Art

Stages and Spectacles, Rivers, and Rocketships

Peek inside Keri King’s whimsical world

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Inspired by a passion for vaudeville and other turn-of-the-century theater formats, multimedia artist Keri King invites her viewers to participate in collaborative storytelling with her fanciful characters, colorful props, and imaginative vignettes. For the past several years, Keri has mainly been involved in public art installations through partnerships or fellowships with the Providence Public Library, AS220, Pawtucket Arts Festival, PVDFest, Providence Fringe Festival, Wilbury Theatre Group, and more. If you’ve spotted tutu-clad dancing horses, dapper crocodiles, or bird-headed acrobats performing on the sides of buildings, Keri is most likely responsible; she also created the out-of-this-world cosmic promotional art for 2018’s Foo Fest.

“A lot of the work I’ve been doing is about engaging the senses and inviting people into a story and to be part of the storytelling,” says Keri. “I like to leave space for people to come into it with their own ideas.” Although her art can very research-based, carefully studying vintage elements for inspiration or incorporation, she likes to create “structures for play” in her work: projects with movable pieces or immersive elements.

Right now, Keri’s latest creation can be found at Woonasquatucket River Greenway Arts, a series of temporary installations and site-specific performances organized by the city’s Art, Culture + Tourism department along with the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council and WaterFire Providence. Her mural “What’s in the River?” won a citywide call for proposals, and will depict both living beings and inorganic objects that have been found in the river using paper prints, wheat paste, and plywood cutouts to create a relief effect.

During her early education, Keri took art classes “wherever we could fit them in” – including some weekend courses at RISD, where she later majored in illustration with a concentration in creative writing. Upon graduating in 2005, she co-founded a vaudeville and burlesque-inspired dance troupe called the Danger! Danger! Birds. The troupe only performed until 2010, but Keri feels she has come full circle now working with Wilbury on actual set pieces and poster art; she also takes tap dance classes at Modern Jazz Dance Company.

In June, Keri exhibited a show at AS220 Project Space called Stages: Strange Familiar Worlds, a collection of highlights from projects including her massive collage mural for Providence Public Library’s On the Table exhibition in spring of 2017, where she researched and spotlighted food waste over the decades. Other displays included painted spaceships from 2018’s Foo Fest, props and posters from Wilbury, some new works like an interactive character map of Providence, and a teaser for the “What’s in the River?” project. In addition to her fellowships and projects, Keri teaches kindergarten through eighth grade art classes at the Wolf School in Rumford. She also published a book, Spectacles & Spectators, through DWRI Letterpress in 2016.

“What’s in the River?” can be viewed at Woonasquatucket River Greenway at 99 San Souci Drive through October.