“We’re combining two of the best things about Providence,” says Kevin Essington. “Roger Williams Park – and art.”
In March, Essington became executive director of the Roger Williams Park Conservancy, an independent nonprofit organization that partners with the urban greenspace. Essington is new to the job, and the conservancy itself was founded only four years ago. But this summer, the Board is kicking off a bold new initiative: Art for the People’s Park.
“We wanted to do something for the community during COVID,” says Essington. “People need to reconnect with each other.”
The campaign combines an online gallery with outdoor classes and events. Artists of any background or style can show their work in the virtual market, which is hosted by the Conservancy website and makes each piece available for sale. Certain displays, such as a series of historical postcards, will receive public exhibition. Art classes all take place in Roger Williams Park, and groups are kept small to maintain quality and social distancing.
“Art is so personal,” says Essington. “This is a great way for people to express themselves and express their love of the park. We believe there are artists on every block of this city, whether they’re six years old or 66. We want to see how the park inspires you, how it brings you joy, how it brings you peace.”
The campaign also introduces an original coloring book by Providence artist Brett Day Windham, which (literally) illustrates the history and significance of the park; the book can be downloaded as a PDF or purchased as a limited-edition print copy. Meanwhile, patrons can purchase any of four elegant posters by Peter Cardoso; each $70 poster is silk-screened by hand on museum-grade paper and represents a different New England season.
Art for the People’s Park is the Conservancy’s first serious campaign, but Essington notes that Roger Williams has been used as a venue to promote art and culture since its founding in 1872.
“It’s the flagship park of the city and the state,” says Essington. “It has been a place for the inspired to do many things, whether it’s sculptures or fountains or architecture. A walk through the park would show you, aside from the design of the park, how people have expressed themselves in various ways.”
The online art market can be accessed remotely, but if you can’t make it to Roger Williams right away, take heart: The campaign is slated to continue through the end of the year.