Press Release: Providence Celebrates the 5th Anniversary of Gaia’s “Still Here”
Providence Celebrates the 5th Anniversary of Gaia’s “Still Here”
Rhode Island School of Design, the Tomaquag Museum, and The Avenue Concept present an event on November 3rd to celebrate one of the city’s signature works of art
PROVIDENCE: Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the Tomaquag Museum, and The Avenue Concept (TAC) are hosting a celebratory event and panel discussion to commemorate the 5th year anniversary of Gaia’s “Still Here” mural in downtown Providence. Celebrating this mural after five years is a momentous occasion and unique opportunity to explore the sweeping impact of this highly recognized and beloved work. This is a free, public ticketed event on November 3rd from 6:30 to 8:00 pm at the RISD Auditorium (17 Canal Walk, Providence). RSVP is required. Gaia will also hold a smaller artists workshop on November 4th in collaboration with TAC.
The panel discussion will be an avenue to explore the experience of the mural for the Indigenous community and the city and region more broadly. Panelists will include Lorén Spears and Lynsea Montanari (Tomaquag Museum), Gaia (Artist), and Nick Platzer (TAC) The panel discussion will be moderated by David T. Carreon Bradley (RISD). They will discuss idea and concept formation, community dialogue, the installation process, Indigenous histories and voices, the experience of the Indigenous community, and the experiences of those who have engaged the mural around storytelling, school curricula, and public dialogue.
Gaia created “Still Here” in cooperation with TAC and the Tomaquag Museum. The image features a contemporary Indigenous woman, based on Narragansett artist and educator Lynsea Montanari, holding the portrait of Princess Red Wing, a Narragansett/Pokanoket-Wampanoag elder, historian, folklorist and curator surrounded by native flora. The strawberry, sunflower and red wing blackbird are featured prominently and an endemic cattail springs into the foreground while the invasive phragmites are cast to the margin. Gaia was inspired by the history of the Custom House Street location, as well as the Indigenous peoples of Rhode Island. The wall is close to Weybosset Street, which is named for an Indigenous footpath and a trading location that later became one of the first custom houses in America. “Still Here” is meant to inspire as well as celebrate the resilience of Indigenous people.
Gaia, Artist and Muralist: Gaia grew up in New York City and is a 2011 graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art with a Bachelor in Fine Arts. His studio work, installations and gallery projects have been exhibited throughout the world, most notably The Baltimore Museum of Art, Rice Gallery in Houston, the Palazzo Collicola Arti Visive in Spoleto and the Civil and Human Rights Museum in Atlanta. His street work has been documented and featured in several books on urban art, including Beyond the Street: The 100 Leading Figures in Urban Art, (Berlin, 2010) and Outdoor Gallery (New York, 2014).
Lorén Spears, Executive Director, Tomaquag Museum: Lorén M. Spears, enrolled Narragansett Tribal Nation citizen and Executive Director of Tomaquag Museum, holds a Master’s in Education and received a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa in 2017, from the University of Rhode Island and Doctor of Education, Honoris Causa from Roger Williams University in 2021. She is an author, artist and shares her cultural knowledge with the public through museum programs. She has contributed to a variety of publications such as Dawnland Voices, An Anthology of Indigenous Writing of New England; Through Our Eyes: An Indigenous View of Mashapaug Pond; From Slaves to Soldiers: The 1st Rhode Island Regiment in the American Revolution; and Repair: Sustainable Design Futures. Spears co-edited a new edition of A Key into the Language of America by Roger Williams; and recently co-authored “As We Have Always Done: Decolonizing the Tomaquag Museum’s Collections Management Policy” published in the Collections: A Journal for Museum and Archive Professionals. Under her leadership Tomaquag Museum received the Institute of Museums and Library Service’s National Medal in 2016 and she has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors.
