For one day only, on October 7, 2023, Rhode Island Humanities took 50 years of humanities out of the box in a rare and exciting display of culture, history, and visions of civic life. Over 200 attendees dove into Rhode Island’s complex politics and unique history at a mini film festival; explored an exhibition of vivid posters for public events that shaped and inspired communities; expressed hopes and dreams at the communal activity and created connections in the Future50 portrait studio. This event was free and open to the public, hosted at the WaterFire Arts Center in Providence, RI. Special thanks to the 200+ members of the community who joined us, and to our sponsors, partners, and vendors for making this celebration such a success!
See photos from the event below, and find links to films that are available for streaming.
If you participated in the Future50 portrait studio with Jonathan Pitts-Wiley, a gallery of those images can be found below.
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Over our 50-year history, event posters created by RI Humanities grantees have called you to listen to a lecture, come to an exhibition, see a performance, watch a film, participate in a community activity, and experience the public humanities. They have invited you to open your mind.
For 50Fest, we pulled 69 posters from our vast archive that cover a range of topics central to the Ocean State, including our relationships to land and sea, immigration and industrialization, identity, race, and cultural heritage and preservation.
Read about all the posters from the exhibit, and the projects they advertise, here: https://rihumanities.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/50Fest_Posters.pdf
Photos of the Poster exhibit, below, by: Rafael Medina.
50Fest included screenings of four films that explore Rhode Island’s civic life. Some are available to stream online for free or for a nominal rental fee. See details below.
- Buddy, directed by Cherry Arnold, 86 minutes, 2005. This Emmy Award-winning film about the complex legacy of former Providence Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, Jr. is available to stream online for a rental fee, here: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/buddyciancimovie
- Watershed, directed by Howard Foster, 21 minutes, 1983. This short film tells the story of the construction of the Scituate Reservoir between 1915-1925 to support the water supply of the City of Providence, and the concurrent destruction and submersion of six of Scituate’s eight villages. Though not available online, another film supported by RI Humanities, Blood and Watershed, from director Evan Villari, 2023, is available to stream online for free and features footage from the 1983 film. Watch Blood and Watershed here: https://www.pbs.org/video/blood-and-watershed-kdrzvd/
- Sachuest Point, directed by Lee O. Gardner, Peter O’Neill, and Ruth Whitman, 29 minutes, 1977. This short film explores the civic discourse around the land use and ownership of Sachuest Point, a breathtaking and ecologically significant peninsula on Aquidneck Island in Middletown, R.I., during a pivotal moment in its history. As the U.S. Navy decommissioned its use of 102 acres on the peninsula in 1976, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) was charged with determining its fate: would the land be transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for management as a nature preserve, or would the town of Middletown take ownership for recreation purposes? This film is currently not available to stream online.
- Almost Dope: Hip Hip in Rhode Island, directed by Ana González and Jeff Matteis, 82 minutes, 2017. This feature-length documentary chronicles the trajectories of eight different hip hop artists and groups from Rhode Island from the birth of hip hop 50 years ago to the present day. Through interviews, archival research, and oral histories, González and Matteis paint a portrait of a predominantly Black and Brown creative community addressing urgent civic issues, such as systemic racism, oppression, and violence, by amplifying the perspectives of and uplifting their communities. Stream the film online for free here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Vc30pllTVo
Read about the screened films here: https://rihumanities.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/50Fest_Films.pdf
Photos of audiences enjoying the film festival during 50Fest, below, by: Rafael Medina.
“Leavings,” a Communal Activity
In an invitation to community participation–a key component of civic health–past Council honorees, public humanities practitioners, and multi-media artists Becci Davis and Holly Ewald led guests in the communal activity “Leavings.” This collaborative, multi-sensory exploration of memory and resonance across generations created meaningful connections for those in attendance.
Photographs of the activity, below, by: Rafael Medina.
Portrait by Andre Gatlin.
Portrait Studio: Future50
When planning 50Fest, we didn’t want to only focus on our past 50 years in Rhode Island, but also to look ahead into the next 50. Portrait photographer Jonathan Pitts-Wiley created the Future50 Portrait Studio where participants were invited to contemplate their hopes for our collective future.
“When RI Humanities explained the vision for 50Fest, I was keen on the portrait experience being collaborative, archival, and aspirational. For this collection of analog and digital photography, it was important that the images not only celebrate what has been but also reflect what the community hopes to realize in the future.”
Learn more about Jonathan’s work on his website.
Behind the scenes photos of the Future 50 Portrait Studio process, below, are by Rafael Medina.
If you have a business, and are interested in supporting RI Humanities’ 50th year, visit our Sponsorship page to learn more about how partnering with RI Humanities may benefit you and your business.