Karen Lee Ziner
December 14, 2009
PROVIDENCE — Along the rivers where flame meets water, Carolyn Fahm lofted a blue paper star this summer in memory of her son who died at birth. Her wish for him became part of “WaterFire’s” legacy.
Also this year, a Massachusetts couple got engaged while gliding in a gondola past “WaterFire’s” burning braziers. And Providence native Paul Good, now of Needham, Mass., wrote a poem inspired by the public art sculpture. It says, in part:
Hidden within a dance of sparks
We’ll heal ourselves
In pools of memories just created…
For nearly 15 years, the arts installation known as “WaterFire,” created by artist Barnaby Evans, has kindled romance, warmed hearts, and created a sense of community for millions of visitors. Now the folks behind the spectacle of flames and music are collecting stories of visitors, as part of a year-long 15th-anniversary celebration. If you have visited “WaterFire” and wish to share your experience — amusing, funny, poignant, and surprising — they want to hear from you.
Deputy artistic director Mary M. Tinti describes this as “an archival mission to capture the history of “WaterFire,” to expand on people’s interactions with each other at the event, and to paint a visual picture of what it means to everyone.” Written reflections, video, photos and artistic renderings are welcome, Tinti said. “We are not discriminating when it comes to media. We left it wide open. … It doesn’t have to be limited to a format.” She added, “You don’t have to be a spectacular writer.”Among the dozen or more stories already collected is the poem written by businessman Paul Good. (The poem is published in its entirety on the “WaterFire” Web site at www.waterfire.org/my-story)In a phone interview, Good said he feels a tremendous connection to “WaterFire.”“It brings enormous numbers of people together as a community, at an event that is repeatable … It really does sort of wash your spirit,” he said. “The more people that really get connected with WaterFire, the better it is.”For Trina Morris, of Massachusetts, “WaterFire” is a “profound and vivid,” ever-changing experience. She and her husband synchronized their wedding reception with the first “WaterFire” of 2004, “ultimately signifying just how special this was to us.”
For Carolyn Fahm, “WaterFire” provided the opportunity to memorialize her son, when she spotted the luminarias [votive candles in decorated paper bags, set along a walkway] in Memorial Park early this season. As a native Californian, she was familiar with luminarias as a Mexican custom at Christmas. She wrote:“Since it wasn’t Christmas, I wondered what their significance was on a magical spring night by the Providence River. I walked over and saw a dedication: ‘In memory of our beloved abuela’[grandmother]. So then I knew — the candles were meant to include those members of our community who were no longer with us, but who lived in our hearts and memories.“The dearest memory I have is of my little son William who died at birth, many years ago. I wanted his light to shine, so I went up to the lovely volunteers and donated my $5 and wrote his name on a luminaria, adding his little light to the bright and glorious night.” On a subsequent visit, Fahm hung a white paper star lit with a blue light, in the trees, also in memory of her son, “because he was, and always will be my star.” Tinti, the artistic director, said those stars are hung in the trees as “constellation of wishes and hopes.” Wishes are compounded on the stars, “and at the end, there are a whole season of wishes.”Fahm now works as a volunteer for “WaterFire.”