The mission of Doors Open RI, put simply, is to “connect people to places,” says its program director Caroline Stevens. In their latest effort, a multimedia storytelling project called Providence Waterways, water – and its layered history in Rhode Island – serves as the facilitator of connection, an apt medium for a dive into the Ocean State. From fish raining from the sky in a 1900 Olneyville storm to the progressive covering of the Great Salt Cove, which was once an expansive but highly polluted body of water, there are myriad tales contained within water. Taken together, these stories sit at the intersection of a set of common themes, from “public health, to immigration, to labor, to industrialization, and spirituality,” Stevens says.
Water is simultaneously fundamental to life and a destroyer of it, and the project foregrounds that tension as well as the inequities embedded in access to water. “It was water that brought slaves to our shore, and is what supported the transatlantic slave trade from our shores,” Stevens says.
Participants can journey through waterways via three separate experiences. The first is a digital StoryMap, where users can click locations on a map and consume accompanying content sourced from interviews with local historians and activists, available in both English and Spanish. The second experience is an interactive soundscape that changes based on a participant’s physical location. “Different sounds and stories will emerge based off of where you are,” Stevens says. Lastly, Doors Open RI will host an in-person, day-long event on August 21, free and open to the public, featuring “immersive artistic experiences” curated by Shey Rivera Ríos and Seth Tourjee.
“We’d really like to get the people of Providence to just think differently about our waterways, imagine the pathways that water takes, and try to follow those paths to see where it goes,” Stevens says. “And if we’re more aware of our water, then maybe we’ll take that much better care of our water.”
Learn more at DoorsOpenRI.org/pvdwaterways