I was surprised (and maybe a tad pleased) to find that most of the people I spoke with on the streets of PVD are NOT Pumpkin Spice enthusiasts (it was pure coincidence, I promise) and had other go-to’s they turn to for the season ahead. 

Natasha from Providence would take a cappuccino or matcha latte any day over pumpkin spice. Lucas from Somerville, Massachusetts is all about the Americano, as is Stan from Smithfield, who also goes for the classic cup of Joe served black, which best captures a coffee’s natural flavor. 

So, there you have it – there IS more out there than pumpkin spice. Mission accomplished.

Get Ready To Celebrate!: PVDFest brings local and international talent to the Creative Capital

If you’re looking to be immersed in a wide variety of live performances in the heart of Providence, PVDFest is definitely the place for you – a rare opportunity to stroll downtown, perhaps with a beverage in hand, without feeling like a target for motorists. Outdoor entertainment can be found around every quirky corner. 

This year, the organizers of PVDFest, including local nonprofit arts organization FirstWorks, have gathered tons of renowned international groups to perform, and entertain attendees. Musicians like the Rebirth Brass Band, Kermit Ruffins from New Orleans, eight-time Grammy-winner Eddie Palmieri & his Salsa Orchestra and Hit La Rosa from Peru are just a few of the amazing, “globe-spanning stars” that will be performing at this year’s festival. PVDFest will also have plenty of local flavors, from PVD schools’ music groups to RI’s Kung Fu and Lion Dance Club, which always inspires the crowd. The locally-curated Burnside Park Stage, which is set up within Kennedy Plaza, will bring a line-up of more local bands and performers, including RISA (the RI Songwriters Association) singer-songwriters, rockers AquaCherry, hip-hop crew #MVTHACROWD and more local favorites including Guess Method, Salem Wolves, No Exit Four, the Benji’s, Vudu Sister and military brass band Coyote Brass.

To make an already impressive festival even better, organizers have brought the Squonk “Hand to Hand” performance to Providence. This performance is a mesmerizing, humorous performance that ties together music and visual arts and features moving hand sculptures the size of small buildings. Kathleen Pletcher, executive director of FirstWorks, is beyond excited to have Squonk in Providence: “PVDFest street spectacles create indelible memories – this year, long-time FirstWorks favorite Squonk will blow us all away with a rock opera featuring animated sculptural hands as big as a house! It is all un-missable!” Squonk brought a rock show with a blimp to PVD in 2012, and has been back with a 40-foot-high “Lady Pneumatica” in 2015 and a bicycle-gymnastics-rock-show hybrid in 2018. This is expected to be their most hands-on performance to date.

To learn more about the festival and its lineup, visit PVDFest.com.

WaterFire, Beyond the Lighting: A conversation with Peter Mello

Clear Currents Participants Circle the Basin (Photograph by John Nickerson)

When I moved to PVD my aunt asked, “Have you gone to WaterFire?” I had no idea what she was talking about, and the pairing of words seemed incongruous. So she and my uncle drove down from MA and took me. 

The sky threatened rain all day. But it held off until the sky turned black and a boat named Prometheus came down the river with a torch of fire. A brazier was lit. The sky opened up. It poured. And it was perfect.

All along the river people ran for cover and did so while laughing and smiling. We shared umbrellas and huddled together watching the bonfires roar and the firelight flicker atop the water rippling with raindrops. The air smelled of cedar and pine, and drums beat like a unified pulse.

WaterFire is now in its 28th season. This year there are seven full and six partial confirmed lightings. Lightings attract an international audience and are a significant driver of the local economy. A 2012 economic impact report found WaterFire activity drew approximately one million people to Providence and created $114 million of economic impact, which in turn generated over nine million dollars of tax revenue and supported 1,294 jobs in the community. That study was conducted 10 years ago, and WaterFire, like PVD, has grown since.

To learn more about WaterFire’s growth, I spoke with Peter Mello, managing director and co-CEO (with founder Barnaby Evans) of WaterFire Providence and the WaterFire Arts Center.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

It seems like despite the 19-month break during the beginning of the pandemic, WaterFire managed not only to survive but thrive.

