After a two-year pandemic hiatus, PVDFest, the Creative Capital’s signature arts and entertainment event presented by the Department of Art, Culture + Tourism and founding partner FirstWorks, returns to downtown Providence June 10-12.
Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza announced plans for the 2022 festival at a press conference in March. “So much has changed since we last danced in the streets of downtown,” he said. “After two very difficult years, this year’s PVDFest is the opportunity we have all been waiting for. We will meet downtown for three days of unforgettable performances and installations, continuing our tradition of elevating local talent and supporting the exchange of creative ideas. Providence is ready to come together and celebrate.”
Since its creation in 2015, PVDFest has featured over 4,400 artists, performers, and curators, and has brought close to half a million festival-goers to downtown Providence. Best known for high-energy musical performances and breathtaking art installations, the 2022 festival includes headliners Rebirth Brass Band, salsa legend Eddie Palmieri, and Peruvian band Hit La Rosa. The over-the-top public spectacle known as Squonk returns this year presenting Hand to Hand, described as “a joyous, participatory event that brings audiences together for a humorous, uplifting visual extravaganza.”
“Our framing of this year’s festival is ‘return to form,’” says Tim Rondeau, director of communications for the City of Providence. “The last couple of years we’ve seen scaled-back festivities; 2020 was canceled and last year we decentralized the festival to accommodate events with no more than 15-20 people coming together for smaller music events. This year, there’s really a lot of pent-up energy and excitement. I think folks have a hunger for the festival in a way that we maybe haven’t seen before.
“We’ve got a lot of returning guests and a lot of new folks coming to this year’s festival,” he adds. One of those new artists who will be on stage this year is Providence native Alexus Lee. It’s not only her first time playing PVDFest, she tells us, “it’s actually my first festival period and I’m so excited! I’m definitely leaving it all on the stage.”
Lee is enthusiastic about playing in her hometown. “I’ve been blessed to be able to do a fair amount of traveling in my life, and there is still no place that I’ve been that has compared to Providence,” she explains. “There’s just something here that is so special. It’s raw and gritty and passionate. I think maybe because we’re the smallest state, we have this hunger and fire that you don’t see in places like LA. We’re a bunch of dreamers and hustlers and lovers and go-getters. I’m always inspired here, which is why I’ve stayed.”
Another highlight will be the 10th Annual Afrika Nyaga Drum & Dance Festival, which is held concurrently with PVDFest. Drummer Sidy Maiga and friends Vieux Farka Touré, Chachi Carvalho, Satta Jallah, Natural Element, and Haus of Glitter will perform in Burnside Park on Sunday June 12.
“We often refer to ourselves as the Creative Capital,” explains Rondeau. “There’s a lot of things that go into that. There’s culinary arts, visual arts, performance art, and all of those things have a place at PVDFest. It’s a cool dynamic and it showcases communities.”
The unique programming doesn’t stop there. “We’re partnering with Haus of Codec, a local arts organization, who will be managing our parade,” says Rondeau. “They’re working with the company that manages Pokémon Go, bringing Pokémon Go to PVDFest, in a virtual environment. We’re hoping that attracts a whole new group of people that have maybe never experienced the festival to see what the city has to offer.”
Even beyond the headliners, PVDFest is a truly immersive way to experience the city. “Another thing that is unique about this festival is that we have these pop-up events all around downtown. You might turn down a side street and see performance art that you didn’t necessarily see highlighted in the program. It’s impromptu, it’s exciting – that is Providence in a nutshell.
“The mayor often speaks about dancing in the streets,” Rondeau continues. “Anything that involves live music and performance and allows folks to let loose and have fun – it’s a really cool dynamic when a band is playing and you’re dancing in the middle of Washington Street.”
Providence Monthly is a proud sponsor of PVDFest. Learn more at PVDFest.com
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