Guest Author - Chris Curtis
Written By: Guest Author Chris Curtis
Bella Online's Folk Music Editor
Peace can come over us at unexpected times and not always in our moments of solitude. One such defining moment for me was on a warm spring evening sitting in the amphitheater at Waterplace Park in Providence listening to Pendragon perform. I had only been back home in RI for about five months after having lived away for five years. My return home had been bittersweet – sadness for needing to leave a place I had come to love so well but so very happy to be back home among friends and family. As I sat listening to the music amid a sea of people, I looked over at the Providence skyline as the setting sun reflected off of the buildings on Kennedy Plaza. It was a beautiful sight and I wished I’d had a camera in my hand to capture the scene that I was feeling in my heart. Peace came over me as I realized this was what I’d come home for: the beauty my surroundings, the sound of such wonderful music and the companionship of my friends and family. At that moment in time, there wasn’t anywhere more beautiful that Waterplace Park in Providence.
In the past 10 years, Providence RI has transformed itself into a beautiful revitalized city. Resting in the heart of the city is a four-acre gem called Waterplace Park; a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of the traffic and commerce taking place all around it. A cobblestone promenade surrounds the one-acre tidal pond then trails off down Woonasquatucket River for a mile on both sides. Over the promenade is a series of arched Venetian styled bridges that give the park an old world charm. You can also cruise the park on an authentic gondola or take a water taxi down the river to the mouth of the bay and back.
Waterplace Park was built in the early 1990s as part of what is now known as the Providence Renaissance. The project was to uncover the three converging rivers in downtown Providence, redirect the traffic flow through the city and open land for development. Since its completion, the park has become a central to a variety of cultural events that has brought 10’s of thousand of people into the heart of Providence.
A fabulous view of the park can be seen from the Food Court at Providence Place Mall with its huge picturesque window overlooking the area. As you view the park from above, you will see the amphitheater to the left and a fountain in the center of the pond. On the right, the walkway gives way to a bridge leading to a courtyard of popular restaurants including Union Station, Capital Grill, RiRa’s and Brewed Awakenings.
Under the bridge is a solemn tribute to 9-11 called the Wall of Hope. The Wall is a vivid mosaic of hand-painted tiles contributed by Rhode Islanders from every background. The tiles line the inside walls of the bridge as well as a double-sided display set up in the center. More tiles are displayed on the outside of the Providence Journal building. Between the two displays there are approximately 10,000 tiles. You could spend quite some time absorbing the messages of hope conveyed by these tiles. A plaque in the courtyard entrance to the bridge explains that the tiles will ultimately be moved to a museum. Personally, I strongly believe they belong where they now sit for public viewing.
Waterplace Park is the home of the award winning WaterFires. Promoted as a living artistic sculpture, the park waterways hold 100 braziers that blaze just above the surface of the river for nearly two-thirds of a mile during a WaterFire event. The 2006 season schedule plans for 17 events from May to October and promises to bring thousands of spectators into downtown to socialize and view the bonfires. Capitalizing on the flow of people brought into the city for the WaterFires, Providence has expanded the event to include two stages: the Verizon Jazz Stage and the Sovereign Bank dance stage.
For the past few year, Providence's Department of Art, Culture & Tourism has hosted a summer Waterplace Park Concert Series. Last year's schedule of eight concerts were held on Friday evenings and delivered a diverse selection of world class music from the Providence String Quartet, to music from West Africa, Puerto Rico, Caribbean and from the Latin, jazz and gospel genres. Past years have also hosted Cajun, Zydeco AND Salsa bands. We can look forward to what's in store for the 2006 concert series.
Waterplace Park isn't just another green spot in the middle of an urban community. In fact, it's not green at all - it's wet! It is, however, charming and has become a wonderful gathering place for a variety of eclectic activities. Check it out.
Chris Curtis is our Bella Online Folk Music Editor. You can find Chris at Folk Music.