WRWC Facebook Page

Art in the Watershed

The Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council is fortunate to be based in what some have called the "art capital of New England." Art has played an important role in the Greenway project. From murals to sculptures to banners and beyond, art has the power to transform our impressions of a place and bring attention to neglected locations and issues. Here are some of the art projects the council has brought to the watershed.

The Return Home by Gillian Christy.

The Return Home: In 2007 the Watershed Council commissioned artist Gillian Christy to create sculpture for the foot bridge over the river between Promenade and Kinsley Avenues, just up river from Dean Street, in Providence. The sculpture highlights the return of anadramous fish to the Woonasquatucket. The finished sculpture was installed in March 27, 2008. The funding for the project came from EPA Region One, The Foundry, and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. For more about The Return Home on this project see our web page devoted to this project.

Two of the elements that will make up the overall piece.

Passage: Artist Will Machin is also creating an artwork for the Watershed Council related to the return of anadramous fish to the Woonasquatucket, but Machin's work will be going on the actual fish ladder at Rising Sun Mills. Here is the artist's statement about the project:

"This piece was originally conceived in sketches and talk between the Jenny Periera, Lisa Aurecchia and myself, Will Machin, in the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council Office. It was meant to be a historical biography of the relationship between the Woonasquatucket River and human beings, with each piece depicting a different time period. While building the piece, breaking glass and brick, shells and pebbles from the river's banks and watershed, I have found other ways to understand the piece, without losing the historical thinking that brought the piece into being. I've come to feel that each relationship depicted here is still active. As a species of beings made of water, we partner-dance with our rivers, we exploit them for their power, we submerge them under asphalt while asking them to carry our wastes, and we work to nurse them back to health. Somehow I can't shake the feeling that, as a species made of water, the ways we treat our rivers is much the same as the ways we treat ourselves."

This project was funded by grants from EPA Region 1 and the Rhode Island Rivers Council.

One of the nesting houses made by artist Will Machin.

Bird Nesting Houses on the Woonasquatucket: In 2005 the Watershed Council collaborated with artist Will Machin and Woonasquatucket Valley Community Build, and YouthBuild Providence, and New Urban Arts to create a series of 19 bird nesting houses along the Woonasquatucket River in Providence. The houses incorporated found objects from along the river and were built using traditional lime masonry techniques. The project was funded by a New Works Grant from the Rhode Island Foundation. For more about the bird nesting houses see our web page dedicated to the project.

Green Zone: At an Earth Day cleanup, volunteers pulled dozens of tires out of the Woonasquatucket River. Sarah Zurier brought home six of them to create Green Zone, a garden installation located at Firehouse 13 all summer long in 2008. Green Zone is an organic vegetable, herb, and flower garden planted in the detritus of wartime consumption: used tires, plastic shopping bags, and discarded shoes.

The garden takes its name from Baghdad's Green Zone: a fortified government district that now serves as headquarters for the US occupation authority. Its park-like environment is surrounded by concrete blast walls, chain-link fences, earth berms, barbed wire, and armed checkpoints. Gardens are also Green Zones. They are defined spaces of green refuge within larger, different, and sometimes inhospitable settings, whether environmental (like brownfields, deserts, or vacant lots) or temporal (like wartime or winter).

Some of the Green Zone plants growing in tires pulled out of the Woonasquatucket.

America has a long tradition linking gardens on the homefront to wartime conservation. Pop culture and political propaganda from World War I and World War II urged Americans to grow their own food in War Gardens and Victory Gardens. On the other hand, after September 11 and throughout six years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Uncle Sam directs us to consume, not conserve. The message persists in 2008 via IRS stimulus checks, despite worldwide food shortages and record-high food prices.

One of the banners created as part of the banner project.

Green Zone grew all summer long. Firehouse 13 residents shared its produce.

Special thanks to Southside Community Land Trust for starting many plants from seed.

Banner Project: In 2005 the Watershed Council worked with local artists to make banners to be hung along Promenade and Kinsley Avenues where the run along the river in Providence. These banners tell various stories about the river and at the same time work to change the visual landscape of these busy streets and create a more welcoming space. The artists who designed the banners were Jung-Il Hong, Johanna Dery, and Helen Bryan. Numerous people were involved with sewing the banners. This project was funded by a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts.

Contact Us  ::  Website feedback  ::  Add your name to our mailing list

Thank you to our organizational sponsors

B101BetaNBC 10