That’s true. The WaterFire Arts Center was part of our strategic plan to diversify from just being the event downtown. It’s an incredible exhibition space that’s unlike anything in the region, except maybe Mass MoCA. We just closed the exhibition Planet Earth, the Environment and Our Future (link to storyxxx) , which featured a 23-foot-diameter sculpture of the Earth by British artist Luke Jerram. It was a spectacular show. 

We also have about a 22,000 square-foot gallery, which is currently displaying T-shirts from 1936 all the way to present day. One of the artists is Joe Perez, who designs for Kanye and other really high-profile performers. 

Last year we created WaterFire Accelerate to provide a year of professional development to artists under 30. They’re given a stipend and attend meetings that help them with things they don’t learn in art school. We had one where we introduced the artists to a CPA who talked about bookkeeping and taxes. We had a session with a major collector, probably the most important art philanthropist in RI for the last fifty years. They’ve had the ability to spend time with Jordan Seaberry, who’s an extraordinary young artist. We have a session coming up on NFTs. 

That’s the type of programming we’re doing at WaterFire that people don’t really know about. Our brand is the event downtown, but the WaterFire Arts Center is a spectacular exhibition space and we’re super excited about these programs.

What other organizations or art forms might people encounter at a WaterFire lighting?

We collaborate and partner with all kinds of cultural institutions and performing arts organizations. We use the hashtag #ArtForImpact, because that’s what WaterFire really is, we’re creating art for impact, both cultural impact and economic impact. 

Years ago we partnered with Dr. Lynn Taylor, who received a grant to try and eradicate Hepatitis C from the state of RI. We approached her and said, “We have the ability to connect you to a greater audience than you might otherwise have the ability to.”

It’s a silent epidemic, a lot of people don’t even know they have it. We partnered with her and Festival Ballet and did testing at WaterFire. Festival Ballet used music that would appeal to the boomer generation, because they’re the demographic most susceptible, and designed a whole bunch of dances set to Beatles music. Anyone who tested positive received a call from Dr. Taylor the following Monday letting them know they tested positive and most importantly letting them know it was curable and how to get on the path to recovery. 

WaterFire Accelerate Artists 2021 (Photograph by Peter Mello)

We’re always providing organizations with a platform to an audience that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to, including the RI Philharmonic. When we had the philharmonic, we broadcast their music throughout WaterFire, and that was the largest audience they’d come across. This is an instance where people who might not buy a ticket to see the philharmonic got access to the experience for free. 

That’s one of my favorite parts of WaterFire. Public art is where it’s at.

You have to realize none of the buildings existed downtown when WaterFire started. The mall wasn’t there, the IGT building wasn’t there, Blue Cross Blue Shield wasn’t there, the Waterplace Towers weren’t there. The only building that was in the process of being built was the Citizens building, but otherwise all those big buildings didn’t exist. 

Barnaby often tells the story of when the mall was being built he ran into a construction worker, and when Barnaby introduced himself as the creator, the guy said, “Oh wow, last weekend we came to WaterFire and brought the whole family. We always take two cars when we travel as a family because you never know what’s going to happen when we go out together, we get into a fight and next thing you know someone’s going home. But we had the greatest time. WaterFire’s amazing.” And then he said, “You know, I don’t want to insult you or anything, but that WaterFire thing — it’s kind of like art.” In this instance, somebody went to experience something, never thinking they were experiencing art.

I love that. People say they’re not into art or don’t see themselves as artists, and it’s like “No, you love art! Look at your fashion, look how you’re styling your hair. You’re listening to music. You’re surrounded by art!”

You’re absolutely surrounded by art. Everything you touch or come into contact with has had the fingerprints of an artist. There’s nothing that isn’t touched by art. Even your cereal box, a graphic designer designed the cover, a product designer designed the box. When kids think about careers they don’t really think about art like that, but lots of kids like art, right? It’s important for them to understand they can make a career being creative.

To learn more about WaterFire’s diverse offerings, including how to apply to WaterFire Accelerate, visit waterfire.org.

Free Your Summer: A guide to some of the best no-charge events around

From concerts in Fall River to grand spectacles in PVD, there is always something fun to look forward to in the heat of the summer in southern New England – especially with life beginning to return back to a semi-normal state after a tough two years. Looking for fun without breaking the bank? Check out these freeing options.


