PORTALES: Reimagining the Future is an art exhibit presenting the variety of ways that artists and organizers in Rhode Island have strengthened our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and the movement against racial injustice. In moments of difficulty, we can see how art can turn into ‘community portals’ that help us envision better futures. The exhibit is a sample of artistic works by RI-based artists who work in various mediums -photography, mixed media, painting, dance, video- and who have a practice of community organizing and/or are in relationship to grassroots community groups that center justice, equity, and access.
The exhibition is on view in the WaterFire Arts Center gallery from Thursday, September 1 through Sunday, October 9, 2022 with an Opening Reception on Thursday, September 1 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
This exhibit is the culmination of a broader research project titled ‘Arts for Community Portals’, led by an interdisciplinary team of faculty from Providence College. The research focuses on the power of art, humanities, and culture to connect communities and spark change during the COVID-19 pandemic and is informed by the experiences of some of the exhibiting artists. This project was developed thanks to a $15,000 research grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), matching funds by Providence College’s School of Arts and Sciences as well as support from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA), and the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities (Humanities Council). Additional partners include: Blue Cross & Blue Shield RI, WaterFire Arts Center, and Studio Loba. Reference: Arundhati Roy: The Pandemic is a Portal
In the spirit of using art, humanities, and culture to process the pandemic and imagine new futures, there will be a Dance Performance and Story Circle event on Thursday, October 6 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
In addition, Gallery Night Providence, an evening of gallery tours throughout the city on the third Thursday of the month, will take place on September 15th. The gallery is open until 9:00 p.m., visit gallerynight.org for details and times on trolley tours.
The WaterFire Arts Center store + gallery hours are Wednesday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Thursday, 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. Visit the waterfire.org/calendar for event listings at the venue as the store + gallery hours may vary on certain days.
Shey Rivera Ríos
V. A. T. K.
Curators: Shey Rivera Ríos and Anabel Vázquez Rodríguez
Project Director: Eric Sung
Project Team: Tuba I. Agartan, Nicholas V. Longo, Nayely Furcal Marte
Designer: Veronica Borsani | Video Documentation: Oliver Sydesho Arias
anjelllblack [Anjel Newmann] is a Black American artist, social designer + educator/facilitator from Rhode Island. Leveraging values of Hip Hop and a range of various disciplines and philosophies, Anjel’s work at it’s root is about co-creating spaces that center those who are most impacted by systems of oppression, to reimagine + design a future that is as magical as it is just, ripe with possibility + wonder. Anjel specializes in using design principles to support organizations to transform from the inside out, with empathy + storytelling at the center. Anjel serves as AS220‘s Co-Executive Director + is a strategic thought partner to College Unbound’s Provost + Vice President for Administration & Innovation. Anjel teaches art, design + social justice classes for local colleges + universities. She also facilitates conversations between groups of grassroots organizers + organizations, with the goal of bringing different people together to collaborate in new + meaningful ways. Her work as an artist is directly influenced by her work as a social designer, educator + facilitator.
“Artists are documentarians and we continue to have done that. I think really at the heart of it, it’s about keeping people excited for what’s next. We have gifts to envision in a different way. And I think our job is really just to share that and invite people into it to help shape it. It’s not just about our vision. It’s about creating space for people to add to a collective vision.”Anjel Newmann, Artist
Eric Sung is an artist and photographer. He is associate professor in the Art and Art History Department at Providence College and the founding director of a cutting-edge minor in Business and Innovation. Sung has established himself as a visionary artist, publicly engaged scholar, and award-winning teacher. His innovative and creative vision has materialized multiple interdisciplinary ideas into action with a diverse group of stakeholders. His experiential scholarship and companion works have appeared internationally in peer-reviewed and juried conferences and venues, including the Society for Photography Education (SPE), International Visual Literacy Association (IVLA), Imagining America, International Association for Research on Service Learning and Community Engagement International Conference (IARSLCE), and Global University Network for Innovation International Conference (GUNI).
