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RISD Student Stages Art with Endangered Providence Building

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Providence pedestrians turned heads yesterday afternoon as RISD sculpture graduate student Tamara Johnson physically integrated her body into an endangered property.  

“Yes it is what it looks like, I am supporting the building!” Johnson responded to an intrigued passerby. The RISD student provided support by holding up a piece of foam, camouflaged as a steel beam, from 11am through 1:30pm to draw attention to the property.  

"The Beam"

The goal of Johnson’s public art piece project “The Beam,” is to bring awareness to the façade of the Providence National Bank Building of the Providence Downtown National Register District, which is one of the 2011 Providence Preservation Society Ten Most Endangered Properties, as reported by GoLocalProv, here. “For me," Johnson said, "it is an active, endurance, labor project and I am hoping that on the most simple level, someone notices.”  

The only remains of the historic Providence National Bank and First Federal Bank buildings is the façade, which is supported by rusting steel beams. When developers destroyed the Providence National Bank Building in 2005, they

saved the 1940s- era 50 Weybosset Street façade with the intention of integrating it into a new structure.  In October 2007, the project officially stalled. Losing the façade of the structure would further deteriorate the historical value of lower Weybosset Street. 

“Whether people consider my project silly, political or weird," Johnson said, "if it causes thinking, then in its own way, it is successful.”


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