“There’s different points of view,” said Olga Francisco, a student at Dr Jorge Alvarez High School. “You might see it as a good thing, I might see it as a bad thing. There’s different ways of seeing art.”

Francisco was speaking at the ribbon-cutting for a new public artwork at Trinity Plaza, at the corner of Broad and Somerset Streets titled “What Is Your Story?” She was joined by Fanta Traore, Yorielis Matos Maldonado, Oscarina Pepen and Gustavo Lacen Javier. Two students who contributed to the design, Sita Traore and Albert Torres, did not speak at the event.

The artwork… is something we all worked on together,” said Fanta Traore. “But I created it…”

“The shapes on the fence are from all of us,” said Yorielis Matos Maldonado. “We combined many drawings to make this artwork. We hope to inspire people and add something positive to Trinity Plaza.”

“We wanted to create something that would communicate with our community,” said Oscarina Pepen. “Something that we could feel together. Something where they say, ‘Oh, I know what that means.'”

“Ever since the summer of 2017, we have been meeting every Thursday to work on this,” Gustavo Lacen Javier. “We want to honor the past, but also remember to look to the future.”

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza was on hand, as was Providence City Councilmember Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11).

“I’m particularly excited for this installation and the work that our students have done to create artwork that reflects their community while enhancing our public spaces,” said Elorza.

From the press release:

Last summer, a group of students from Dr. Jorge Alvarez High School came together at the Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island to create new public artwork for Trinity Square. With the support of teaching artist Anna Snyder, they convened each Thursday afternoon for group discussions and community visits.

“Public art is a perfect vehicle for student learning, especially at the high school level. The public art process requires students to research and engage with community, as well as think deeply about public space and policy that affects their everyday lives,” said Anna Snyder. “This work engages students’ intellect and empowers them for future civic engagement. Our project was student-driven, and the result is a permanent and public record of their voices and an educated and engaged young citizenry.”

Marta Martinez of Rhode Island Latino Arts partnered with the group to create an open project space where its members could share opinions and debate how they might integrate their own thoughts and feelings, as well as those of the people who live and work in and around Trinity Square, into a new artwork for the public space. These sessions also included a series of field trips to Grace Church Cemetery, DARE (Direct Action for Rights and Equality), a tour of the murals and public sculptures on Broad Street and Downtown and a visit to AS220.

When the 2017-2018 school year began, students participating in the project displayed a model of the public art site and showcased examples of public art in the hallways of their school. Throughout the school year they solicited personal stories of consequence that shaped their artwork, asking their classmates to each share one of their life’s greatest joys and its greatest challenges. Responses were written anonymously on index cards and put into a box placed alongside the site model.

Anna Snyder then led the group in a series of rapid art making exercises to help them respond to their peer’s submissions and translate them into something visual using stencils.  With a conceptual design for the project in hand, the students took a trip to the Steel Yard where they learned how the steel that would be used to fabricate their piece would be cut into intricate shapes; they also received feedback on the work they had proposed.

The artwork was installed by the Steel Yard and this project was made possible by an Artplace America grant for Illuminating Trinity, creative placemaking funding from LISC RI, the City of Providence, and through the generosity of Empire Loan.

There is a good piece here about the creation of the art work, as well as a video.

Here is the rest of the video:


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