previously known as:
Urban Pond Procession
Mashapaug Pond Procession
The mission of UPP Arts is to engage artists and communities in public art-making for the purpose of celebrating and building stewardship of our shared environment.
UPP Arts believes creative solutions are an invaluable catalyst for change. By investing in artists and communities, we seek openness to think and see in new creative ways.
UPP Arts convenes communities and individuals of different backgrounds, disciplines, and skills to create a network that works together as a team.
UPP Arts inspires a network of diverse stakeholders to think about, approach, and solve problems in new ways to effect positive change for a better future, with collective energy and enthusiasm.
UPP Arts fosters attentiveness and sensitivity to people’s varied points of view, experiences, and ways of knowing, in the belief that listening and shared authority for making meaning deepens our understanding and our relationships -- to one another and to the places we seek to fortify.
UPP Arts continually observes, questions, and investigates in order to foster deep understanding and wonder.
UPP Arts will be successful when public artmaking is a catalyst for creating healthy places and communities throughout Rhode Island.
WHO WE ARE
UPP Arts is made up of a revolving group of volunteer artists, scientists, educators and concerned citizens who are all interested in collaborating to promote the health of our urban ponds. We facilitate workshops for all ages in which participants learn about the ponds' environmental and health issues while making creative props for an annual celebratory procession to raise further awareness and advocate for the ponds' clean-up, both building community and improving the environment.
Among our artists are UPP's founder, Holly Ewald, RISD students and alumni , and teaching artists and staff from local community arts organizations including New Urban Arts, and Providence ¡CityArts! for Youth. These artists present creative ways to approach and begin to solve real-world environmental issues surrounding the Lower Pawtuxet Watershed through arts workshops with youth in schools and the greater population in public spaces.
Their work is informed by the scientific expertise of representatives from the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island, smallFEAT, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and the Rhode Island Department of Health. UPP is also very fortunate to have the support of a team of professional educators whose collective experience working with all ages, in school and out, helps ensure that we provide meaningful and engaging educational instruction to as many different sectors of the public as possible.
Artist Holly Ewald was approached by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts on behalf of the state's Health Department in 2007 to produce colorful, more universally understood signs to replace the existing warning signs around Mashapaug Pond notifying visitors of the site's health and safety hazards. This led to a several-week residency in local schools and community centers, during which she, along with Robert Vanderslice (Rhode Island Department of Health) and Elizabeth Scott (Deputy Chief of Water Quality, RIDEM) educated young people about the pond and led workshops to produce silkscreen posters and fish costumes. The posters were then the inspiration for 4 new, more pictoral signs with text in 3 languages--English, Spanish and Cambodian. The Department of Transportation fabricated 8 signs using Holly's designs that were permanently installed around the pond.
But Holly didn't stop there! She, with the help of key community volunteers, organized a culminating procession to celebrate the pond, which she named the Mashapaug Pond Processsion, raising even greater public awareness around the plight of the pond while displaying the incredible signs and fish costumes her students had so thoughtfully and artfully produced.
The Mashapaug Pond Procession has since become the Urban Pond Procession--addressing the health of the entire Lower Pawtuxet Watershed--and the preparatory workshops leading up to it now take place in four schools and several public sites throughout Providence, educating students and community members about the site's present day health and contamination issues, as well the historical connection between Native Americans and the land along the watershed.
Check out the evolution and wide breadth of work UPP has undertaken over the past ten years!
Holly's process began with visits to the pond to photograph and talk with residents, then research into the famous Gorham Silver Manufacturing Company, whose 70+ years of operations on the northern shore of the pond left behind the hazardous toxins still plaguing the area. After attending public meetings about the environmental issues effecting Mashapaug Pond, Holly realized she needed to do something interactive on the street to reach the groups who were reluctant to come to meetings. She decided a festive procession would be a good way to get information to more people.
