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Providence's Top 10 Festivals and Events to See this August
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Providence's Top 10 Festivals and Events to See this August

Picture of Matthew Keyte
Updated: 9 February 2017
Providence may one of the oldest cities in the USA, but that doesn’t stop it being one of the most contemporary and vibrant as well. During the early 2000s the city developed a reputation as a cultural centre, with art exhibitions and installations and music events being staged, and the literary heritage of Rhode Island being promoted. Here are ten of the best events to watch out for this August.

Theatre | And Then There Were None at the 2nd Story Theatre

Until 31 August

And Then There Were None is one of Agatha Christie’s finest murder mystery novels. Ten characters are lured to a strange house located on an island off the south coast of England with the promise of employment, a party, or a meeting with old and trusted friends. Only each of the characters has a terrible secret lurking in their past and has been responsible for a death. As time goes by, one by one the characters are found dead, killed by some mysterious avenging angel, despite there being no other people on the island. This stage adaptation follows Christie’s novel with all her characteristic red herrings and mystery. The identity of the murderer is kept to the very end before the dramatic revelation is made.

And Then There Were None, 2nd Story Theatre, 28 Market Street, Warren, RI +1 401/247 4200

Film | Rhode Island International Film Festival

5 – 10 August

The Rhode Island International Film Festival is a six-day event and has now been running since 1997 in Providence. The festival is considered a key event for independent filmmakers looking to promote their work, and has previously attracted big name stars such as Ernest Borgnine and Julie Andrews. Back in 1998 the festival hosted the world premiere of There’s Something About Mary. Over the course of the six days of the festival there will be awards ceremonies, film forums, Q&A sessions, and a series of premieres and screenings. Since 1998 the festival has held the prestigious status of being one of the qualifying stages for the Academy Awards for short films. During the 2013 festival there were 216 screenings with 55 world and USA premieres, selected from 5114 submissions.

Rhode Island International Film Festival, The Vets, 83 Park Street, Providence, RI +1 401/861 4445

Music | Jackson Browne at Providence Performing Arts Centre

20 August

Jackson Browne is one of the leading singer-songwriters in the world, with his work having been covered by such great figures as Joan Baez, The Byrds, and The Eagles. For one night only this August he will be appearing in Providence to perform a solo acoustic set with just a guitar and a piano. Browne emerged in the early 1970s with his debut album Jackson Browne being released in 1972. This year marks the 40th anniversary since he released the 1974 album Late for the Sky, widely acknowledged as his finest and due for a re-release on vinyl, CD, and online later this year. Browne also has a new album planned for later this year that will be the thirteenth of his career.

Providence Performing Arts Centre, 20 Weybosset Street, Providence, RI +1 401/421 2787

Art | Graphic Design: Now in Production at Rhode Island School of Design Museum

Until 3 August

The Rhode Island School of Design Museum collection was begun back in 1877 and now includes excellent collections of Oriental, Egyptian, Classical and Contemporary work, with figures such as Monet, Picasso, Warhol, Liechtenstein, and Hockney all represented. The current exhibition represents a collaboration with the New York Smithsonian and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and presents an exploration of the finest graphic design to have been featured in books, magazines, and on film since 2000. The exhibition looks at the use of colour, typography, symbols, and images in design and the ways in which designers have used evolving technologies and typefaces to present a compelling narrative for their brand or product.

Graphic Design, Rhode Island School of Design Museum, 20 North Main Street, Providence, RI+1 401/454 6100

Historical Tour | Benefit Street Walking Tour


The Benefit Street Walking Tour is run by the Rhode Island Historical Society and is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the rich history of Providence. The tour begins at John Brown House, which is a National Historic Landmark and was the first mansion house built in Providence in 1786 by the merchant and statesman of the American War of Independence, John Brown. The house stands on the borders of Brown University, named after the family who were also major benefactors. From here the walk proceeds along Benefit Street, a thoroughfare of 1.2 miles that features fine architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries. The early Baptist churches of the early community leaders of Providence, humble wooden houses of the Federal era, and the fine Greek Revival Athenaeum building of 1844 all feature on the walking tour, which is led by highly knowledgeable guides.

