New Exhibition, Block Island Airport Gallery

Kate Wilson at Block IslandThe Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) is pleased to present works by artist Kate Wilson on exhibit through September 18, 2018 at the Block Island Airport Gallery. The Block Island Airport Gallery presents the work of contemporary Rhode Island artists in quarterly exhibitions.

Kate Wilson is a fine artist who blends photography and graphic design to transform reality by elevating ordinary objects into fine art on a grand scale. Each artwork has a love note or positive word, hidden within to ignite wonder & curiosity.

Graduating from Skidmore with a BS in Education & Liberal Studies, studio art concentration, Wilson has taught both elementary school and studio art. She furthered her studies in the RISD CE graphic design program, and taught herself the art and craft of photography.  She has run her own graphic design and photography business before devoting herself full-time to fine art. Exhibiting widely throughout the New England region, Kate is represented by Candita Clayton Gallery in Pawtucket and Atelier Newport.

Exhibitors for the Block Island Airport Gallery were selected by juror Lisa Robb, Block Island’s public schools arts educator.

The Block Island Airport Gallery, a partnership between the Rhode Island Council on the Arts and the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, promotes outstanding work by artists living and working in Rhode Island.  The gallery will present art to an ever-changing audience of local, national and international travelers.

About RISCA: The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts is a state agency supported by appropriations from the Rhode Island General Assembly and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. RISCA provides grants, technical assistance and staff support to arts organizations and artists, schools, community centers, social service organizations and local governments to bring the arts into the lives of Rhode Islanders.

About RIAC:

The Rhode Island Airport Corporation operates T.F. Green Airport, the Block Island Airport and four other general aviation airports in Rhode Island. A long-time supporter of public art in Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Airport Corporation has worked with the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts on a number ofpublic art commissions.

 

“The Future History Of Public Art” Symposium Proceedings Now Available Online

The Future History of Public Art
WESTAF’s 17th Cultural Policy Symposium
Proceedings Now Available!
We are pleased to announce that the proceedings from WESTAF’s 17th cultural policy symposium,The Future History of Public Art, are now available online. This gathering of public art practitioners and allied professionals convened November 5-7 in Honolulu, Hawai’i and was organized by WESTAF in collaboration with Forecast Public Art [r20.rs6.net] and the Hawai’i State Foundation on Culture and the Arts [r20.rs6.net].
The symposium provided a significant platform for high-level discourse to explore existing challenges alongside emerging strategies for the successful growth of the field. Symposium attendees traveled from six countries to take part in the convening: New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, and the United States.
This convening was organized as a way to reflect on the challenges public art practitioners face and propose ways in which the field can develop to provide a stronger infrastructure in support of the advancement of the field as a whole. To view the proceedings online or to request a print version, please click on the links below.

Request a print copy.

(If you have already requested a print copy, it will be delivered in August 2018 to the address provided).

Bring Your Own Improv Celebrates 10th Anniversary

BYOIBring Your Own Improv (BYOI), an interactive comedy show for all ages, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with a special event on Friday, August 3 at the Warwick Center for the Arts. The anniversary festivities will include appearances from previous BYOI cast members, special games, and cake. The night includes a family-friendly show, open to all ages, at 7:00pm and a late night show at 9:00pm.

Bring Your Own Improv first began in August of 2008, at a now-closed venue on Thayer Street in Providence. Improv Jones graciously hosted BYOI at their stage on Empire Street in Providence until the show found their home at the Warwick Center for the Arts in 2011.

“Warwick Center for the Arts has been the home of BYOI for the past 7 years. As an organization, we bring art and culture—in all its facets—to the public; and BYOI is one great way in which we’re able to engage the broader community at the Center,” said Taylor Terreri, Warwick Center for the Arts Director. “Our on-going partnership with BYOI allows us to be part of a much-loved community institution and we’re excited to see what’s next for BYOI.”

While most improv shows encourage audience participation when cast members solicit the crowd for suggestions, BYOI is unique in that audience members are also welcome on stage to play along with each game.

BYOI also runs a Youth Collective—a Friday evening program for teens (ages 13 to 18) that teaches improv comedy as well as self-confidence and social emotional skills. Each Youth Collective session includes one month of lessons and one month of performing on stage. Many youth involved in the Collective have taken multiple sessions because they have developed friendships with their peers and continue to improve their skills.

“I never would have found improv if it weren’t for BYOI, and improv is my passion,” said Youth Collective member Carolyn Morey. “It doesn’t matter how good at improv you are, it’s fun no matter what.”

Finally, BYOI regularly performs in the community for a variety of charities and non-profit organizations. Every month, the cast visits The Izzy Family Room—a family room on the pediatric oncology floor at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

“Families, patients and staff look forward to the night when every can laugh, which reduces distressing emotions, helps families recharge and most importantly, draws people together, removing the isolation so many families feel when their children is battling a serious life threatening illness,” said Erin Scott, Executive Director of the Izzy Foundation. “We are so grateful to BYOI for helping The Izzy Foundation provide programs that help families live, love, laugh and play while in the hospital.

Bring Your Own Improv’s shows are held every Friday evening at 7:00pm (family-friendly show) and a late night show at 9:00pm. Tickets to each show are $8 for adults and $5 for Seniors, Students, Military, and Children Under 12. The cast is available for hire for corporate team building, birthday and holiday parties, school events, private events and fundraisers. In addition to the Youth Collective Program, BYOI also offers adult improv workshops throughout the year. For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit www.bringyourownimprov.com 

New Art Exhibition up at T.F. Green Airport

At the GREEN SPACE Gallery, an exhibit entitled RHYTHMIC VISIONS featuring works by China Blue, Hayley Morris and Ben Wohlberg is on display from May 14 through September 4, 2018. The GREEN SPACE Gallery is a partnership between the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, promoting outstanding work by artists living and working in Rhode Island.

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Migratory Torrent by China Blue

RHYTHMIC VISIONS explores various ways in which movement, music and rhythm can be expressed visually. These questions are explored in the work of three artists; Ben Wohlberg, whose large, gestural canvases experiment with organic forms and texture to capture a quality of space and time; China Blue, whose graphic works depict movement and migration; and Hayley Morris, whose animation conveys the exuberance of music as well as the shifting realities of dementia.

A RISCA Fellowship recipient, China Blue has also been honored as an Artist-in-Resident with the Norman Prince Neurosciences Institute at the Rhode Island Hospital, has received three NASA/RI Space Grants, and is an adviser to Rhode Island Congressman Langevin’s Committee for Art & Culture and the state’s Art and Health Committee. Driven by her interested in how our world is built from our sensations and perceptions, the body of work shown in this exhibition focuses on visualizing acoustic propagation of sound in space. A resident of Warwick, she additionally is the Founder and Executive Director of the non-profit organization The Engine Institute

Hayley Morris is an artist and animation director based in Providence, R.I. She runs the studio Shape & Shadow creating animated commercials, short films, music videos, projection art and social media content. Morris uses traditional stop-motion and mixed media techniques to tell stories that unfold through layered textures, handcrafted details and inventive storytelling.  Morris has directed commercials for Samsung, Hewlett Packard, Burt’s Bees, Kate Spade & The Detroit Zoo; commercials for Special K, McDonald’s, Toyota, The New York Times; and music videos for Iron and Wine, violinist Hilary Hahn, and pianist Hauschka. Her short film, Undone, won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Animated Short at Slamdance in 2009, and her sets, puppets and music videos were shown at La Gaité Lyrique’s Motion Factory Exhibition in Paris. Morris also teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design.

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Living Large 3 by Ben Wohlberg

Ben Wohlberg was born in 1927 on a farm in Montezuma, Kansas. His first “canvas” was the dirt, in which he began to draw at age 5. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he earned a B.F.A. in Illustration and Painting from Art Center School in Los Angeles, California. Moving to New York City in 1953, he supported himself and his family as an advertising illustrator first at Charles E. Cooper Studio, and later in his own commercial art studio.  He retired in 2005 to pursue abstract painting, dividing his time between Harbour Island in the Bahamas and Block Island. Inspired by nature, Wohlberg’s paintings have been shown in galleries in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island and can be found in corporate and private collections throughout Europe, the Bahamas, and the United States

Droppin’ Knowledge: If the truth is told, the youth can grow.

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Left to Right: Eric Axelman, Oliver ‘Syde-Sho’ Arias & Taylor Lomba

The African-American proverb ‘each one teach one’ reflects a time in history when slaves in America were prohibited from learning how to read, do math, or anything that resembled gaining an education. It reflects the responsibility for every person to pass on the knowledge by teaching someone else. A local nonprofit, Pushed Learning and Media, has taken this proverb to heart- they visit middle schools, high schools, and universities, using a hip hop based curriculum to “promote critical thinking on the complexities of privilege, identity, and oppression,” and producing short documentaries and social justice based curriculum. Founded in 2016 by three friends, Eric Axelman, Oliver ‘SydeSho’ Arias, and Nikolos Gonzales, they came together as artists and educators to develop a bicultural and multiracial teaching cohort model. I had the opportunity to sit down with Eric and Oliver to talk about their organization, the evolution of their own racial biases, and their goals for the future of Pushed Learning and Media. Note: interview edited for length.

Precious: Thank you guys for taking the time to sit with me, much appreciated. Ok, let’s get started! Tell me about yourselves.

Oliver: I’m Oliver Arias, my artist name is ‘SydeSho’, I am the Program Director of Pushed Learning and Media.

Eric: Indeed! I’m Eric, Executive Director and co-founder of Pushed, SydeSho and I brought it together in 2016 and I’m also a hip hop artist – I rap; but these days I do a lot of film making as well, about half hip hop anti-racist work and half film making. It’s all anti-racist work, but right now the film making is on a variety of topics. So, right now the major film we’re working on is about the American-Jewish relationship to Israel/Palestine.

Oliver: A major part of the organization itself uses hip-hop culture as a vehicle or tool to open the conversation with youth, teachers and/or organizations about race, racial inequality, and social injustice – just about everything that’s going on in the country and what’s happening in local areas. So, specifically with Providence, we talk about the demographics and how now it’s predominantly a city of color but also touching on the fact that over 90% of the kids in the Providence public school system are of color but about 70% of the teachers are white. The racial disparity in the Providence school system and having the ability to have these conversations with teachers and students about instances people of color face every day is what we want to bring forth with our work but these conversations never happen; so, we use hip hop culture to engage in these dialogues, using relevant artists to talk about these topics.

Engaging students with a difficult yet all too common issue for people of color with instances of just ‘sitting while being a person of color’, ‘walking while being a person of color’ and ‘driving while being a person of color’ are everyday occurrences people of color will face. The reality of the matter is people of color will forever endure microaggressions and racial biases no matter how successful, well dressed, and/or educated.

Eric: You know, racism is kind of like the elephant in the room in all educational settings and all our educational settings are either majority students of color with white teachers or just all white students and white teachers. So, we basically have this system where white people are in control of the educational systems and then just never talk about it or the racial dynamics. In Rhode Island, you know, most of our work is with students of color but we also work with schools that are predominantly white. There are a couple of pockets in Rhode Island where the schools are relatively balanced but they’re the exception to the rule, and the rule is its basically all students of color or all white kids.

Precious: How have your own experiences prepared you or not prepared you for the racial disparities you see in your community and the world?

Eric:  I was told a story by a white RI principal, as a kid he was caught doing graffiti once, the cop asked me where he was from and instantly *snaps fingers* he was let go. It was like he told him what school he went to and immediately he was let go. And, as a white person, I can name many examples from my own life where I’ve broken the law, not in huge ways, but clearly broken the law and cops have noticed me breaking the law and have done nothing. I think about how intensely segregated Newport and Providence are, and what we do is use the unbelievably obvious nature of segregation in American society as a jumping off point to talk about the larger impacts psychologically and structurally of how racism operates. And I think segregation really underpins a lot on how it operates because we are so physically separated, the great majority. I grew up in rural Maine, so both physically separated on a large scale and then also in our individual cities, so again, you can grow up in rural Maine and never interact with a person of color and you can be in Newport in a city that is fairly diverse and never interact with a person of color. It took me a long time to process how very racist the area of Maine I grew up in is and if a person of color would walk by in my town, the stares would be so shocking. Our white neighborhoods in the inner cities can also be racist just as the rural areas, they might be more liberal and progressive on things but they’re just as racist and ignorant of the lives of other people since they’re not interacting with them in the same way.

Oliver: When I’m on the east side.. *pauses* when I’m walking you can feel it; and that’s the thing about racial tension, it’s something you can’t point out on paper or really pinpoint but people of color know that feeling all too well.

 

Precious: Of the schools you’ve visited in Rhode Island and the New England area, from predominantly minority public schools to predominantly white private charter and/or academy schools, do you see there is a lack of cultural competence between the students and teachers?

Oliver: It’s interesting because a lot of the teachers that work in Providence are predominantly white but they also don’t come from here. I can safely say they are not immersed in the culture or understand the situation of the kids and where they’re coming from. There are situations where [students are] mostly kids of color and the teachers are white, I still feel like there isn’t any cultural exchange where they’re learning from each other; because they’re just there to sit in a room and learn about an academic subject. There are no talks about how they grew up, a child expressing their situation at home, and of course we don’t want to get into a student’s private life but also, we want to break down those barriers. I think when a person of color can express their experience it can open sympathy or empathy for the individual and there’s more of an understanding as to why he/she is acting out or misbehaving.

Eric: You know…Every person of color must deal with, in most cases of their life, being the only person of color in the room whereas a white person can live their entire lives and never have to be the only white person in the room.

Oliver: A person of color can almost never escape having to interact with a person who is white versus a person who is white can find a situation where they don’t have to interact with a person/people of color.

Eric: And sometimes even when the white person does go into those situations its often as a position of authority and even myself dealing with my own internalize racism and things I’ve done is a difficult thing. One of the first teaching gigs I got was I had just graduated from college, so I was very qualified being a college grad *sarcasm* and was hired by an inner-city arts program and it was my first time working with students of color – I should not have been hired. I didn’t know how to interact with the kids, they thought I was this random white dude coming in. My first interaction with them was as an authority figure, it was a five-week program and I did not do a good job, I failed those kids. But often again white people including myself come in and take positions of authority with very little knowledge of the context and it doesn’t serve the kids or the teacher. I mean I also think that white people can obviously do a good job and can interact with people of color BUT if you don’t have that cultural context then you’re just a white authority figure and it’s not good for you or for them and you’re just going to be living a stereotype to a certain extent.

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When it comes to teachers, particularly white teachers in predominantly minority schools, I believe having a level of cultural competency is imperative to an overall multicultural learning experience. The ability to have awareness of your own cultural identity and views about difference, and the capacity to learn and build on the varying cultural and community norms of students and their families can help close the gap in education where cultural diversity receives scant attention. While some if not many students may remain in their homogenized communities through higher education and adulthood, teachers still have a responsibility not just to themselves but to their students as well to introduce multicultural curriculum that’s inclusive about ‘the other’.

Precious: How do schools reach out to Pushed Media and Learning? Are schools reaching out to you because they’re having an issue with these topics amongst the students?

Oliver: When we first started this work, you know and with every organization you must put the work in yourself and get out there. We’d done a few other schools which had given us our first opportunities, we made sure to document our time and experience with the students from past schools and from that they were really impressed with our approach, the way we interacted with the kids and of course our hip hop opening that really drew them into our presentation. Some schools have reached out to us and let us know what topics they’d like us to touch upon, like cultural appropriation and police brutality. Some schools are just more general, they just love our open discussion with the students. At this point, we’ve gotten a network of schools from private and boarding schools who want us to come out and have these conversation with their students. We also wanted to bring these conversations to cities like Providence with kids of color, Eric and I have totally different experiences and what’s great is that we’re able to come to a middle ground and talk about our experiences so openly and realize these instances happen all the time.