“Artists have been encountering difficulty for years, it becomes material for us to create. Artists were challenged but it was rerouted into creativity, artwork, creative response, focusing the energy on policymakers. The arts were functioning as a license for us to do more meaningful work, it was art for arts sake, it gave us the opportunity to come together and do meaningful things.”Eric Sung, Project Director
Janaya Kizzie is an artist, writer and historian working in Providence, RI. Kizzie considers each work a binding of some kind, in the literal and esoteric sense. Often invoking the tropes of the horror genre, Kizzie experiments with narrative, worldbuilding, and non-linear time. Kizzie’s work has been exhibited by the RISD Museum, the Jamestown Arts Center, and the New Bedford Art Museum.
Jordan Seaberry is a painter, organizer, legislative advocate and educator. Born and raised on the Southside of Chicago, Jordan moved to Providence, RI, to attend Rhode Island School of Design. He is an active artist and grassroots organizer, helping to fight and pass multiple criminal justice reform. Milestones include: a Probation Reform, the Unshackling Pregnant Prisoners Bill, and laying the groundwork for the “Ban the Box” movement in RI. Jordan serves as Co-Director of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC), a people-powered nonprofit agency. Previously, he worked as the Director of Public Policy at the Nonviolence Institute. Jordan is Chairman of the Providence Board of Canvassers, Board Member of New Urban Arts, and Board Member of Protect Families First. As an artist, he has received fellowships from Art Matters Foundation, Rhode Island Foundation, and is a Community Leader Fellow at Roger Williams University School of Law. Jordan has a painting studio in Providence. He has exhibited work at RISD Museum, deCordova Museum, Crystal Bridges Museum, Boston Center for the Arts, and galleries in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and others.
Justin Case was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was raised primarily on the Southside of Providence, RI. He grew up exposed to all kinds of talented people who were into music and art, including his parents who are both singers and musicians. But it was a DJ named Curty Kutt who helped him make the leap to finding his own artistic voice. Justin Case hung out at Kutt’s Broad Street record shop everyday after school and practiced DJing in his bedroom by night before landing a number of club gigs around the city. Justin bought a digital point-and-shoot camera shortly after his first child was born and has been taking photographs ever since. In 2013, while working for Avenue Concept’s after school programming, he got a taste for using a digital SLR camera while teaching local youth how to DJ. It wasn’t long before he was taking pictures for friends at their club nights around the city. Today, he photographs everything: corporate and private events, weddings, site-specific landscapes and portraits. In 2020, Justin launched PVD Apparel, a clothing brand of hoodies and t-shirts with custom designs using his photographs.
Shey Rivera Ríos is an interdisciplinary artist, cultural strategist, and arts administrator. Their artistic creations span a myriad of topics, from home to capitalism to queerness and magic. Rivera has 12 years of experience in the nonprofit arts sector intersecting creative practice with urban planning and racial equity. Rivera was former Co-Director and Artistic Director of AS220, a renowned arts organization and creative incubator in Providence, RI, and successor to AS220’s founder Umberto Crenca. After 8 years at AS220, Rivera took on the role of Director of Inclusive Regional Development at MIT CoLab, in the Dept of Urban Studies and Planning of MIT, where they co-designed and implemented workshops on collective leadership and community innovation in Colombia. Today, Rivera is an independent artist and consultant for the arts sector. Rivera is the founder of Studio Loba in Providence, a production house that designs and produces artistic and cultural projects that serve as catalysts for social change. Notable projects include: Lead curator for El Corazón de Holyoke public art project, Mi Gente Public Art project in Providence, the transmedia and research-based art works MoralDocs and FANTASY ISLAND, the Luna Loba performance series, and the theatrical productions Antigonx (2022) and Fire Flowers and a Time Machine (2020). Rivera was born and raised in Borikén/Puerto Rico and is based in Providence, RI -land of Narragansett and Wampanoag peoples.