Benefit St Walking Tour, John Brown House, 52 Power Street, Providence, RI +1 401/273 7507

Art | Waterfire Providence

9 and 23 August

Waterfire Providence is a unique art installation by the Rhode Island artist and Brown University alumnus Barnaby Evans that has transformed the banks of the three rivers in the downtown neighbourhood of Providence into a lighting extravaganza. The installation comprises over one hundred braziers on the surface of the river and on the banks that are lit to provide aromatic wood smoke and wonderfully atmospheric lighting. There will be two full lightings of the installed braziers during August, on 9 August at sunset, and on 23 August. There are music events held at the same time with songs by the composers Arvo Pärt, David Hykes, Nicholas Lens and Djivan Gasparyan. The installation has drawn over 10 million visitors to Providence since it was first set up in 1994.

Waterfire Providence, 101 Regent Avenue 12, Providence, RI +1 401/273 1155

Music | Foo Fest

9 August

The Foo Fest is a one-day extravaganza featuring music and arts events in downtown Providence. Running from 1pm to 1am the next day, the festival takes over Empire Street with over 5000 individuals expected to attend. This year the headline act will be the legendary band Physic TV, led by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge with their unique brand of experimental psychedelic and punk music and video art installations. Other performers set to appear at Foo Fest this year will be Alec K.Redfearn and the Eyesores, Doomsday Student, and Richi Ferri and The Wealth on the Water. The event is organised by the Providence-based AS220 group of artists who provide studios and facilities for artists to explore their freedom of expression. There will be art installations and creative activities on show for families throughout the day.

Foo Fest, AS220, 115 Empire Street, Providence, RI +1 401/831 9327

Photography | The Girls of Summer by Melissa Ann Pinney at the David Winton Bell Gallery

Until 10 August

The David Winton Bell Gallery was founded in 1971 and houses part of the collection of Brown University. The Gallery has over 5000 works in total, with pieces from the 16th century onwards, though with a strong emphasis on contemporary work. This August sees an exhibition of works by the Chicago photographer Melissa Ann Pinney entitled The Girls of Summer. Her work features in the permanent collections of the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Milwaukee Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. This exhibition explores gender and femininity through images of woman at leisure, allowing their inner child to take over in activities such as tree climbing and playing soccer.

Girls of Summer, David Winton Bell Gallery, 64 College Street, Providence, RI +1 401/863 2932

Literary Tour | H.P. Lovecraft Walking Tour

23 August

H.P.Lovecraft was one of the finest writers of horror and fantasy fiction of the 20th century. Lovecraft was born in Providence in 1890 and spent much of his life there. The Rhode Island Historical Society is organising this walking tour around sites associated with the life of Lovecraft and those that feature in his work. Lovecraft mentioned Providence locations such as the Benefit Street houses, the First Baptist Church, and Prospect Terrace in his stories such as The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Shunned House, and The Call of Cthulhu, and in his many letters to friends and family. The walking tour is followed by the Lovecraft Readathon at the Providence Public Library in which three short stories will be read with appropriately dark and mysterious music from local performers.

HP Lovecraft Walking Tour, John Brown House, 52 Power Street, Providence, RI +1 401/273 7507

Art | Anthony Quinn and Agustín Patiño at Gallery Z

Until 9 August

Gallery Z has been open since 2001 and provides a platform for contemporary international and national artists from within the USA. This summer sees an exhibition entitled La Strada and Metropoliswhich features the sculpture and paintings of Anthony Quinn and Agustín Patiño. Quinn was a two-time Academy Award winning actor who turned to a new career as an artist during the 1980s. He worked from his Rhode Island home to create sculptures, drawings, and paintings of figures and abstracts. Patiño started out in Ecuador and has produced several large-scale murals on show in Providence. Having been exhibited across North and South America, his work explores the environment and hidden ecosystems in the metropolis.

Gallery Z, 259 Atwells Avenue, Providence, RI +1 401/454 8844

By Matthew Keyte