June 4 – September 24

Fire performer, Andrew Lindsay of Cirque de Light at WaterFire (Photograph by Erin Cuddigan)

WaterFire Providence is famous for holding its recurring partial and full lightings along Waterplace Park – and this summer they’re holding a handful of lightings for important causes alongside their routine lightings. 

Every year, WaterFire Providence holds both full and partial lightings on Friday and Saturday nights at Waterplace Park. The lightings are usually just a part of their typical seasonal routine, but there are some valuable causes that WaterFire honors with lightings throughout the summer. For example, the July 3 full lighting is sponsored by the organization RI Defeats Hep C, and the August 13 full lighting is dedicated to celebrating RI’s BIPOC communities. WaterFire’s lightings are even more special to attend when they are representing important organizations and movements! 

In his announcement of the 2022 lighting schedule, creator and co-CEO Barnaby Evans proclaimed that “WaterFire is an opportunity to come and enjoy a historic city reborn, to see an urban center in new light and to celebrate the balance of the old and the new mixed with the romance of firelight.” The WaterFire lightings are a quintessential component of RI and its culture. 

In addition to WaterFire’s regular lightings, they also offer free galleries and exhibitions through the WaterFire Arts Center that shine a spotlight on both local and international artists. The featured exhibition for May is Faded, The Gallery: Exploring the Lineage of Graphic T-Shirts, and many more exhibitions will be featured on their website as they continue to publish their schedule. 

To see WaterFire’s full schedule of lightings, visit their 2022 WaterFire Lighting Schedule. To remain up-to-date with their exhibitions and galleries, visit their WaterFire Arts Center Calendar at WaterFire.org.

Fourth of July Celebrations, Bristol RI

June 12 – July 4

Bristol, Rhode Island, July 4 parade.

Bristol has a reputation of going all-out for the Fourth of July, and this year is no exception. Join them as they continue their tradition of free concerts, races, and tons of other events!

Bristol prides itself on being America’s ”most patriotic town,” and its Fourth of July celebrations are a shining example of that pride. After all, it’s the home of America’s oldest Fourth of July celebration! Starting on June 14 with Flag Day, Bristol holds free events week after week leading up to Independence Day. As one of the earlier celebrations, the organizers hold a vintage baseball game on June 18 in the Bristol town common, along with a block dance party in the same spot on the same night.

Another highlight of the celebrations is the free two-week concert series held every night from Sunday June 19 to Saturday July 2, which Chairman Chuck MacDonough is excited to confirm is finally returning. Last year, the concerts were relocated to Roger Williams University, but this year it is returning to its home in Independence Park. 

More great events include the local Orange Crate Derby on Sunday June 12, and the foot races on Wednesday, June 22. As an added bonus, anyone who participates in the 1-mile foot race is offered free tickets to the carnival, which is a staple of the Fourth of July celebrations. 

To top everything off, the celebrations come to a close with the fireworks extravaganza on July 3 and the parade on July 4. For the parade this year, MacDonough looks forward to inviting back past participating organizations and welcoming in lots of new ones.

To see Bristol’s schedule of events for this year’s celebrations, take a look at fourthofjulybristolri.com

2022 Kick-Off to Summer, Fall River MA

June 18

This June, Fall River’s 2022 Kick-Off to Summer will be a free event where people of all ages can enjoy hands-on arts and crafts, games and casual sports tournaments.

This June, Greater Fall River Re-Creation is reviving their 2022 Kick-Off to Summer in Ruggles Park. This free event will be home to face painting, carnival games, a tattoo artist, free food, a rock wall, a basketball tournament, an obstacle course and a bunch of other activities for the whole family. As a bonus, the event will feature an array of resource tables from various local organizations in the Fall River area. The various activities offered by the Kick-Off are a combination of art, games, movement, and engagement.

The public event will finally be back in full-swing after two difficult years. Executive Director Grace Gerling noted, “We’re excited to be bringing back our Kick-Off to Summer at Ruggles Park here in Fall River. It’s been a couple of years now that we haven’t been able to offer the free event due to COVID-19, and we’re super excited to bring it back. It’ll be a really fun day for the kiddos!” Gerling also announced that the event will be extended by an additional hour, running 11am to 3pm instead of to 2 pm.

To learn more about the 2022 Kick-Off to Summer, check out gfrrec.org

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