Eric: When we work with kids of color we are confirming this stuff is real and having outsiders confirming that is a positive thing and it’s not my place to tell people how messed up the world is and it’s a painful thing. I realize I’m a white dude telling you this and I’m so sorry this is how the world is but at least I can be open and honest and confirm what you already know. And often, we, as white people, we don’t really want to deal with the repercussions of racism and that’s because we don’t have to and I think it is positive to have white people be very real and honest.

Precious: So, what does the future hold for Pushed Learning and Media?

Oliver: We will continue to do the work with schools that we’ve been building relationships with, including expanding to Boston Public Schools, to just spread our message as much as possible throughout the country and if there’s an opportunity to go international, that would be cool. Obviously, we want the organization to grow. We want to have a broader staff, people that come from different backgrounds and perspectives that have different stories to tell. We’re giving the male perspective and there’ve been times where we’ve gotten called out by women because we don’t understand what it’s like. My whole goal with Pushed Learning and Media is specifically educate kids of color on the actual adversities they’ll face. My main goal is to educate them on American history and the way it plays a role in structural racism in America.

Eric: This is the first time we’re getting invitations from colleges and universities to share our curriculum, so that’s really cool for us. Unfortunately, we are still part time and it’ll take a while before we can be full time with Pushed Learning and Media, and we’re currently working on a nonprofit status for the organization. We really try to challenge kids to think about what their racist perceptions are of other people, even if you have good intentions they ultimately grow up in a place that’s racist, I grew up in a place that was ultimately racist. Often its painful for people to have to deal with their own internalized racism even if you don’t mean to be racist you’re going to have racist thoughts.

 

Artist Spotlight: Becci Davis

Roots United.

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Photo Credit: Danielle Klebes

Rebecca ‘Becci’ Davis, an interdisciplinary artist originally from Columbus, Georgia now residing in Wakefield, Rhode Island, has established herself as an artist who has created work she believes should be received universally, pieces that on some level could be understood by everyone. While attending Lesley University College of Art and Design in Cambridge, Massachusetts pursuing her MFA, she began thinking about her practices and goals she set in place, creating and talking about artwork that was very personal to her was a way to reach the masses. “It was something that happened very naturally, not on purpose…I was still making the same kind of work but I wanted to put more personal narratives in my work.”  I think it should go without saying, when an artist creates a body of work it’s developed with a personalized aspect coming from within, drawing you into their personal narrative to better understand their work and who they are as an individual artist.

As cosmic energies and stars would begin to align, around Thanksgiving 2015 Becci received a promotional email from Ancestry.com for a free trial to discover more of her familial heritage, ‘I thought to myself, oh this will be fun but I probably won’t find anything.’ Like many African-Americans who are descendants of slavery here in the United States, records of family history are usually few and far between, but with adamant research and “completely obsessing,” Becci stopped making her other work and began to focus more of the efforts on her family history. “As the days and weeks passed, I realized I can’t continue making the work I was making and I found myself thinking about it [family history] all the time because there was so much. And I thought what I was doing outside of my practice at the time was so much more rich and complex and it was more ME, it was like…not discovering myself because I’ve always known these stories but realizing that my story had value to someone other than me.”

In 2017, Becci created a video, “Isaiah’s Inventory (Fog Follows Rains)”, one of the pieces she submitted that resulted in the 2018 RISCA Fellowship in New Genres. This piece details the inventory and appraisement of the estate of Isaiah Parker from Harris County, Georgia. Isaiah Parker was the slave owner of Becci’s ancestors. This video was a depiction of how the value of life could be broken down to a simple dollar amount. Having value in one’s family history can come with great pride and reverence. However, as Becci recites the name, race, and monetary value of each slave on the Parker Plantation, it is a feeling of worthlessness. Keeping true to the times, as the video progresses, take notice of the objects used in this piece such as the fountain pen with black ink on cotton rag paper, the unwritten names of the slaves along with their prices is very telling of the erasure and disregard of human life that can be so easily purchased and then forgotten about like an inanimate object.

