Providence was founded by Roger Williams – an outcast, a rebel, a creative thinker who dared defy the rules and define his destiny. No wonder then, almost 400 years later, his city of Providence continues to comfort and contain writers, painters, musicians, sculptors, dancers, architects, fashion and jewelry designers – indeed those who, like Williams, dance to the beat of their own drum. The Creative Capital has ample opportunity to be inspired by the likes of them all, whatever your taste.
Providence’s most significant contribution to the modern artistic world is WaterFire, an installation designed 25 years ago by artist Barnaby Evans. Bonfires in the middle of the river, surrounded by music, performers, food and people, is what Evans envisioned, and on select nights almost year-round, this iconic event delights and enraptures. The works of Evans’ less literal compadres – those who took to canvas and clay – practically watch over this event from the perch that is the RISD Museum. This top design school’s museum houses everything from ancient artifacts to contemporary works, and features plenty to see by the most notable masters of the art world. Less notable, but as enchanting, are the works of local and national artists shown in galleries throughout city, including Gallery Z on historic Federal Hill. Gallery Z and others can be visited, via trolley, during popular Gallery Night tours.
On any given night in Providence you are likely to find a well-known Broadway show, a play, or concert at the city’s culture homes – Providence Performing Arts Center, The VETS, Trinity Repertory Company or the Columbus Theatre – each a work of art in their own right. But should you choose to step a bit off the beaten path, you’ll make unique and memorable finds, such as the Big Nazo Lab, where ugly-but-lovable life-size monsters come to life. Wherever you choose to go, you’ll agree that Roger Williams would be proud.