She sought advice from Erminio Pinque of Big Nazo Puppets on how to create a procession and silkscreen help from artist Andrew Oesch of New Urban Arts. After state experts explained why the pond was polluted to a sixth grade class at Charles Fortes Elementary School and a Graphic Design Class at Alvarez High School (located on the former Gorham site), she and Andrew helped the students collaborate in small groups to design their own silkscreen posters for the procession and for the final signs. Holly also worked with artist Jennifer Rice and neighborhood children at Wat Thormikaram to make fish costumes and tangentially learn about Buddhist culture.
The culminating Procession featured entertainment by Big Nazo, What Cheer? Brigade and Community MusicWorks, as well as presentations by students from Charles Fortes and Alvarez and State and City officials. One student summed it all up when he put a challenge out to everyone present, imploring, "Come you guys, let's work together to clean up this pond. I want a place to play."
With the success of the previous year's procession, the Health Department asked Holly to work with Charles Fortes students again to help them promote their Healthy Home campaign. Artist Alyssa Holland Short stepped in to work weekly with the students as she and Holly created a curriculum for the youth to first explore what it meant to have a healthy body, then a healthy home and finally a healthy community. Learning what was important to creating a healthy home was made fun and easy with a new video commissioned by the Health Department featuring storytellers Len Cabral and Marc Levitt. The final healthy community project grew into a metaphoric 8 foot figure made up of puzzle pieces. In order to have a healthy community one must address all the needs of a healthy body--places of learning for the brain, places to exercise for the legs, and a home for the heart. The figure was not complete without all its pieces. Puzzle Man is now permanently watching over the library at Charles Fortes Elementary.
The culminating Procession—which debuted Puzzle Man to the public—again featured entertainment by Big Nazo and What Cheer? Brigade and ended with presentations by students and government officials—including Elizabeth Scott (DEM) and Senator Josh Miller—along with Diane Rose and Liz Marsis who had taken water samples from the pond the previous summer for analysis by the University of Rhode Island.
This year a number of new volunteers and a partnership with Narragansett Bay Estuary Program helped increase outreach efforts allowing Holly to expand the scope of her work and seek new venues in which to educate the public through artistic workshops. This resulted in a new name (the Urban Pond Procession, a.k.a. UPP) and intensive fish costume and flag-making workshops at Sophia Academy and Providence ¡CityArts! for Youth, as well as one- to two-day workshops at Wat Thormikaram, Gilbert Stuart and Roger Williams Middle Schools, the Carousel at Roger Williams Park, J.T. Owens ballpark, and the front lawns of two local residents. UPP also held its first benefit concert featuring local musicians to help support its increased endeavors and get the word out about the June Procession.
The culminating Procession was kicked up a notch with the additions of Extraordinary Rendition Band and the New England Drummers to the musical line-up, plus the return of Community MusicWorks, a performance by HUDO Dance Academy, and presentations and poems by students from Sophia Academy and Alvarez High. The fish costumes and flags made in the workshops leading up to the event were proudly paraded and displayed along the entire route of the Procession.
UPP got even more in-depth and explored new facets of Mashapaug Pond's history in 2011. Holly collaborated with Rhode Island's Native American community and the Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum to produce a book of art, poetry and reflection entitled Through Our Eyes, An Indigenous View of Mashapaug Pond. The book has received rave reviews (link to News page) and can be purchased through the Tomaquag Museum by calling (401) 491-9063.
This collaboration enriched UPP's workshops with a more comprehensive history of Mashapaug Pond, which was an important settle site for the Narragansett prior to the arrival of the Europeans and into the 20th century. The Huntington Business Park now stands where their ancestors and community once lived. This history was incorporated into intensive workshops at Sophia Academy, Community Preparatory School and Nathan Bishop Middle School. Public one-day workshops were also scattered throughout Providence during the months leading up to the May Procession, and related workshops were held at the Met School, which resulted in the production of an educational play performed by Met students at the end of the Procession at the Temple to Music.
UPP highlighted the legacies of industry and Gorham Silver Manufacturing Co. in 2012, bringing attention to a different facet of Mashapaug Pond's history through a wide array of public events and in-school workshops. UPP hosted a film screening and panel at Knight Memorial Library, sparking public discussion about the art, industry and environmental effects of Gorham.
