Providence welcomes the 1st Annual IonaFest

Make it a date for the 28th


Clear your calendars on September 28 folks, because this day is going to the arts. The city of Providence is providing a repertoire of visual stimuli from noon to the wee hours of night in a celebratory fashion of epic proportions. From sidewalk chalk Picassos to the crowd-drawing magnetism of the WaterFire lighting ceremony, Providence is the place to be the last Saturday of this month.

Family-fun kicks off the day’s festivities around noon as you head over to the Bank of America Skating Center at Kennedy Plaza and bear witness to the 14th Annual Providence Rotary Street Painting Festival. Watch the wizardry as hundreds of multi-colored finger- tipped aficionados put chalk to a blank, pre-assigned “concrete canvas” at this fundraising event. Then, stand in awe as the once empty floor space comes alive in vivid and colorful imagery. From amateurs to professional artists of all ages, the event is sure to provide a variety of graphic eye candy.

Visitors can purchase a $1 token to participate in the “People’s Choice Awards,” and place them in the containers next to the masterpieces they deem most worthy of reward. A cash prize of $2,000 and a bundle of gift certificates are awarded by a panel of judges to the artwork in a variety of categories. All proceeds go to the non-profit Providence Rotary Charities Foundation, translating your fun into real help for those who need it. 

Following your leisure, head to PPAC at 3:30pm to join or simply watch the New Orleans-style Second Line – a procession of artists from all media and organizations across the state. They will be kicking off the 1st Annual IonaFest, hosted by the Art League of Rhode Island. The festival is a celebration of the life and legacy of creative visionary Iona Dobbins, former Executive Director of the Rhode Island State Council who, through her work with artistic organizations, made the arts a more sustainable and necessary part of the Rhode Island economy.

“She had a life that was lived in the arts, for the arts and giving to the arts. She was a quiet storm,” says Chairperson of the IonaFest Committee, Pamela Danforth. “This event will show the support and strength that the arts have in Rhode Island.”

At 4pm the Second Line Procession will make its way to downtown Providence, donning an array of colorful costume designs to parade the wealth of demiurgic talent that Rhode Island has to offer. And, according to the IonaFest Organizing Committee, that talent translates into over 5,000 jobs from cultural organizations and an estimated $111 million annually in the Providence region alone. Ending at Grant’s Park with intricate dancing and a range of vibrant patterned fabrics, a stage will be set to display, free to the public, a visual rendi- tion of Rhode Island’s own “Dancing in the Streets.” As the performance winds down, ticketed guests will be ushered into the Roots Cultural Center from 6:30- 9pm for VIP reception, music (one show will feature internationally-acclaimed opera singer Charles Williams), dancing, refreshments and live/silent auctions.

“The biggest highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the first IF award that will be honoring Iona. The plethora of talent in those nominated was astonishing; however, we have chosen Kate Petrie, President of the Jamestown Arts Center, because the reach of her energy was extraordinary. We believe she embodies the spirit of Iona,” explains Danforth.

If you want to be part of the biggest block party in recent memory, and celebrate some of the state’s most talented artists, check out their website.

Now, if the events of the day haven’t worn you too thin, end the night with one of Rhode Island’s most beloved and crowd-pleasing tour de forces, WaterFire. The 28th marks the Full Lighting ceremony, starting at sunset (6:34pm), which will be lit until midnight. Donate $5 to light a Luminaria Candle Lantern, $10 to hang a wish on the stars or $30 to bring home your very own illuminated blue star. And with 80 bonfires expected to light up the dark city sky in blazing demonstration, individuals can be sure to catch an incredible lineup of acts – like Spogga the fire dancer, and the international dance group Inca Son at Union Plaza – throughout the night from 8-10pm. But, be on lookout for Mime artist Michael Grando mimicking Pierrot from Commedia dell’Arte! He will be throwing carnations up and down the river to visitors and passersby in woeful romantic agony, trying to win the heart of the woman he loves.

Let the night and day’s events reignite your own fiery passion towards the arts, or whatever other facet in your life needing revival.


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