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RI’s Communities as Art: Asher Schofield’s “Travel” Posters

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Providence College graduate and Hope Street's Frog and Toad owner Asher Schofield might not be from the state originally, but with "hundreds of years of generations of Rhode Islanders" in his blood, he has sense of the unique nature Rhode Island's communities.

With a degree in Art and English from PC, Schofield put both to use in his popular Rhode Island "travel poster" series, depicting the quirks, stereotypes, and idiosyncrasies of the cities and town in the Ocean State. The line, which also consists of magnets and tee shirts, can be found at the Frog and Toad.

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"They're all in good fun," said Schofield. "We've found that people like to celebrate whatever their community identity is with pride. If anything, people get upset when they find their town doesn't have a poster yet," adding that he was still planning on adding more to the collection.

Inspirations for Art, Imitating Life

Schofield graduated from Providence College in 1996, and moved back to Rhode Island in 1998. Along with his partner Erin, they opened the Frog and Toad in 2001.

The idea for the posters came "organically," said Schofield, when one day he was sifting through items at a thrift shop when he game upon a print that had, "You can go to hell, I'm going to Gatorland" on it.

"I just got the idea to swap Gatorland out for Pawtucket, but keeping the gator, of course," said Schofield. "I did have a customer's grandmother tell me that she used the expression going back years."

"There's something charming, confusing, and hard to define all at the same time about Pawtucket," said Schofield. "People don't know if the poster's supposed to be positive or negative, but there's a charm to Pawtucket...it's simple, sweet."  

Schofield spoke with GoLocal about the creation of several of the other works.  

Foster-Glocester;  "This one is fairly obvious.  Kids growing up waiting to hear if school got cancelled on snow days always knew if there was some snow, Foster-Glocester would get called for sure, whether their school did or not," said Schofield.  

Barrington:  "No one would ever make a tourism poster for Barrington.  Of all my works in the collection, this one's probably ruffled the most people, due to the fact that teen drinking is often associated with Barrington. However, it used to be a dry town, and let's face it, it's kind of boring. You kind of need a drink to get by."

North Providence:  The "Let's Make a Deal" takes its inspiration from the recent bribery scandal that happened with certain council members. I think it was commendable that it was the small business -- Olneyville System Wieners -- that took a stand."

Woonsocket:  "This poster is pretty dry actually. Given the city's rich history of manufacturing and massive millworks, it imagines a past wherein it was the site of a workers uprising a la communist propaganda art. Sadly and ironically, Woonsocketers would be pretty stoked to have the return of such industry to their town today."

Olneyville: "It might be my favorite print. I've always felt like Olneyville was the guts of Providence. Its raw and gritty. Like the dog on the print, it isn't pretty and it can be rough. And that neighborhood has generated the best music and art our city might have ever produced. People have expressed concern that the image might be offensive, but I've never really been able to figure out a good reason why. Sometimes folks will make themselves crazy trying to be politically correct, I guess."


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