Thursday, February 25, 2010

Announcing our Spring 2010 Conversation Series

We're excited to announce our third annual series of public “Conversations” in which unique individuals share how they integrate creative practice into their personal and professional lives. Conversations are held Wednesdays at 7:00pm and are located at New Urban Arts. Free and Open to the Public.

Conversations are curated and hosted by Arts Mentoring Fellows, Emmy Bright and Kedrin Frias.


March 10: A Conversation with Sidney Tillet
On Painting the Face of the Disenfranchised


Sidney Tillett was born in Livingston, Guatemala and immigrated to the United States in 1986. He lives in Providence, R.I. and has been painting since he was six years old. Sidney has always had an interest in art, often filling whole sketchbooks within days. At age twelve he joined City Arts, a community arts organization, and came under the tutelage of Munir Mohammed, an accomplished artist from Ghana. Sidney continued to study under Munir and over the years he developed his own artistic style. He often paints cultural large-scale portraits, and over the years he has developed an interest in African culture. Though he enjoys exploring all cultures, most of his work consists of African and African American Motifs.


March 24: A conversation moderated by Abigail Satinsky
On Organizing for Creative Practice


Abigail Satinksy is the co founder of InCubate, a research institute in Chicago dedicated to new approaches to arts administration and funding. InCUBATE stands for the Institute for Community Understanding Between Art and the Everyday. InCUBATE organizes exhibitions, publications, lectures, and produces artists projects. The core organizational principle is to treat art administration as a creative practice. By doing so, the hope is to generate and share a new vocabulary of practical and experimental solutions to the issues of independently producing contemporary art. Abigail is currently in residence as a fellow at the JNBC at Brown University, where she is working on a series of articles that document artist-initiated creative funding models. These will take the form of interviews and a catalog of artist projects to spark a dialogue about the ways artists, administrators, and organizers are re-imagining infrastructures of support for their work and the challenges they are facing on a pragmatic level in making it happen.


April 7: A Conversation and Reading with Michael Cirelli

On Poetry and Privilege


Poet and educator, Michael Cirelli, will share work from his new poetry collections Vacations on the Black Star Line and The Situation: Jersey Shore Poems, followed by a conversation on race, privilege, whiteness and robots.

Michael Cirelli is the Executive Director of Urban Word NYC, a grassroots non-profit organization that provides free, safe, uncensored and ongoing writing and performance opportunities for NYC teens. He is also the director of the Annual Spoken Word & Hip-Hop Teacher & Community Leader Training Institute at the University of Wisconsin that won the 2007 North American Association of Summer Sessions "Creative and Innovative Program Award."

He is the author of the award-winning teaching guide, Hip-Hop Poetry & the Classics (Milk Mug, 2004), a standards-based curriculum that explores the relationship between hip-hop lyrics and "classic" poems. He is currently working on two other curricula utilizing hip-hop to engage students. His collection of poetry, Lobster with Ol’ Dirty Bastard (Hanging Loose, 2008) was a NY Times Book Review independent press best seller, and his next book, Vacations on the Black Star Line (Hanging Loose, 2009) is forthcoming.

Along with teaching writing workshops and performing across the country, he was previously the director of PEN Center West’s Poet in the Classroom Program. He was featured on season 5 of Russell Simmons Def Poetry
(see his performance here) , and has his MFA in poetry from the New School, and certificate from the Columbia School of Business, Institute for Nonprofit Management.


May 5: A Workshop & Conversation with Boston theater director, Ellie Heyman
On Deep Connections, Collaborations, Movement and Embodied relationships


May 26: A Workshop & Conversation with Walker Mettling and Jenn Morea
On their approaches to keeping notes, sending postcards, and working with unlikely collaborators. Walker is a writer and performer and independent curator in Providence. Jenn is also a writer, particularly a poet, and educator in Chicago.


Stay Tuned for More Details on the Conversations in May!

Monday, February 22, 2010

First Mail Art Submission Arrived Today!

Thank you John Kotula!

Looking forward to the rest....

Learn how to participate here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Found inside a pile of Papers

Melissa Mendes, Artist Mentor from 2006-08, is visiting the studio today as a special guest for Comic Book Week. Somehow that led to going through memories and also piles of papers... we even resurrected a drawing of hers on her first day in the studio and her mentor poster from 2006! Inside this pile of paper was also a note scribbled in the margin of a piece of notebook paper. It documents a conversation between a student and artist mentor in February of 2006.

