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Celebrating 20 Years of Creative Placemaking in Providence

WaterFire Providence was created by Barnaby Evans in 1994 with his “First Fire.” This first fire became a hit and in years since, WaterFire Providence has expanded to include over 80 Braziers that are lit throughout their events every season. The Providence Journal spoke of Waterfire Providence in 1997 describing WaterFire as, “the most popular work of art created in the capital city’s 371 year history.” WaterFire is not only a work of art in and of itself, but it also incorporates different styles and pieces of art at each of the events. In celebration of WaterFire’s 20 years of creative placemaking in Providence, we have created a compilation of videos that are just a taste of the different types of art we have included in our events over the years. Each video highlights an event we have done in the past, or one that has become a tradition at WaterFire throughout our 20 years. Enjoy!

Clear Currents 

clear currents - drew christhilf

Clear Currents is a portion of WaterFire that is included in at least one of our events each season. Members of the community have the opportunity to paddle up and down the river in their kayaks or canoes during the WaterFire lighting. Registered members will temporarily mount an illuminated Japanese koi fish onto their kayak or canoe and join a hundred other participants and the 80 Braziers to add a little color and excitement to the night. We are still looking for participants to register for this years Clear Currents events which will be held on the August 15th & September 12th WaterFires. For more information on Clear Currents and how to register please follow this link.

[sc name=photo-caption caption=”Photo by Drew Christhilf” ]

1000 Ships

1000 Ships was a WaterFire event put on in 2008 to mark the bicentennial of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. This night was a night to celebrate the ending of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and a night of rememberance for Rhode Islands involvement in the slave trade. Several events occurred throughout this night including the ritualistic burning of chains and the pouring of 1000 vessels of water throughout WaterPlace Park to represent the 1000 ships that departed Rhode Island as a part of the slave trade.

The Gaspee Project

gaspee day - jennifer bedford

Each year WaterFire Providence commemorates Rhode Islands involvement in the beginning of the American Revolution through The Gaspee Project. The burning of the HMS Gaspee was a historical event that marked the start of the American Revolution. Through storytelling, reenactments, and other events, WaterFire recreates this night each year as one of their first fires of the season, typically in early June.

[sc name=photo-caption caption=”Photo by Jennifer Bedford” ]


Gendo Taiko

Every seasTaiko - Drew Christhilfon, WaterFire is joined by Gendo Taiko at many of their events. Gendo Taiko is rhythmic drumming which originated inJapan. The name Gendo Taiko means “path to inspiration.” These musicians definitely inspire us every year which is why they continue to be a part of WaterFire each season.

[sc name=photo-caption caption=”Photo by Drew Christhilf” ]

The Ballroom at WaterFire Providence


The Ballroom at WaterFire attracts people young and old to our events each year. Take a look at ballroom -jennifer boninsome of the music and different styles of dance that have appeared at the Ballroom over the past few seasons.

[sc name=photo-caption caption=”Photo by Jennifer Bonin” ]


Fire Dancers at WaterFire Providence

fire dancers - john nickerson

Fire Dancers have been an ongoing attractions of our fires for years. When you come to our events, not only will you be able to see the fire reflecting off of the rivers throughout Providence, but you will also experience these talented individuals who are able to showcase fire and its beauty in a new light. This unique artwork is one that we treasure at WaterFire.

[sc name=photo-caption caption=”Photo by John Nickerson” ]

Cthulhu at WaterFire Providence

cthulhu - emily chadwick

In 2013, WaterFire was able to bring the horror stories of H.P Lovecraft, native Rhode Islander and famous horror fiction writer, to life. Cthulhu made an appearance at WaterFire on August 24th, 2013 as a part of Necronomicon Providence. Necronomicon Providence is returning this summer from August 20th-23rd 2015.

[sc name=photo-caption caption=”Photo by Emily Chadwick” ]



Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra

In the past the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra, accompanied by Francisco Noya, has joined WaterFire Providence to add music to our night. The Orchestra played pieces Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” for all to enjoy.

Exploring Chinese Culture

 chinese culture - jennifer bonin

With the help of Bryant University’s U.S. China Institute and the Confucius Institute, WaterFire Providence is pleased to have been able to dedicate a fire to Chinese culture, music, and history for many years.

[sc name=photo-caption caption=”Photo by Jennifer Bonin” ]





These videos are only a small example of the many different art forms that take place at our events each season. Come visit our site again or subscribe to our Vimeo and Youtube Channels using the links below for more videos that will be posted in the coming weeks. Also, check out our event listing page on Facebook to see what we’re planning for this year.

[sc name=photo-caption caption=”Featured Image by John Nickerson” ]

2 thoughts on “Celebrating 20 Years of Creative Placemaking in Providence”

  1. Hello, I am trying to find information on the boats that I saw floating around the river. Some looked like they were doing food and drink rides and others just look like they were giving rides. Could someone please send me contact info for reservations. Thank you

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