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Posts Tagged ‘providence’

060918-piano-recital-Arlington

Everything happens in June — suddenly urgent yardwork, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, Father’s Day, piano recitals, festivals, youth baseball. Sometimes there are two things you want to attend in two different states happening at the same time. That’s June for you. We could use a little of that weekend excitement in other months. (Blogger New England Nomad said almost the same thing. See the comments in his post.)

Above, my oldest grandson performs “Blue Interlude” and “Love Me Tender” for a piano recital in a setting with a delightful Old World feel.

Next are three photos from the annual Middlesex Jazz Festival in Concord. I especially liked watching the intrepid couple that got up to swing dance.

On the same Saturday as the piano recital and the jazz festival, I drove south to Providence for the hugely popular PVD Fest that Suzanne had been telling me about the last couple years: streets given over to pedestrians, performers of all kinds, costumes, food, fun activities for kids. I saw a lot of people wearing flower garlands in their hair and several in Native American dress.

It was a busy day. I slept well that night.

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Photo: John May / Team Williams LLC
The Shower to Empower Trailer offers showers, haircuts, & medical services to people experiencing homelessness in Providence, Rhode Island.

Yay, Rhode Island! Good idea!

I am told that if you ask homeless people about their immediate needs, one of the things you will hear is that they long for a way to take a shower.

Talia Blake of Rhode Island public radio reports on what Providence is doing about that aspect of homelessness.

“Providence has launched a mobile unit to give showers, haircuts, and medical services to residents who are homeless. … After seeing a trailer in the Midwest that was giving showers to the homeless, and a YoutTube video of a barber in the UK giving a homeless individual a shower, entrepreneur Bret Williams thought ‘why not do that in my home state of Rhode Island and take it a step further?’

“Williams, along with nonprofit homeless service organization House of Hope and city of Providence, launched what they’re calling the Shower to Empower mobile navigation unit. Attached to the back of a pickup truck, the trailer has two individual showers, heated floors, an area for haircuts, and an enclosed private medical space. …

” ‘The Empower message comes from the showers and haircuts. Being able to help them best better their situation, restore dignity, restore pride, you know their outlook on the day, on their life,’ said [John May, from Williams’ LLC Team Williams]. At the beginning, the trailer will be parked in areas around Providence for three to four hours a day on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with five staff members.

“According to a report in December by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than a thousand individuals in Rhode Island are homeless.”

I once interviewed Jean Johnson, founder of the above-mentioned House of Hope Community Development Corporation, for my old magazine. What an inspiring woman! She’s retired now, but this effort sounds like something she would have loved to see implemented, although her ultimate goal was always to get people housed.

Listen to the audio version of the story here.

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051118-looks-up-at-blue-sky

Spring sunshine and blooms provide opportunities to take the kinds of photographs I like best. Here I share blossoms that I believe are quince, things I saw in the woods (baby oak leaves in mud, foam flowers, ferns, Sessile Bellwort, and a garter snake), murals in Cambridge, Mass., and a random indoor shot from the past month.

The carpet of cherry petals was shot in Providence.

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091817-panhandler-alternative

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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