"I heard about this one thing where monkeys turn into people."
"Oh, yeah.... evolution! Yeah! That's crazy!!"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Did we ever tell you about the monster under the bed?

We give a lot of tours of the studio, mostly given by our students. Sometimes alumni, artist mentors, fellows and staff pitch in too. Everyone has a different approach to giving a tour of our space and telling its story.

Most of them all have one thing in common though.

We hardly ever, almost never, take people downstairs to see our basement. Some people will be involved at New Urban Arts for years before even learning there is a basement.

Others are more daring. Last year, one of the artist mentors went on a scavenger hunt in the basement with her students and they returned with a loom! The next few months were spent learning to use it and sharing the story of the day the basement gifted us a loom.

Residue and remains from the years since New Urban Arts first started have accumulated to something of a mess! Remember Muncho from 2005? He lives in the basement. And the giant pac man costume too!

It's sort of become our monster under the bed.

Until artist mentor, Isaac Wingfield, took on an ambitious, summer-long project and gave our long-neglected basement a makeover.


We share this story now, to inspire any upcoming spring cleaning efforts of your own.

Thank you Isaac!

Check out our online photo archive for more pictures of the basement overhaul from last summer.

MidYear Mentor Retreat

In February, we enjoyed time with this year's artist mentors and fellows in South Kingston. It was a privilege to spend a Saturday together and to spend it writing, reflecting, drawing, eating, talking, laughing, making triangles from our questions, skipping stones and walking along the shore's edge.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Join this year's mail art project at New Urban Arts

We’re tall. We want to tell you how.

Tall (definition)
2 a: high in stature b: of a specified height
3 a: of considerable height (tall trees) b: long from bottom to top (a tall book) c: of a higher growing variety
4 a: large or formidable in amount, extent or degree

We stand taller than before. Charting our progression with pencil marks on pitted door frames. We grow by the moment. Changing ourselves, changing our context, transforming. The tales we speak are tall indeed. We shout them, our heads visible above the standing crowd, yelling change, grow, stretch. We change and we grow and we stretch.

You are taller, too. We want to know how.

Artists often consider value scales to be a fundamental aspect of their creative practice. A value scale is a series of tints and shade of one color, starting with white or the lightest tint on one end and gradually changing to the darkest shade or black on the other. This is an instrument of measurement, a tool through which change is made apparent, a visual representation of growth and progression.

Using a long strip of white paper (3inches X 18 inches) as your canvas, illustrate your own growth. Think of the way in which a value scale graduates from one color to something completely different on the other side, how one identity gently emerges from another. How have you changed, grown, stretched? How has your identity evolved slowly, incrementally, until an entirely different person is revealed on the other side?

Ask yourself: How have I become better, changed, transformed in my life? How have I become taller than I was in the past? Represent this progression in any way you want on the paper provided. There are no rules. Simply tell us your story.

Before Wednesday, March 10, please send us your piece to New Urban Arts at 743 Westminster Street, Providence, RI 02903. Your story will be part of a collective story of growing.

Mail Art is an annual tradition at New Urban Arts, started in 2003 by artist in resident Holly Ewald and Program Director Tamara Kaplan, where we ask students, artist mentors and the New Urban Arts community to engage in visual dialogue.
Email if you have questions.

Sample Activities from the Creative Correspondence Summer Art Inquiry Resource Guide


Have you ever mailed a letter to yourself? While obsessing over creative acts of correspondence, we discovered the book Envelopes by Harriet Russell which details “a puzzling journey through the royal mail.” The sender mailed himself a series of packages in which the address was disguised through riddles, comics, and puzzles. One package was addressed with a hand-drawn map offering directions, rather than a written address. We were inspired by this idea of coded correspondence and wrote letters that hid what we actually wanted to say. Try it! Write a letter that hides what you want to say through a code that you design yourself.


Faux is a French word for false or fake. When manufacturing faux objects, attempt to create products which resemble the imitated items as closely as possible. There are many different approaches you can take to making faux mail.

You can create a piece of mail you wish to get. Maybe it’s a financial aid award letter from your favorite college choice, or a love letter from a certain someone. Actually send this faux mail to yourself through the postal service, to your home address.

Or create mail for fictional characters such as Harry Potter, Hamlet or Hannah Montana. Consider mailing letters to ideas like world peace or the North Pole. When you send mail to these places, you’ll need to create a fictional address. Since the recipient is not really going to open the mail you are sending, your audience becomes postal workers.