Holly and Professor Anne Valk taught a class at Brown University called Oral History and Community Memory, which culminated in a one-night-only exhibit at the Mediator that exhibited stories and artifacts related to Reservoir Triangle, Mashapaug Pond and Gorham. This inspired the creation of a traveling exhibit and undergraduate thesis project that further explored the history of Gorham and the neighborhoods around Mashapaug.
Plus, workshops series used Gorham history as creative fodder at Sophia Academy, Reservoir Avenue Elementary and Gilbert Stuart Middle School. One-time public workshops were once again held during the months leading up to the Procession, this time with participants making Gorham-inspired Save the Dates and vessel hats.
Following up on last year's exploration of the industrial culture that sprang up around Mashapaug Pond, this year we examined contemporary cultural impacts on the health of the pond. In addition to the heavy metals, chlorinated solvents, mercury, and arsenic found in the pond's cove as a result of the Gorham Silver Manufacturing Company's operations, contaminants from present -day stormwater runoff continue to pollute the pond. These contaminants contribute to toxic algae blooms that occur in the pond during the warmer months.
Through our school and public workshops, we investigated a history of contamination around Mashapaug Pond, learned about present-day sources of pollution and its impacts on local ecology, explored innovative ways to reduce toxic inputs into our waters and envisioned ways to make better use of our spaces. We also held our first ever summer series, which concluded with a Summer Series Send-Off featuring projects from our school and summer workshops, accompanied by a reading of poems from Laura Brown -Lavoie's summer workshop and a launching of iceboats created by UPP founder Holly Ewald.
The 2013 Procession welcomed exciting new participants and reunited with beloved old ones, including Big Nazo Puppets, the Extraordinary Rendition Band, and the What Cheer? Brigade. It kicked off at Alvarez High School with the dedication of a ceramic timeline mural made by its students. Josh Lantzy and a youth band from Varten Gregorian Elementary School, inspired by the Extraordinary Rendition Band, led us from Alvarez down Crescent Street. We demonstrated a stormwater retrofit using the driveway of a community member who lived along the procession route, and stopped by Reservoir Elementary School to see 4th graders' designs for a play space incorporating green infrastructure for the dirt patch behind their school.
We had our traditional moment of silence by the pond with a reciting of Langston Hughes's The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Sophia Academy girls, under the direction of Rick Benjamin, state poet of Rhode Island. The procession ended at JT Owens Park with a celebratory performance choreographed by Lisa Abbatomarco, which featured a sculpture of the "Mashapaug Monster" created by¡CityArts! students. Providence Mayor Angela Taveras and Janet Coit, Director of RI DEM, spoke about initiatives underway to address the health of local urban ponds. The procession concluded with Duck Boat tours around the pond.
This year we focused our efforts on what makes a healthy neighborhood as we explored the history and environmental impact of the Huntington Business Park site on Mashapaug Pond.
Prior to 1962, when the industrial park was built, this rural area was home to over 500 families and known as “Across the Tracks” and West Elmwood. Former residents shared their memories with Alvarez High School students and young artists at New Urban Arts who translated those stories into a shadow puppet play for the procession and two murals at J.T. Owens Park, respectively. Other students at Alvarez, Reservoir Avenue School and West End Community Center translated what they learned into house- and fish-shaped lanterns commemorating those warm and playful memories adding light and magic to this year’s evening procession. Additionally, Alvarez AP Environmental Science students learned from creating a poem with RI Poet Laureate Rick Benjamin about what a great asset the pond was and can be to the neighborhood and school.
Our annual community kick-off got everyone thinking about what makes a healthy neighborhood. Using the history of West Elmwood and lessons on stormwater runoff for inspiration, participants created accordion fold-out houses featuring green roofs, trees, gardens, families, community activities, and other signifiers of a healthy neighborhood.
In October, artist Kristina Brown launched Beacon, a 9 foot-high solar powered lighthouse with scenes cut out of plywood inspired by the pond stories of the former West Elmwood residents that she hopes to see once again on a healthy Mashapaug Pond. She invited the public to participate in the creation of the floating sculpture by contributing objects that were then placed under glass on the base of the buoyant light house. Beacon was launched October 10, after sundown, as the public watched, silenced by the quiet movement and shrinking of the lantern on the water as Kristina and her husband Mike Araujo rowed it out into the pond. The launch was accompanied by Phil Edmonds’s flute playing.
