Dan Lawlor: FirstWorks Festival Made Providence a Classy City
Tuesday, October 02, 2012
I'll never look at the old Hospital Trust tower the same way.
Our financial district skyline is stout and refined. We have three major skyscrapers (four if you count the 99 year old Turk's Head building). The Industrial Trust Tower, aka the Superman Building, is a monument to Providence's Roaring Twenties and the uneven wealth of the Gilded Age. Hospital Trust, or One Financial Plaza, is a bit more stark, and is an amalgam of glass and white stone, showing off design sentiments of the 1970s. The building in between, 50 Kennedy Plaza (once the Fleet Center), is a hybrid from the 1980s, a bit post-modern, a glass castle.
This past weekend, thanks to FirstWorks Providence, the City, countless volunteers, numerous local art organizations, and the National Endowment for the Arts, people danced on the windows of One Financial Plaza. I'll repeat that. People danced on the windows One Financial Plaza.
In reds and whites, the dance group Bandaloop bounced, sprinted, and swayed in the air, as music echoed with the financial buildings, and purple lights shown up to the sky.
The crowd - Black, White, Latino, Asian, young, old, in couples, married, and single - stared toward the night, necks curved back, and that stone skyscraper turned into a dance floor. Some might gripe about the money, about the "real" problems, about how all of this was bread and circus - well, I can tell you, it was a damn good circus.
From Waterfire along the river to the RI Philharmonic performing inside city hall, from a street painting in the skating rink to Cambodian dance groups in Burnside Park, from ceramic murals in the tunnel underneath the RI Foundation to a newly constructed pirate ship playground, from HP Lovecraft quotes to the What Cheer! band, so much wonderful dynamism was present.
This weekend festival was part of the kick-off celebration for Providence receiving the $200,000 "Our Town" grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, designed to promote coordination, community building and creativity .
We have such a rich legacy of creative placemaking. From AS220 to Lupo's, from Trinity Rep to La Salle's Theater program, from City Arts for Youth to New Urban Arts, from Urban Pond Procession to the Steel Yard, from Big Nazo to Southside Community Land Trust, the number of dynamic and engaging places for young people and families to gain skills and cultivate art in this city are wide and real.
Yet, it's not yet enough. Storefronts in downtown are empty, and at least one building on Washington St. sits boarded up. Various public high rises in the city are poorly maintained, full of recurring cases of bed bugs, broken windows, and elevators with expired safety certificates (case in point: check out Parenti Villa). Abandoned houses in Olneyville, Manton, Southside and Valley have become drug havens. Theaters across the city, from Broad St. to Chalkstone Ave. sit idle and empty. The sales tax and property tax stay high or go up, as schools close, bus routes, police, and income tax are cut, and parking lots flourish.
The city, state, local business, foundations, and non-profits worked as a team to receive the "Our Town" grant. Let's do the same coordination and team work to get the city moving again!
The dynamism, coordination, good will and energy that resulted in the beautiful FirstWorks shows across downtown this past weekend must be found every day, every week, across this city to help improve the quality of life for all of us. We moved rivers and just this past weekend had some folks dance on skyscrapers - together, we can make Providence more vibrant than its ever been.
- Dan Lawlor: A Moderate in Central Falls
- Dan Lawlor: Providence’s Art Nouveau Moment
- Dan Lawlor: Sales Tax of Doom
- Dan Lawlor: Who is the Political Machine Serving?
- Dan Lawlor: Budget Cuts Devastate Cities
- Dan Lawlor: Providence Shouldn’t be a Crime Scene
- Dan Lawlor: Still Too Many Homeless People in RI
- Dan Lawlor: Can we Please Elect More Women to Office?
- Dan Lawlor: RI’s Tax Policy Just Isn’t Working
- Dan Lawlor: The Curious Case of Gordon Fox
- Dan Lawlor: Casino Gaming Won’t Save Rhode Island
- Dan Lawlor: Ghosts of Speakers Past
- Dan Lawlor: The Mysterious World of Mr. McAuliffe
- Dan Lawlor: Fraud & Fantasy
- Dan Lawlor: Recalling the Occupy Movement
- Dan Lawlor: Time to Get Rid of the Lieutenant Governor
- Dan Lawlor: Gay Pride Parade Brings Out the Best in Providence
- Dan Lawlor: Rhode Island Needs More Lincoln Chafees
- Dan Lawlor: Time to Step Up for the Valley Neighborhood
- Dan Lawlor: How Speaker Fox Can Turn Around His Legacy
- Dan Lawlor: Rhode Island Needs a Larger General Assembly
- Dan Lawlor: Transparency & Insiders
- Dan Lawlor: Is it Time to be More Like Delaware?
- Dan Lawlor: Rise of the Independents
- Dan Lawlor: What Manchester, NH Gets Right that We Don’t