This 3 Questions Series offers the chance to learn more about board members, grantees, and longtime supporters of the Humanities Council. In the coming months the Council will continue to share these conversations as a window into the people who make up the Council’s unique network.
Antonia Noori Farzan (she/her/hers)
Lives in Cranston, RI
As you join the Humanities Council’s board, what do you find most interesting or exciting about the Council’s work? Or what are you hoping to learn more about through your board service?
There are so many organizations (and individuals) in Rhode Island doing really interesting work to highlight the state’s history and culture, especially in areas that have traditionally been overlooked. I’m really excited to be able to help support that work, and learn more about all the different initiatives taking place throughout the state.
How do you interact with Rhode Island’s humanities and cultural sector personally and/or professionally? Can you share a favorite program, exhibit, project, performance, screening, or other humanities activity you’ve participated in recently and what you took away from that experience?
As a reporter, I’m focused on the present day, but I find that I routinely turn to the work of historians to get a better understanding of the places and people that I’m writing about. For instance, for a story about the role that ethnic social clubs play in Rhode Island, I benefited tremendously from the book “Family Connections: A History of Italian & Jewish Immigrant Lives in Providence, R.I. 1900-1940” by Judith E. Smith.
On a personal level, I really appreciate the work of artists and photographers who document what could be considered mundane pieces of the local landscape, because it gives me a different way of seeing (and appreciating) my surroundings. I’ve been really enjoying Umberto Crenca’s Divine Providence series and the Rhode Island Photographic Survey.
Lastly, the recent exhibit that I found most striking was “Raid the Icebox Now” at the RISD Museum. The artist, Paul Scott, uses the medium of traditional blue-and-white transferware ceramic plates but depicts modern-day post-industrial landscapes, pipelines, freeways, and suburban sprawl. I was really struck by how he was able to master a technique that was historically used for depicting idealized pastoral scenes, and turn that on its head to make a statement about ecological destruction and environmental racism.
You have lived in several different places – what is it about living in Rhode Island that you find compelling?
I could (and perhaps will!) write a book on this subject. The easy answer is that Rhode Island is where I was born and raised, and it was important to me to live in a place where I have a strong sense of community and interconnectedness. I also just find Rhode Island fascinating — unlike so many other places I’ve lived, it’s got a very distinct personality and sense of local character. There are so many layers of history everywhere you look. But it’s also constantly changing and evolving, despite having a reputation for being insular — I’m amazed every time I go to the Valley or Jewelry District, which are completely unrecognizable from when I was a high school student in Providence 15 years ago.
Learn more about Antonia and other board member by reading their biographies here.