Influencer: Shey Rivera Ríos

The artist and cultural strategist talks about this summer’s Moral Docs project, connecting art to social change, and the best place for mofongos


Your work covers themes as varied as capitalism, queerness, even magic! Where do you find inspiration?

I’m inspired by my culture, by dreams, aspirations for better futures, by the journeys of artists and community organizers who came before us, and the knowledge and energy of my peers, friends, and other visionary artists that I’m in relationship with. I’m inspired by possibilities and stories. 


Your accomplished portfolio includes being appointed to Mayor Elorza’s Latinx Task Force in response to the COVID-19 crisis, public art projects like Mi Gente Siempre Responde, sitting on the Board of the Alliance of Artist Communities, being a published author, and more. What are some common threads?

The work I feel most connected to are stories of social change, of justice-based futures, connection to land. I also love storytelling that uses new technologies to reach people; this feeds into my artistic practice because I’m interested in creating artwork that is locally rooted and in context with what is happening in a place. 


What’s next in your creative pipeline?

I’m very excited about Moral Docs, an abolitionist, virtual reality project that I’ve been co-directing with my friend and colleague Vatic Kuumba and a group of collaborating artists and activists. This project was born out of community visioning to reimagine public safety in Providence, and is informed by work that organizers and social justice organizations have been doing in Providence for years. It will be launched early this summer. I’m still excited by Fire Flowers and a Time Machine, the live performance I co-created with other artists and The Wilbury Group last year; we are hoping to launch it as a virtual experience sometime in the fall this year for folks who couldn’t attend. 


What are some of your buy-local shop-small favorites?

Too many to name! For art and merch, it’s Public Shop and Gallery; for books, Riffraff and Symposium; and Skye Gallery and AS220 Project Space for art. Favorite products are Soulita (young AfroBoricua entrepreneur) and Ja’ Bodi (natural products, Black-run business). For food and drink: Schastea (teas and crepes!), Far West (cocktails), La Lupita (genuine Mexican restaurant, love their vegetarian burritos), Carolina’s (genuine Latino food, mofongos all day), The Grange (cocktails and vegan food), Modern Diner (their grits!), Rasoi, Hudson Deli (sandwiches), The Eddy (cocktails), and Three Sisters (ice cream!).

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