Empty lots along the highway have been transformed into works of art
The Gazing Garden
Point and East Franklin Street Intersection
Adam Anderson, a dual Brown and RISD graduate, brought whimsy and color to his street-side space. A black triangle outlines the garden’s perimeter, which is shielded by white picket fencing. Red wood strips separate rows of soil where leafy plants are growing next to stationary lime green stalks that are propping up reflective aluminum balls. The stalks, which vary in height, playfully evoke an oversized natural garden, and capture the reflections of the cars whizzing by, the surrounding buildings and the sky.
Bird House Community
Alves Way, Traverse Street and George M. Cohan Boulevard
RISD alum Frank Hammond designed a community of birdhouses in the green space behind Wickenden Street. The 14 birdhouses span different sizes and colors to accommodate various local species. Built on a peaceful stretch of grass bordered with trees right in front of the highway, the pieces highlight the coexistence of the natural and urban aspects of Providence.
I Walk, Therefore I Dream
Clifford Street, East Franklin Street and Bassett Street
RISD grad Sophia Sobers used ornamental grass, hanging plants, solar cells and LED lights to marry nature and technology with her piece. Spread out among the grass are tall planters in white and natural wood covered with wooden, lattice-like branches. Multicolored flowers sprouted within mingle with solar cells. Though the space is along the highway, the cluster of plants creates a beautiful enclave to walk within.
Wickenden Street, South Main Street, Pike Street and South Water Street
Providence native Matthew Kramer used wood and cable to create a 16x16 cable-latticed, wood-framed arch, but the negative space it beholds is just as integral a part of the piece. The swooping, overlapping ribbed cables meet and frame the downtown Providence skyline, creating a picture-perfect vista of nature and industry. While the heavy-duty hooks, rings and bolts are practical, they beautifully unite the simplistic materials to evoke the Providence River Bridge, which the arch also frames.
Bassett Street, East Franklin Street and Hoppin Street
Topher Gent, Rhode Island native and RISD graduate, used his experience in the state to call on an important area of Providence’s past – the Jewelry District. His sculpture, Amethyst Rising, brings to mind faceted gemstones with its linear yet multidimensional structure. Situated adjacent to the Jewelry District, the piece adds interest to its barren lot and an inspiration of beauty and potential beheld by the booming jewelry industry.
Since I-195's big move, parcels of land formally part of the highway have sat vacant and unused. The I-195 Redevelopment District Commission has been overseeing all aspects of developing this newly available – and valuable – 20 acres of land, with the goal of reconnecting the unique and historic areas of the city split apart by the highway and establishing a vital and diverse city center. This spring, the Commission sought the help of six local artists to breathe new life into the empty lots, and the yearlong installations that have popped up all over downtown are telling stories that weave Providence’s history with the city’s new open space.
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