“Place keeping projects center more on the memories of the place in our community and start from there…How do we unearth and weave memories together to preserve it and build stronger? It’s not about making a place out of nowhere; it’s building with other people that have been doing work for a long time.”Shey Rivera Ríos, Artist and Co-Curator
Sokeo was born in a Cambodian refugee camp in Thailand, arriving in the United States at the age of three. As a sophomore in high school, he began performing with the Carriage House Performers, a Providence-based hip-hop group. In 1999, Sokeo joined Everett Dance Theatre as a creator, performer, touring artist, and educator. His renowned solo performance From Refugee Camp to Project, tells his experience of being born in a Thailand refugee camp and coming to the United States to live in an impoverished neighborhood. Sokeo is the founder and director of Case Closed!, a dance company founded in 2004. Case Closed! has performed across New England, including Brown University, Providence Performing Arts Center, TedxTalk Providence, and the Yard. Sokeo was a TEDxProvidence 2016 Speaker and was invited again to perform in 2017. Sokeo worked for 5 years with incarcerated youth in Massachusetts in collaboration with the Department of Youth Services and worked with the Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS). Sokeo is Director of The Center at Moore in Providence College, supervisor to the PC/Smith Hill Annex, adjunct Professor in Providence College and College Unbound, and an active artist. He has a Masters of Education degree from the Urban Teaching Program in Providence College.
V.A.T.K. [Vatic Astahili Tayari Kuumba] (he/him) is an artist, writer, educator, and father of three children. Vatic is an Arts Facilitator for One Square World, a racial and climate justice organization, where he applies creativity as an essential tool for policy design, civic engagement, and popular education. Vatic is co-director and lead writer for MoralDocs (2021), an abolitionist transmedia project and virtual reality film. He was a collaborator on the creation of the City of Providence’s Climate Justice Plan and the Environmental Racism Resolution passed by Providence City Council in 2020, as part of the Racial and Environmental Justice Committee (REJC) in Providence. Vatic was Artist-in-Residence for the State Association of Arts Agencies in 2019. His first theatrical production, A Furtive Movement (2017) premiered at AS220 in Providence, RI, as a culmination of his AS220 Live Arts Residency. Vatic is also the recipient of the RI State Council for the Arts (RISCA) 2018 Fellowship for Theater and 2017 Playwright Merit Fellowship.
About Providence College
Founded in 1917, Providence College is the only college or university in the United States administered by the Dominican Friars and has an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 4,100 students. Providence College has ranked first among regional colleges and universities in the North for the last three years according to U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges.”
About Studio Loba
Founded in 2021, Studio Loba is a storytelling lab that designs and leads projects at the intersection of arts/culture and social justice.
About the National Endowment for the Arts
Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms, and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America.
About the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities
The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities seeds, supports, and strengthens public history, cultural heritage, civic education, and community engagement by and for all Rhode Islanders. As the only dedicated source of funding for public humanities in Rhode Island, we are proud to support museums, libraries, historic sites, schools, preservation and historical societies, community and cultural organizations, individual researchers and documentary filmmakers to bring Rhode Island’s stories to life and to amplify the state’s many diverse voices. A private nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, the Council is supported by federal funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as by individuals, corporations, and foundations. Visit www.rihumanities.org for more information.
About the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts
The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts is a state agency supported by appropriations from the Rhode Island General Assembly and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. RISCA provides grants, technical assistance and staff support to arts organizations and artists, schools, community centers, social service organizations and local governments to bring the arts into the lives of Rhode Islanders. Visit www.arts.ri.gov for more information.
About the author
Over the last 10+ years, alongside some incredible co-workers and volunteers, I've worked to build the organization that WaterFire Providence is today. As Director of Creative Services, my team and I work on visual communications, graphic design, the visitor experience, merchandising as well as project management for programming at the WaterFire Arts Center. Being a part of the 'Rhode Island' experience for tens of thousands of people is incredible and I have an intense pride in place for both Downtown Providence and the Valley neighborhood.