Water was our focus this year as we created programing to make water more visible to all of us. Our in-school projects included field trips to the Fields Point Waste Water Treatment Plant the storm water remediation sites in the area. We actively encouraged inter-school collaborations beyond the Procession by holding an informal dinner with principals and teachers from participating schools and UPP Arts artists and board members. The noisy gathering was held at Ebisu restaurant near the pond; new collaborations have already begun. This year, artists submitted proposals for 10 session projects and principals and teachers made selections for their schools.
Working with incoming 9th graders and a team of teachers from different disciplines, artist Anna Snyder brought attention to global and local concerns about water which culminated in 4 large banners for the Procession. The ripple effect at Alvarez was seismic as art teacher Sarah Cappelli had students making rain sticks, pond life-inspired hats and indigo tie-dyed T-shirts, definitely distinguishing the Alvarez community at the Procession.
Artist Kristina Brown helped Sophia Academy students learn about the textile and dying industry in our Rhode Island waters as they created the Clean River Quilt for the Procession. Our many years of partnering with Sophia Academy and science teacher Alyssa Wood has born fruit as two alumni, Sheila and Yanelli, inspired science and history teachers Brendan Haggerty and Logan Bonney at their present high school, The Greene School, to delve into Mashapaug Pond history. In May, The Greene School invited Sophia Academy and Alvarez AP Environmental Science youth to join them at their annual Waste Solution Summit, held this year at J.T. Owens Park.
Artist Lisa Abbatomarco worked with two 3rd grade classes at Reservoir Avenue School, focusing on the incredible beauty and essential role of plankton in the food chain. Plankton are tiny organisms that are at the bottom of the food chain and live in our waters. In addition to carrying their plankton puppets in the Procession, students put on a plankton play for the K-2 grade students at Reservoir Avenue School.
The Procession this year was again led by UPP Arts veterans Lisa Abbatomarco and Phil Edmonds. Our venerable cohorts Big Nazo Puppets and Extraordinary Rendition Band brought joy and excitement to us all. New this year was the Dynamic New Force Steppers, who met us in Roger Williams Park and led us to the Temple to Music; we hope they'll continue to be Procession partners for years to come!
Also this year, we planted cherry, pear and plum trees near J.T. Owens Park to create the West Elmwood Orchard, commemorating the neighborhood that was once where the Huntington Business Park now stands. Many volunteers helped plant the trees and paint the fence surrounding the orchard. Artist Kristina Brown and former West Elmwood residents will be creating a sign for the orchard to be dedicated in September 2015.
In 2016 UPP Arts focused on Indigenous Culture and Urban Waters. We built on our previous work with the Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum and Rhode Island’s Indigenous community in 2011 to broaden student and public perspectives of Indigenous lifestyles beyond the history books. We were fortunate to have Loren Spears, Executive Director of the Tomaquag Museum, as a consultant for our entire year of programing, including the 2016 Professional Development workshop for artists and educators. She helped us to understand the link between past and present Indigenous culture and the prevalence of Native American stereotypes in popular media. Teaching artists Dawn Spears, Wanda Hopkins and Denali Tiller brought these lessons into school workshops in Providence and for the first time also in Cranston. More Cranston than Providence residents live in the Mashapaug Pond watershed, so it was an important step for UPP Arts to form a new partnership with the 21st Century Learning Center in Cranston to reach beyond the political boundaries.
The 9th Annual Urban Pond Procession celebrated the student work and community stewardship, and well over 300 supporters joined in the 1.5 mile route from Roosevelt Lake in Roger Williams Park to Mashapaug Pond. Representatives of the Tomaquag Museum introduced our recognition of the Indigenous Culture of Rhode Island with a welcome song accompanied by flute and drumming and we enjoyed performances by ERB, Extraordinary Youth Ensemble, the Big Nazo Puppets, and What Cheer Brigade throughout the evening. Hopkins and her students from Gladstone Elementary in Cranston led an indigenous water ceremony and suspended their large dreamcatcher by the pond at the boathouse in hopes of protecting its waters. Denali Tiller and Alvarez High School AP Environmental Science students shared their documentary film “Voices of the Small Points,” based on interviews with four Narragansett.