Going forward, Becci continued her work drawing on themes of American-Black culture, crafting ideas and choosing different mediums to get her narrative across in pieces like ‘Collard Archive of Modern History’, the process of creating ‘life-like’ collard greens by casting handmade paper into molds and using library catalog cards under the subject heading of ‘modern history’ as pulp. A staple vegetable used in soul-food/southern cuisine, collard greens have a cultural connection with Black Americans. Becci Davis has what she calls a complicated relationship with the food, and the greens have been the source of rich culture and significance to her work.  Through her art, Becci finds ways to bring forth both cultural histories and significance by dispelling the notion that Black History is separate from the American History narrative: “because Black history is American history – it’s our shared history, it’s not separate from US history. It needs to be one people, I think that the idea we have two separate histories, we are two separate people and worlds is a lie.” 

Collard Archive of Modern History

Collard Archive of Modern History

In addition to being the recipient of the 2018 RISCA Fellowship, Becci is also the 2018 Creative Fellow at the Providence Public Library, where her work centered around the exhibition program & series, Hair Brained.  This series collection and interactive performances, which is being held at the Providence Public Library from March 1st – June 30th, focused on hairstyles throughout history and the ways in which hair defines and reflects culture, self-identity, agency, and politics.  The interactive performance piece, ‘Beacon Beauty Shop’ created by Becci was “‘something that sort of honored the idea of beauty shop culture and African-American culture but also served as a bridge or way of access in to Black hair for people who didn’t understand.” Walking into a beauty salon is an experience that we’ve all had at some point in our lives, “this isn’t something that divides us, this is something that we have in common.” The real cross-cultural experience came from her salon menu options from a wash-n-wrap, press-n-curl, and a relaxer/perm where some of the “clients” weren’t familiar with some of the hair techniques. In the African-American community a perm and relaxer are one and the same, a process to permanently straighten/relax your roots to become very straight. “Culturally our process is different – although I grew up saying “perm”, I made sure to put it as “relaxer” because culturally there’s a difference. When white people think “perm”, its turning already straight hair to curly and when we say “perm” we are PERMANENTLY straightening the roots.”  The goal of this interactive piece was to demystify Black hair and Black beauty shop culture, the creation of ‘Beacon Beauty Shop’ was the first step in trying to make that happen. “I think people came in expecting me to play in their hair, which is fine but when they realized there is this moment that we shared together listening to other people’s stories was something I got a lot out of – I enjoyed that exchange.” 

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Rebecca ‘Becci’ Davis, an artist who honors personal experience, oral narratives and events from past, present and future. “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” – Thomas Merton

PVD Public Art: Peruko Ccopacatty

On February 5, 2018, The Department of Art, Culture + Tourism joined Mayor Jorge Elorza, The Avenue Concept, and RIPTA officials to celebrate a series of new temporary public sculptures installed on Kennedy Plaza by Peruko Ccopacatty. The four metal sculptures, on view through June 2018, are the first significant original public art works to be installed in the Plaza since the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in 1871 (the adjacent “Hiker” was a replica). A full series of figures created by Ccopacatty had originally been created 20 years ago for the plaza, but were never installed. The new installation features a 14’ angel fashioned from reused car bumpers, a 7’ man built from reclaimed stainless steel, and two 6’ llamas sculpted from scrap metal.

With a career stretching back more than 50 years, Peruko Ccopacatty is an internationally-renowned artist who received the United Nations Society of Writers and Artists Award of Excellence in 2003 for a life’s work of social relevance. His studio is located in West Kingston, RI and he has exhibited throughout the world. According to The Avenue Concept: “This is a project we’ve been looking forward to for a long time – though not as long as Ccopacatty, who first received approval to install his sculptures in Kennedy Plaza in 1995. Of course, that project never came to be, and that missed opportunity was one of the reasons why we became so invested in helping him achieve it. This project represents both the culmination of a major investment we’ve made in Kennedy Plaza as a showcase for public art and the first look at a longer-term vision we have for a robust public art program in Providence.”

Originally from an Andean village on the banks of Lake Titicaca, Ccopacatty is revered back home as an international ambassador for Aymara culture and created a nonprofit library/cultural center to document and preserve its art and traditions.