Consider keeping the fictional mail rather than sending it off and create fictional responses. For inspiration, look at the Griffin and Sabine series by Nick Bantock. These books share imaginary correspondence between two soul mates through removable letters and postcards.


Another faux mail project idea is to spoof junk mail. Collect a sample of at least ten pieces of junk mail and notice the similarities in design and text. What do addresses look like? How is junk mail signed or personalized? What are the kinds of fonts used? Using these trends in junk mail, create your own authentic-looking, fake junk mail! Send pieces to friends in the mail, and see if they can detect the illusion.

One of our favorite ways to declare war on junk mail was using magazine subscription cards as a platform for free postage. Find a magazine and look for the many inserts inside. Tear them out and draw/paint/college on them. Turn them into a mini canvas. Then mail these artworks send them in the mail. For a demonstration, view the how to video here.

Creative Correspondence: New Resource Guide Now Available

What is creative correspondence?

Outside the doors of 743 Westminster Street sits a blue box with a semicircular top. You affix a sticker to a package, slip of paper, or envelope; write a destination; and then you drop it into the box and off it goes into the world to be delivered to the destination. What is even more incredible than this whole structured act of sending is that someone, somewhere, receives that thing you put out into the mail. And what’s even more exciting is that they might reply… Now if you affix a stamp to your forehead and walk down to the post office in a cardboard box, it won’t work. We tried; there is a video to prove it. But we did explore the wide range of what could be sent via the US Postal service.

During the summer of 2008 we spent six weeks exploring mail art and other forms of creative correspondence. There is a new resource guide publication from this Art Inquiry available for purchase here and for free download here. Also check out our online resources on mail art, including live-video demonstrations and a large archive of letters written to Providence that we collected through a public letter writing project called Dear Providence.

Below is a reflection from that summer by scholar and artist in residence, Rick Benjamin. Rick is a poet and educator in Providence, RI. Check out his recent publication, Passing Love here

When we stopped writing letters we lost an intimate form, the epistolary equivalent of what Virginia Woolf says is a little language such as lovers use. Meanwhile, our emails are as full of disclosure as postcards, teen-aged & even middle-aged relationships end in text messages, we communicate almost to our heart's gratification on G-chat, Skype & I.M.- the agility of our communications is startling, the content remarkably dull.

When I was away from New Urban Arts that summer I wrote postcards: some of them were absurd, some had poems on them, some of them were imagined letters that would hint at intimacies only suggested. None of them had anything to do with the pictures or scenes depicted front-side: no grand canyons or monuments here; but for a week I kept track of my own imaginative transits through these snapshot-correspondences & also risked circulating them to a few others, my Providence Letter-Posse back at New Urban Arts.

Before I'd left the city for Maine & then Vermont, a group of us from the studio on Westminster had gone to the North Burial Ground in Providence, a very old cemetery in one of America's oldest cities. It was a wicked hot August day. Back at the studio I'd been talking about La Dia de los Muertes, & how a 9th Century Japanese poet had said, "I'm alive, right? Don't we say that? We don't think about the bones we walk on." which certainly didn't seem to cheer them up; I followed up this chestnut of uplifting wisdom by invoking the notion of talking to the dead. Ok, so I wasn't exactly distinguishing myself as a workshop leader, but my excuse was that I'd thrown my back out the day before; it had taken me 2 ½ hours just to get out of bed this morning; my friend, Julie, had given me a massage just so I could stand up bent over. In terms of correspondence, I was half-way into the grave myself.

Writing letters to the unremembered dead was the best I could come up with that day. In retrospect, I'd make the following case for the exercise, & chalk up my good but unconscious intentions to muscle relaxants. First, writing letters is an august activity, a performance with some demonstrable wisdom behind it. I have no doubt that emails & perhaps even text-messages will catch up, but for the moment they are not repositories for really good thinking or the sweetest forms of intimacy or life instructions. Second, writing letters to the dead, stays, for the moment, our unremitting dread of dying. It asks us to find connections, to find correspondences across time, to see our own lives as part of a vast continuum. And, finally, writing letters to a strangers downs barriers of difference, asking us to imagine their lives, to inhabit them (at least for the duration of the making), to stop being afraid even of the most fearful strangers of all-- the ones within us.

Rick Benjamin