“Full Circle: Art as Reflection,” a 16’ x 8’ metal floating sculpture designed by Holly Ewald and fabricated by The Steel Yard, drew on the Indigenous Culture and Urban Waters theme. It features silhouettes of the natural life at Mashapaug and the Indigenous people who have maintained connections to this place for centuries. In July, August and September the sculpture became a film screen at J.T. Owens park and brought many community members past the new West Elmwood Orchard and to the pond’s boat launch. With folding chairs and blankets, we all enjoyed films celebrating the ecology, history and culture of Mashapaug Pond.
Beyond the main programming theme, two major outdoor reuse projects were finished and now provide much needed green space to promote environmental stewardship. The West Elmwood Orchard was officially dedicated at J.T. Owens Park on the west side of Mashapaug Pond in April. Since then the fruit trees have provided fresh plums and cherries for area residents and visitors, as the former orchards in old West Elmwood did for decades. The orchard commemorates this displaced neighborhood that was razed to build the Huntington Industrial Park in 1962. A few blocks from the south side of the pond, Reservoir Avenue School second graders planted a garden, completing the Oasis project, an outdoor recreation installation behind their school. In June, Mayor Elorza and the students celebrated the official opening of the play structure, which catches rainwater for the native plant garden.
2017 brought together all the narrative threads we have developed over the last decade and celebrated the community actions we have taken as a group. It was also a time for reflection as UPP Arts will thoughtfully close our doors at the end of 2017 with our Legacy Project. Luckily the next generation of community and environmental activists stand ready to “carry the torch” and continue projects that we have initiated.
In October 2016, we held an interdisciplinary Teaching Artists and Educators Workshop with presentations on the environmental, industrial, Indigenous and West Elmwood socio-economic stories. Jessica Plavicki in the Brown University Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine shared her research on the disruption of fish development caused by environmental chemicals; Mariani Lefas-Tetenes of the RISD Museum provided an overview of the Gorham Silver Manufacturing Co. and shared teaching opportunities available through her institution’s Gorham collection; Narragansett Tribal Councilwoman, artist and educator Wanda Hopkins explained the role of storytelling and use of freshwater ponds in Indigenous Cultures; and artist and former West Elmwood neighborhood resident Mike Freemen shared reflections on growing up near Mashapaug and being forced to move out in 1962 to make way for the Huntington Industrial Park. All these stories made their way into our February through May 2017 school programs at Bain Middle School and Gladstone Elementary School in Cranston and Reservoir Elementary, Central High School and Alvarez High School in Providence.
The Procession on May 13, 2017, brought together many of our partners, both longstanding and new. Due to rain, most of the Procession was held inside Alvarez High School, but that didn’t dampen our celebration or stop us from moving to the beat of What Cheer Brigade and dancing with Big Nazo Puppets on the hillside next to Mashapaug Pond that will become Mashapaug Park. Eastern Medicine Singers, Sokeo Ross and Case Closed, the Trinity Academy for Performing Arts, Phil Edmonds and Christian Hopkins also added their creative spirits to our 10th anniversary celebration. We celebrated student learning with projects from all the schools, featuring the interpretive signs designed by students at Alvarez and Central High schools, an industrial to remediated landscape narrative painting, and small comic books on stormwater runoff created by Bain Middle School students with teaching artist Walker Mettling. Sarah Cappelli’s art classes at Alvarez contributed turtle hats as procession props and tie-dye t-shirts that they wore for the Procession. At the end of the celebrations, we shared food and a beautiful cake decorated with Mashapaug Pond made by a generous Reservoir Triangle resident. Holly Ewald and the UPP Arts Board also passed out papier-mache torches to the 10 organizations who will “carry the torch” of UPP Arts’ work after the organization thoughtfully ends.