Greater City Providence

Art Scene Lately: Scenes within scenes


Soundsession photo by brownbeatle from Flickr

In a robust urban arts scene there ends up being pockets of scenes within scenes. Each fertile core is a community unto itself. This always causes me think about the notion of cross-pollination “¦Can we migrate more? Enjoy more arts diversity and in doing so create more diversity? In a city the size of Providence the fluidity between our arts enclaves and the way the distinct arts disciplines combine and reflect each can be one of our greatest strengths.

To encourage more cross-pollinators, I’ve asked a bunch of people in the business of Providence culture to provide their top picks for the upcoming summer arts season. Hopefully this provides new access points and ideas about our arts scene.

Karen BeeBe (co-owner/curator, Queen of Hearts boutique) is admittedly a downtown gal. She is looking forward to our city’s well-regarded Sound Session music festival running July 11-15. A big part of Karen’s enthusiasm for this event is her anticipation of the diverse audiences it will bring downtown. Billed as a festival with selections that excite, educate, surprise and inspire, Sound Session is definitely a good place to partake in what’s genre-defying about Providence culture. Tickets are sold for each night, several nights or the entire festival. The 2009 festival site is not up yet, but its parent organization The Black Rep does have information online and you can sign up for eblasts or volunteer!

Kathy Bert (of Bert Gallery) emailed me about Gallery Night’s new Wickenden Street art tours. As I understand it, these tours operate under the theme “…I know what I like“ and are designed to engage people in a dialogue about art collecting (hopefully debunking the feeling that you have to know something about art to know what you like). Often the hurdle to talking about art can be a bit like wine tasting – everyone has opinions but sometimes it helps to have a few handles on the terminology offered or to have your own gut reactions put into a larger framework.

In addition to these new tours, Bert Gallery has a series of art talks lined up for the third Thursday Summer Gallery Nights. The August 20th talk looks particularly interesting with exhibiting artist Carmel Vitullo being interviewed about growing up in RI, attending RISD, and the impact on her photography. Vitullo’s work depicts Rhode Island urban streets shots from the 1950-60s and is part of a photography show at Bert Gallery (July 14th – August 28th). I’ve been to several Bert Gallery events and they are informative and attract a combination of local arts appreciators and the gallery’s well-cultivated regional audience of collectors.

Then there are the suggestions of Christina Bevilacqua who comes close to embodying cultural cross-pollination. She admits this is in-part personal passion and also professional duty (One of Christina’s roles is putting together The Providence Athenaeum’s Friday Night Salons that skate across all arts and humanities topics. Note: When Fall swings back around check these out by becoming a member or tapping a friend who is a member to bring you along). Well Christina really got into my question because for her summer is a less scheduled time ripe for exploration that goes a little beneath the surface. She also is similarly obsessed about the idea of crossing cultural boundaries and offered that she views the Providence Cultural scene on both a micro and macro or meta level. What I love about her meta-lens is that she takes note of the relationships between the pockets that exist, the relationships that could be nurtured and also notes that what sustains our scene are the ideas being played collectively.

playwrightsSo where does this culture skater go for her summer sustenance? Christina’s list of cultural organizations was half a page long so I pressed her for specifics. Here are the three things she offered: 1) Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep that brings emerging alumni talent back to perform three plays each summer. Dates for this year are July 8th- August 1st and there is even a very affordable summer fun pass (all three plays for $25). 2) Not About The Buildings’ third annual Spelling Bee on June 22nd. Again this event is touted for its own wonderfully quirky merit as well as the very interesting mix of audience. 3) Perishable Theater’s new Live Bait series. Here Christina notes how timely Live Bait is. After checking out the Perishable website I see why she feels this way – it’s all about the audience telling stories.

And whether it’s Pecha Kucha or NPR’s This I Believe, it does seems like we are all being invited to tell our stories, albeit briefly.

That’s only the tip of the iceberg in what’s going on in Providence this summer. What are you looking forward to this summer in the Providence arts world?

Girl with fish image from Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep

Margie Butler

Margie grew up outside of Hartford, Connecticut at a time when families frequently ventured downtown for culture, classes, and shopping. After living in New York and working as a consultant for over a decade Margie migrated east landing first in New Bedford where she ran that city’s downtown cultural economic development project AHA! Since 2004 Margie has lived in Providence on the East Side and consulted in marketing and the arts. Margie is interested in how creative cities can take a more authentic inside-out approach to presenting the arts across neighborhoods and genres.

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