Year of the City:

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The Providence Project is an unprecedented year-long exploration of the history, life, and culture of Providence’s twenty-five neighborhoods through exhibitions, performances, walks, lectures, and conferences produced by more than 50 different curators.


April 15, 2019 – What do we know about Providence? In some ways, we know a lot – we know about Roger Williams and the founding of Rhode Island, about the birth of the industrial revolution and the city’s importance as a capital of trade in the 19th century, and more recently, about the “Providence Renaissance” in the 1990’s and the city’s transformation into the “Creative Capital.”  


But many stories have yet to be told, and many histories have yet to be written.


Inspired by Pacific Standard Time – a collaboration in Los Angeles first launched in 2012 that brought over 60 of the city’s arts and cultural organizations together to produce programs around a common theme —Year of the City: The Providence Project is a year-long exploration of the life, history and culture of Providence’s twenty-five neighborhoods, with more than fifty different events throughout 2019. 


Some Year of the City exhibitions will be up for many months; other events are fleeting. Some programs have been initiated by the city’s largest cultural and historical institutions; others have been created by individuals working with shoestring budgets in unexpected spaces throughout Providence.


Together, these projects reveal the multitude of different “cities” within Providence and show us how much we didn’t know.


Year of the City is a collaborative project created and directed by Marisa Angell Brown, Assistant Director of Programs at the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage, Brown University; Angela DiVeglia, Curatorial Assistant in Special Collections at Providence Public Library; and Jennifer Dalton Vincent, Executive Director of Providence ¡CityArts! for Youth; with support from Molly Pailet, an MA student at the Public Humanities Center at Brown. 


Year of the City arose when the organizers learned they were working on similar, complementary exhibitions for 2019. Armed with the belief that interrelated projects tell a fuller, richer story, they invited curators from throughout the city to join forces and tell a multifaceted story of the city we call home.


In the first few months of 2019, Year of the City projects include an exhibition of botanical illustrations and specimens of plants native to Cat Swamp, a marshland in the Wayland and Blackstone neighborhoods that was developed in the 1910s; Funda Fest 21, a celebration of black storytelling at Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island; a presentation of “hidden histories” of Providence, including findings from an archaeological dig on the East Side; RISD student design proposals and community events around an imagined school on the South Side and exhibition space for the Center for Race and Reconciliation at the Cathedral of St. John; an exhibition at the Rhode Island State Archive tracing the evolution of the city’s waterways from the colonial period to the present; and a participant-led “unconference” on preservation and heritage with a special focus on Providence and Year of the City projects.


More exciting projects are in the works for the spring, summer and fall of 2019; a full calendar of upcoming events is available on the Year of the City website. At the close of 2019, the organizers plan to create a permanent record of these projects by bringing them together in a Year of the City publication.  


“Sometimes, we in Providence suffer from small city syndrome: we are constantly looking outwards, to bigger cities, to inform our conversations about history, art and culture. 


I hope that Year of the City corrects this tendency, and reveals to residents and to visitors the unique diversity and richness of Providence’s twenty-five different neighborhoods.” — Marisa Brown


“The beauty of Year of the City comes from elevating independently organized projects that center on Providence. I’m continually impressed by the ways our partners frame their questions and creatively present their thoughts about life in our capital city.


From artists to activists, historians to preservationists, to kids and their families, Year of the City broadcasts the many different ways people interact with the city’s history and present, and image its future.” — Jennifer Dalton Vincent


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Marisa Brown, Assistant Director of Programs, John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage, Brown University (marisa_brown@brown.edu; 401-996-3699)


Angela DiVeglia, Curatorial Assistant, Providence Public Library (adiveglia@provlib.org; 401-455-8076)

Jennifer Dalton Vincent. Executive Director, Providence ¡CityArts! for Youth (jen@providencecityarts.org