Providence would not be America’s premier renaissance city without its commitment to the arts. The term “renaissance” traditionally refers to advances in scholarship, literature, science, the arts, and to the spirit of individual expression, discovery, and exploration. It is a distinction we take quite seriously.
The inaugural installation of Barnaby Evans’ WaterFire in 1994 marked a seminal moment in Providence’s proud history. Nothing has come to symbolize the divinity of Providence more than WaterFire. WaterFire is a symbol of the tremendous progress we’ve made illuminating Providence’s brilliance as a city reborn. WaterFire merges the primordial with the modern, the natural with the city, and the quiet solitude of contemplation with the spirited celebration of community. WaterFire reaches into the deepest recesses of the soul to stir our collective unconscious.
With ethereal music from all continents and epochs connecting us to the universal, with the mystery of fire, water, and air combined with the urban earth, WaterFire speaks to all cultures — transcending the limitations of language and forging community in its flames.
WaterFire at once emphasizes the best of this global age while pointing to what is unseen and even unearthly — exalting the mystical and the sacred in a contemplative aura in the midst of an urban environment. The WaterFire volunteers in their long, dark boats — like priests, monks, or shamans — set our rivers, and our hearts, on fire, beckoning people, young and old, to revel in harmony as they gather together on each WaterFire night.
Providence is a city of art and architecture, of heart and history — a city that celebrates its past while forging its future. Along with our collective advances in historic preservation, in design and the plastic arts, in music, in theater, and in poetry, WaterFire adds to the sense of accomplishment, innovation, and fearless experimentation that gives Providence its unrivaled and distinguished standing among our nation’s cities.
For all these reasons, we celebrate the 100th lighting of Barnaby Evans’ acclaimed and inspiring WaterFire. We watch and we listen, as individuals and as members of the community. And as we listen and watch, we are all aware that we are active participants in the rebirth of our City.
Mayor Vincent A. Cianci, Jr. was the longest serving mayor in the United States and was an enthusiastic supporter and advocate of the arts in the City. Mayor David N. Cicilline was inaugurated on January 6, 2003, as Providence’s 36th Mayor and he has reaffirmed and continued the City’s strong support and commitment to the arts.