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Posts Tagged ‘providence’

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The Providence bus hub is in the center of town near shops, corporate offices, Burnside Park, restaurants, galleries, hotels, and other attractions. In bad weather it becomes an unofficial day shelter for homeless people, with the result that the whole area is a magnet for Rhode Islanders who need more help than a roof.

Panhandling has become a constant fixture there, and with businesses complaining loudly, the city has tried to address the issue in a variety of ways. Some of them have been ham-handed, like the short-lived initiative to put panhandlers in jail.

The latest approach appeals to me, despite seeming like a superficial way to address deep social problems. It involves a kind of parking meter, where the compassionate can donate indirectly to those who need help knowing that the money will not go toward anything that makes their lives worse.

Providence is also experimenting with a program piloted by Albuquerque, New Mexico, which pays people to do work around the city rather than panhandling.

A year ago, Edward Fitzpatrick at the Providence Journal described the thinking behind the effort to find constructive solutions.

“The Washington Post just wrote about Albuquerque’s ‘There’s a Better Way’ program, which pays $9 an hour for day jobs beautifying the city. In partnership with a local nonprofit that helps the homeless, the program employs about 10 panhandlers per day and offers them shelter. In less than a year, they’ve cleared 69,601 pounds of litter and weeds from 196 city blocks, and 100 people have been connected with permanent jobs.

“Republican Mayor Richard Berry told The Post that most panhandlers have been eager to work. ‘It’s helping hundreds of people,’ he said, ‘and our city is more beautiful than ever.’

“And now, the Albuquerque model is being looked at by both Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza and former Providence Mayor Joseph R. Paolino Jr., a downtown property owner who just became chairman of the Downtown Improvement District and called a meeting on panhandling and homelessness. …

“Paolino said he does not want to address panhandling in ‘the Giuliani way — throw them out and not fix any of the problems.’ Rather, he wants to work with social-service agencies so that if people are homeless they get shelter and if they’re addicted they get treatment, but if they’re dealing drugs they should be apprehended, he said.

“ ‘Although this is a crisis, this is an opportunity,’ Paolino said. ‘These social-service agencies never had the business community working with them before.’ ”

That program strikes me as a good idea. I have seen it in action. I also like the meters. For me, it’s a great way to keep pocket change from weighing me down while reassuring me that small amounts will add up to something meaningful. The money goes to reliable agencies, and people in need of assistance can contact them using information on the meters.

More at US News, here, and the Providence Journal, here.

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Image: Ida Schmulowitz
Artist Ida Schmulowitz says, “I have painted landscapes outside from a pedestrian bridge overlooking a highway since 1983. I feel a very strong bond to this particular place.”

My friend and former boss Meredith Fife Day, an artist, put up an intriguing Facebook post not long ago. It was about the work of a Rhode Island artist who has been painting the view from the bridge at India Point over and over since 1983. No two paintings alike.

Meredith wrote, “Ida Schmulowitz of Providence has painted on site on a pedestrian bridge over the highway near her home and studio for more than 30 years. No camera. No sizing canvases to fit her easel. No hesitation to return again and again until the painting is finished. The paintings are on canvas and average 6-by-8 feet. …

“I had the good fortune of meeting the artist and writing about her work for Art New England 10 years ago. Here is an excerpt from that review:

“ ‘Applying paint in thin layers Schmulowitz often took a morning painting back out at sunset months after it was begun. A pale sky gone peachy-orange carries its history and alludes to color’s role in the passage of time. As highway shadows lengthened at the end of the day, their geometry became more explicit and their hue more saturated. Footprints left in the foreground from walking on the canvas to reach the upper edges mimic brushmarks. The confidence that comes with knowing a site, and developing over the years a vocabulary that expresses its essence, unleashes great intuitive force. That force explodes in these works.’ “

At her website, Schmulowitz explains, “I feel a very strong bond to this particular place (India Point). I’ve felt compelled to record it year after year in all seasons and times of the day. I struggle with trying to combine the structural essence of the place with my internal vision. Changes in the landscape itself, or shifting my vantage point just slightly, are the catalysts for creating a new series.”

I love the strong colors and shapes of the paintings on the website — and the way the shadows lengthen in views of the same scene. Choose from tabs “Bridge View,” “Park View,” “Highway,” “School View,” “Stop Sign,” and “Studio View.”

Photo: Sandor Bodo
The artist says that on the way home after work, “I lay the wet canvas flat and drag it back flat through the streets to my studio. This contributes somewhat to an imperfect surface, that I like to work with, and feel it is part of the process.” 

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Photo: Heidi Gumula/DBVW Architects
After the Mercantile Block in Providence, Rhode Island, was restored, it became a hub of activity once again.

Rhode Island in general is good at preserving historic sites, offering developers monetary assistance in the form of generous tax credits. Providence in particular has a history of successful efforts to renovate properties for new uses.

