In 2020, for the first time in 25 years, something happened that we never imagined.
No WaterFire memories were created.
No first dates. No wedding proposals. No baby’s first WaterFire. No family reunions. No college graduations. No night out with friends. No anniversary celebrations. No funerals or memorial services. No proudly showing off your city to visitors from afar.
“Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.”— George Bernard Shaw
For many of us, 2020 dropped Shaw’s crudeness of reality on us like a ton of bricks. It all started with a health and economic crisis, unlike anything we’ve experienced during our lifetimes, that locked down the world. On top of that, a summer of racial tension and social action, unseen since the 1960’s, led into one of the most divisive political races and Presidential elections in US history.
While 2020 has been an extraordinarily difficult year, through it all, we remained committed to creating and presenting impactful art to navigate these challenges. Most organizations hunkered down but our dedicated team pivoted to creating and presenting nearly 200 live, COVID-safe art experiences at the WaterFire Arts Center including:
- Beacon of Hope, a dynamic art installation that memorialized every RI life lost to COVID-19 and was live-streamed 24/7 from the WaterFire Arts Center.
- Two #StayHomeWaterFire live-streamed events that invited the community to create and share their own WaterFire experience at home and recognized students, graduates, teachers, administrators and parents who worked together to successfully navigate the challenges of distancing learning.
- Our 8th annual WaterFire Salute to Veterans became an online event that honored our veterans, active duty service members and their families. The program will also be broadcast by RI PBS in January 2021.
- In partnership with the Wilbury Theatre Group, we co-produced Decameron Providence which the New York Times featured as one of the first pandemic era, live, in-person COVID-safe theater experiences across the US and Fire Flowers and a Time Machine, a bilingual outdoor theatrical production.
- WaterFire Theater Under the Stars, an experimental outdoor stage and large screen drive-in that showcases a mix of live theater, dance, music, film and educational presentations.
- ArtMart, a series of outdoor, pop-up markets that feature the work of WaterFire’s New Flame emerging artists and many other talented local merchants and makers.
- WaterFire Symposiums, a partnership with independent bookstore Symposium Books for a series of live-streamed and recorded lectures, readings and conversations about vital and timely issues from the arts to the sciences, from history to the climate crisis.
Looking ahead, we are excited to present COVID-safe exhibitions in the WaterFire Arts Center starting in December 2020 with The Vanta Guild, a creative collective of black photographers “who unapologetically celebrate and depict the experiences and imaginations of those of the African diaspora.” In 2021, our Pass the Torch series with NetWorks Rhode Island artists will kick off in January with an exhibition of the work and life of sculptor Howard Ben Tré and in March we will exhibit a retrospective of the work of photographer Mary Beth Meehan.
In July, we launched the WaterFire Relief Fund to mitigate the pandemic’s catastrophic impact on our organization, programs, and dedicated creative workforce who are the heart and soul of everything we do. Funding will be used to retain WaterFire Providence’s full-time staff as we pivot to virtual and alternative programming in the WaterFire Arts Center and beyond. We are currently nearly at $400,000 of our $1,000,000 goal. Thanks again for being an important partner in helping us survive these challenging times.
We appreciate that there are lots of worthy causes in need right now, but if you’re in the fortunate position to make an additional end of the year donation to the WaterFire Relief Fund we’d be incredibly grateful.
We are very proud of our work during the pandemic and excited about what the future offers at the WaterFire Arts Center but we really look forward to the day when health conditions allow us to return downtown to present our iconic WaterFire event. We can’t wait to see families, lovers, tourists and you enjoying our beautiful city and making lifetime memories with us.