I hate to say it, but the cold of this late spring seriously affected my mood. The New England weather causes all of us to turn inwards, shielding ourselves against bitter wind and chilly attitudes. Despite my affection for the Downcity restaurants, music, art and vitality–it took a tour from Sol Chariot to remind me why Downtown Providence feels so special.
By rolling around on this fun and interactive tour during a gorgeous day in our beautiful city, I was able to again appreciate the vibrancy of our streets and institutions, rooted in history and driven by vision.
After saying hello to Irene, my tour guide and pedicab driver, we decided to combine the Downcity Arts and Providence Historical tours. The first stop was this brilliant mural commissioned by AS220, and designed by Shepard Fairey. To the right is another mural by Guillermo Gómez-Peña behind the AS220 Main Stage where local musicians perform nightly. You cannot speak of urban revitalization without mentioning AS220–their myriad of programs, studio spaces, galleries, and classes have created countless opportunities for artists and increased access to the arts for all.
Irene used to work at Trinity Rep, so she had lots of interesting facts about the theater named after a church! Over the past fifty years, the theater has produced a number of celebrated world premieres, mounted national and international tours, trained hundreds of new actors and directors through its MFA programs and has consistently been a pioneer in arts education for people of all ages and abilities.
GEORGE C. ARNOLD BUILDING + PVD ARTS FEST MURALS
It was great hearing more about the recent rehabilitation of the George C. Arnold Building, which also frames up these two epic murals from last year’s PVD fest. The Etam Cru from Poland is the artist collective responsible for the popular street art.
We hit up some of my favorite Downcity landmarks– The Shepard Building, Mary Beth Meehan’s portrait project, the Big Nazo Studio, PPAC, Grant’s Block and Aurora. It was inspiring to realize that each of these landmarks represents an aspect of the Providence Experience. The Shepard Building, like much of Downcity, attests to the Providential ability to repurpose glamorous old buildings for new uses, like education. I don’t remember the last time I went to a festival and Big Nazo wasn’t there with their inventive puppetry and hilarious performances. PPAC hosts some of the countries best touring musical and theatrical acts. Grant’s Block is a community meeting place where InDowncity holds the popular Movies on the Block series, but it also serves as a playground for the Pat Feinstein pre-school, or an impromptu lunch spot. Aurora is a mixed use space that serves the community with great arts and development programming. It is this vision and reinvention of the historical to become something that is shared so freely with the public that makes Downcity and Providence a truly unique place.
We then took a loop around Water Place Park, the project that most people think of when they call Providence the Renaissance City. Sol Chariot’s pedicabs are a popular amenity during Waterfire, and you will find them at every single one during the summer. If you need a break from the crowds, ask you tour guide for a Downcity Tour!
We ended up in the Alex Ani City Center, the city’s skating rink. Looking up at the Industrial Trust Building, we reflected on the building’s state of passivity, and it’s visual opulence. After the day’s discoveries and inspirations, Irene and I finished the tour wondering what the future holds for the iconic structure.