At the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Jared Foretek writes about one: “When the Providence, Rhode Island nonprofit AS220 set out to purchase its third downtown building, it knew the Mercantile Block had exactly what it was looking for. Its sheer size — 50,000 square feet, four stories, and a basement — made the 1901 structure perfect for the diverse uses the artist-run organization had in mind. There was storefront space for creative businesses, office space for local nonprofits, and room for 22 live/work studios for local artists.

“Built in 1901, the building was once the hub of a bustling commercial strip in downtown Providence [and] remained a destination until the middle of the 20th century, when the Mercantile and its surrounding neighborhood fell victim to the same economic and migratory forces that ravaged urban cores around the nation.

“The building was nearly vacant when AS220 — an organization dedicated to creating artist space in Providence since 1985 — undertook a $16.9 million rehabilitation in 2008. …

“A meticulous restoration of the building’s four-story facade by DBVW Architects has helped revitalize the entire streetscape and inspired building owners to take up rehabilitations nearby. The mixed-use redevelopment has benefited the broader community as well, with affordable storefronts for local small businesses, office space for Providence-based nonprofits, and subsidized live/work studios for artists. …

“The renovation also allowed locally owned small businesses — some long-time tenants — to lease newly desirable downtown storefronts at low cost. For a restaurant like Viva Mexico!, one of just a few Latino-owned businesses in the downtown area, affordable space with good real estate is hard to come by. …

“ ‘It’s a story that a lot of communities have. Artists live in places that are semi-legal or if they’re legal, they’re underdeveloped. And as soon as spaces become viable and interesting, artists get pushed out, and low-income people get pushed out,’ said Shauna Duffy, AS220’s Managing Director. ‘So our mission is to create these spaces and create this community. And that involves having a permanent place for artists to live affordably downtown in Providence.’ ”

More.

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Looney Lu

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I was passing the wetlands in Blackstone Park this morning when I stopped for a while to get a better look at a water bird. Was it a heron? What heron is brown? Maybe it was a bittern.

When the bird flew into a tree, I returned to the walking path. That’s when I noticed a young man with a fancy camera parked along the river. I asked him if he was looking for birds.

“No,” he said, “but I can show you what I’m doing if you are interested.”

He told me that he makes videos to encourage young people to get up early and not waste their lives sleeping. He said he wants them to enjoy this beautiful world. He calls himself Looney Lu. He showed me his most recent video, which states that old people sleep all he time but young people shouldn’t. 🙂

Looney Lu’s been taking videos every day since his birthday, but by the time he edits them, he says, they get posted more like every other day.

I was quite taken with his enthusiasm and his early-bird philosophy. I checked out his site and decided to share his first YouTube video. Personally, I’m not offended by the colorful language, but that’s a kind of warning to folks who might be.

I hope you think Looney Lu’s high-energy talk about setting goals is as much fun as I do.

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071917-OMG-hydrangea-6tagTime for another photo roundup. All these pictures are from Massachusetts, except for the sunflower, which is reaching for the sun in Providence. Most of the photos are self-explanatory, but the tuba band is marching for an annual sidewalk sale that blocks off Walden Street, and the Mariachi band was featured at the library’s concert series.

Also, I liked how a trash can become a lovely little garden. The tree in the cemetery looked to me like it was frowning.

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After feeling pretty under the weather for a couple days, I rejoiced to be back to normal on Friday, well enough to help out at the ESL class for Haitians in Boston, if not well enough to eat, say, a pizza. I feel the way you are supposed to feel when you stop hitting your head with a hammer. Perhaps you can tell that the two quirkier photos were taken in a happy mood.

Anyway, the collection represents more of my Rhode Island and Massachusetts travels, in sun and shade.

First, New Shoreham, Rhode Island, overcast but lovely.

The Providence photos start with the wild turkey I saw on a morning walk. Erik tells me the turkeys are common. He and the children followed a group of them one day to see if they could find out where they were headed.

Next comes a reproduction of the Hokusai’s “The Great Wave of Kanagawa” on the bleachers of a high school baseball stadium. Then a piece of art welcoming urban farmers to the Fox Point Community Garden. My third Providence photo shows the end of the line for an old train track near a new bikeway. The drawbridge has been frozen in time.

The off-kilter gargoyle is on a building at Downtown Crossing, Boston. Near there I took a picture of the mosaic at St. Anthony’s Shrine, where Lillian and I went to light a candle in amazement and gratitude for an election some years ago. Neither of us is Catholic, but we felt the need of a ceremony.

I had to look up St. Anthony on Wikipedia, which says, “He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church on 16 January 1946. He is also the patron saint of lost things.”

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Suzanne has been dolling up the studio of her birthstone-jewelry company. Would you like to see what it looks like? Margareta took the photos. I especially love the Munch-like landscape of the moon on water and the view of the river from the studio window.

Do check out the Luna & Stella website, especially if you are thinking of giving your Valentine a piece of jewelry for Valentine’s Day. Suzanne’s antique locket collection has been getting a lot of attention lately, and there is a wide variety of contemporary necklaces, bracelets, cuff links, earrings, and more, including the moons and stars that gave Luna & Stella its name.

“Who’s your moon and stars?”

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