Lynsea Montanari, Indigenous Empowerment Coordinator, Tomaquag Museum: Lynsea Montanari, who is featured in “Still Here,” is the Indigenous Empowerment Coordinator for the Tomaquag Museum. Over a decade of working with the Museum, Lynsea has held the roles of Educator Associate, Museum Educator, and Educator Supervisor. As the Indigenous Empowerment Coordinator, Lynsea creates programming for the local Indigenous community, and is especially excited to develop language revitalization resources. Lynsea earned her B.A. in Organizational Leadership and Change from College Unbound. Lynsea is a visual artist, writer, and musician, and uses her artwork to explore what it means to be an Indigenous woman in the 21st century. Tying her art to her activism, Lynsea uses whatever tools she can to put beauty back into the universe: she has written a poetry manuscript about healing; writes and performs her original music; and has presented her visual art across New England.
Nick Platzer, Senior Mural Program Manager, The Avenue Concept: Nick grew up in Providence, RI and has spent 25 years installing murals around the world. In 2006, he founded the Urban Art Gallery INOPERAbLE in Vienna, Austria, exhibiting hundreds of international artists over 10 years. INOPERAbLE is largely credited for ushering in a wave of street art into a city mostly known for classical music. In 2016, Platzer relocated to Miami, Florida to continue curating and facilitating projects. He completed his first large-scale project in Providence with TAC in 2015 and has supported artists in executing 60 murals throughout RI.
David T. Carreon Bradley, Vice President, Social Equity and Inclusion, RISD: David (he/they) leverages over 20 years of experience in higher education combined with his perspective as a queer, Latinx, first-generation college student from a working-class background to provide institutional leadership and strategic direction for all RISD initiatives related to diversity, inclusion and equity. In his role as RISD’s senior-level diversity officer, he partners with the president, other senior leaders, faculty and staff to support the full range of social identities that comprise the diverse community that is RISD. He also uses an antiracism lens to infuse equity into all aspects of the institution, and he helps to create a deep sense of inclusion and belonging for all RISD faculty, staff and students.
About the Tomaquag Museum: The museum’s mission is to educate all of its relations (everyone) on Indigenous cultures of the Dawnland (focus Southern New England) through engagement and shared dialogue to reconcile the past and empower present and future generations. The organization envisions that all of its relations will understand the history and culture of the Indigenous People of the Dawnland, recognize and understand the impact of conquest and colonization on Indigenous People today, and take action to create equity. Visit tomaquagmuseum.org to learn more.
About Rhode Island School of Design: RISD (pronounced “RIZ-dee”) is a creative community founded in 1877 in Providence, Rhode Island. Today, we enroll 2,567 students hailing from 60 countries. Led by a committed faculty, they are engaged in 44 full-time bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and supported by a worldwide network of over 31,000 alumni who demonstrate the vital role artists and designers play in today’s society.
Beyond facts and figures, what is the spirit of this community? Through a cross-disciplinary curriculum of studio-based learning and rigorous study in the liberal arts, RISD students are encouraged to develop their own personal creative processes, but they are united by one guiding principle: in order to create, one must question. In cultivating expansive and elastic thinking, RISD seeks to activate a critical exchange that empowers artists, designers and scholars to generate and challenge the ideas that shape our world. RISD’s mission, at both the college and museum, is not only to educate students and the public in the creation and appreciation of works of art and design, but to transmit that knowledge and make global contributions. Visit risd.edu to learn more.
About The Avenue Concept: The Avenue Concept makes public art happen. We produce exceptional visual public art and experiences with artists and communities designed to inspire joy, dialogue, and belonging. We do this by investing in permanent infrastructure, funding public art projects, documenting and promoting the work of artists, using art as a tool for education, and advocating for policies, processes and partnerships that develop sustainable avenues for public art. Our goal is to build an environment in which art thrives and to create public art encounters that encourage people to engage and interact with art instead of passively observing it.
Founded in Providence, RI in 2012, The Avenue Concept is the state’s leading public art program. Since then it has installed or exhibited more than 250 works of public art, and invested $2 million in both artwork and infrastructure. We envision vibrant public spaces where art is a catalyst to nurture connection, hope, and inclusion. Visit theavenueconcept.org to learn more.
More resources on Gaia’s “Still Here”: