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WaterFire Staff Stories: Jerry Suggs

What do you do at WaterFire?

I am Jerry Suggs and I am the Manager of Education Programming and Partnerships here at WaterFire. That includes working to create programs and partnerships between WaterFire and colleges, high schools and community programs. It also includes managing our internship program that has had as many as 26 interns working with WaterFire to produce our lightings and other events.

For how long?

I initially became a volunteer with WaterFire in 2012 when I decided that WaterFire might be a helpful way to work through a difficult period in my life. I had been a long-time visitor to the lightings and decided to sign up to see if I could become a part of the magic. I attended an orientation session for volunteers, met and had a long conversation with Barnaby Evans and then signed up for every available volunteer activity. Finally, at the end of 2017, I retired after 46 years in secondary, post-secondary and correctional education and joined the staff at WaterFire.

What is something that people might not know about WaterFire that you think they should?

There are two things about WaterFire that people probably don’t know but are pretty important and fascinating. One fact is that the downtown WaterFire lighting event is equal to a music concert except it is produced by a small staff with interns and volunteers. We literally have to build the various stages and sets in the middle of the city while the normal daily activities are still taking place. WaterFire is created from the ground, or river, up and then 18 hours later it has to be deconstructed to restore Providence into a weekend capital city. The second thing that people should be aware of is that WaterFire is more than the downtown event. The WaterFire Arts Center is a host site for many different types of events that are open to the public. We have hosted symposiums, art shows, flea markets, award ceremonies, fund raising galas and even weddings in our main building.

What was the first place you visited after the Rhode Island economy began to reopen?

I went out for dinner at Besos in East Greenwich and was able to sit at a table outside on the deck. It was a great time. I also recommend the Hope Street Saturday Farmers Market and the Providence Flea Market on Sundays this Fall.

What’s a hidden gem in our community that you think people should know about?

Obviously, I think people should know about and check out the WaterFire Arts Center.

Name a place that you recommend and support.

I recommend Seven Stars Bakery. I frequently stop in for pastries and tea. To just get outside and enjoy some sunshine and fresh air go to any of our great RI bike paths and walk or ride.

The Starry, Starry Night installation at WaterFire. Photograph by John Nickerson.
The Starry, Starry Night installation at WaterFire. Photograph by John Nickerson.

About WaterFire Staff Stories

Each week we will bring you stories of WaterFire from the perspective of our staff members. This series will feature short videos produced by each team member and they will be sharing stories and facts about our organization as well as their recommendations for places and activities around Rhode Island that you can enjoy.

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For 25 years WaterFire has been transforming place and building community in downtown Providence with impacts that reach into every corner of Rhode Island. Unfortunately, we’ve had to indefinitely postpone the WaterFire season, losing the earned revenue on which our work depends. We need your help—now more than ever—to get us through this financial crisis.

About the author

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I've worked at WaterFire Providence since 2003. For the first 9 years of my career, I worked in the Production Shop learning all of the details that go into the physical production of the event. In 2012 transitioned to the role of managing WaterFire's social media and web presence. I now head up WaterFire Providence's digital projects including, web, social, databases, and our physical IT infrastructure.

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