Art on the Woonasquatucket
Celebrating 10 Years as an American Heritage RiverProvidence, RI – The Woonasquatucket River was designated one of 14 American Heritage Rivers in 1998. It shares this esteemed designation with the likes of the mighty Mississippi, the Rio Grande and the Hudson. The Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council (WRWC) invites the public to join artists Will Machin and Gillian Christy for an opening of two new public artworks and a holiday party celebrating the Woonasquatucket River ecosystem and communities on Friday, December 12, 2008 at the Plant, 60 Valley Street, Olneyville, Providence. Celebrants should use the Plant entrance located near the courtyard at the underpass where they will be welcomed and directed to the exhibition and party by our trained volunteers. Festivities will begin with a press event to dedicate both new works and highlight Woonasquatucket accomplishments over the last ten years at 5:30 PM and continue until 10 PM.
The Woonasquatucket has much to celebrate. Since it’s national designation in 1998, WRWC and its many partners have restored 52 acres of abandoned and industrial land to parkland, built the first off-road bike path in Providence, set in motion plans to open historic spawning grounds to oceangoing fish by allowing them to bypass the first five dams on the river, held canoe and kayak paddles for hundreds of people, taught thousands of kids how to enjoy and protect the river, and transformed the greenway with murals, sculptures, banners and signs all created by local artists. Although there is much remaining work to be done on the Woonasquatucket, December 12th will be dedicated to celebrating our accomplishments.
Will Machin will unveil his newly completed multi-panel history of the river, told in the materials of the riverbanks that will grace the Woonasquatucket’s first fish ladder at Rising Sun Mills, 166 Valley Street, Olneyville. In this permanent riverside piece he uses glass, stones, asphalt and miniature bricks to speak to the ways that the varied historical relationships between the Woonasquatucket and human beings have brought us the beautiful and fragile river that we have today, with its blue herons, painted turtles, and broken glass. As a biography of the Woonasquatucket, the work celebrates the river as a life force strong enough to have been a natural resource and an economic engine, and to remain a viable enough ecosystem to respond vigorously to the stewardship the WRWC helps to channel today.
Gillian Christy’s “The Return Home”, an iconic monument, has been installed on the Bath Street Pedestrian Bridge located between Kinsley and Promenade Streets near downtown Providence. Christy’s stainless steel sculpture depicts a school of fish teeming upstream over the Woonasquatucket, symbolizing the circle of life, the river’s connection to the ocean, and the ongoing restoration of the Woonasquatucket that will provide spawning habitat for 40,000 adult herring.
Funding for Ms. Christy’s sculpture was provided by EPA Region One, The Foundry, and the RI State Council on the Arts. This work of art serve as a centerpiece for the historically neglected part of Providence that is currently undergoing a renaissance of development, recreational and environmental restoration. The sculpture serves as an important indicator for the Woonasquatucket River, while on the other side, descriptive text educates visitors and residents on the river’s history.