- Rhode Island
- James Norman
Located in New England, the State of Rhode Island is one of the oldest and most historic areas of the United States. A hub for seafood lovers, it offers enticing food festivals, jazz concerts, art exhibitions and cultural shows throughout the year. We take a look at Rhode Island’s cultural calendar for 2014 and pick out ten unmissable events and festivals organised in Newport, Bristol, Providence and Pawtucket.
Gallery Night Providence
March – November
For art lovers, or those seeking a fun, relaxing introduction to the joys of art, and the exciting scene in Providence, this is a perfect starting point. Gallery Night Providence is a free visual arts tour and party that aims to make art viewing both educational and fun. The event takes place from March to November on the third Thursday of each month. On these special nights, visitors have access to over 20 of the best art hubs in the city by bus, bicycle or on foot. A free bus traverses the gallery route allowing easy drop off and pick up. The event has grown rapidly since 1996, when only nine galleries took part. A visual feast, today there are opportunities to digest numerous examples of art in galleries, museums and areas of historical interest. There are also live performances and eateries to be enjoyed and explored.
Janie Geiser Live Film Theatrical Performances
10 and 12 April
A fascinating look into the evolving world of performing arts, these special productions invite spectators to open their eyes to the magic of film and theatrics. The Nervous Films (10 April, tickets required) and Fugitive Time (12 April, free entry) were created by visual and theatre artist Janie Geiser as a series of experimental films that investigate the emotional power found in inanimate objects. Fugitive Time blends the arts of live-feed video, object manipulation and puppetry to create a live ‘film-performance’ theatrical production; the story is based on Los Angeles city planning, and the key themes of the piece are landscapes, the body, memory, history and loss. The event is produced by FirstWorks, a non-profit organisation that builds partnerships in art to showcase the creative talents of Rhode Island’s artists and performers.
Eat Drink RI Festival
24 – 27 April
Food and drink lovers will have an insatiable interest in this culinary event. The Eat Drink RI Festival celebrates the best in food and drink that Rhode Island has to offer. Welcoming foodies and artisans from all over the state and beyond, visitors can enjoy a host of events including charity showcases, local food tasting sessions, and special dining and drinking opportunities, including tantalising cocktails. There is also a Grand Brunch event to enjoy at the culmination of the event in the glamorous Providence Biltmore hotel, with some of the best restaurants from Rhode Island participating.
Eat Drink RI Festival, Providence Biltmore, 11 Dorrance Street, Rhode Island, USA, +1 401 421 0700, +1 917 453 4368
May – November
This festival of fire on the water is the creation of WaterFire Providence, an independent non-profit arts organisation, which aims to inspire the residents of the city in a unified show of fire and water. The event sees the community, local businesses and sponsors light bonfires along and in the three rivers running through the city. With around 100 bonfires lit on the rivers, a large portion of the city’s heart is highlighted in a beautiful warming glow, while live music and street performances add to the ambient atmosphere. All senses are stimulated: visitors hear the fire crackle, musicians play, and people enjoying the spectacle; reflections of the fire and fun events float in the eyes of spectators; the smells of the fire and cooked food fill the nostrils, and the flavours dance on the tongue. Diners are recommended to book restaurants in advance, due to the growing popularity of this event, which celebrates 20 years of fire this year.
WaterFire Providence, 100 Canal Walk, Providence, Rhode Island, USA, +1 401 273 1155
The 33rd Polar Seltzer Great Chowder Cook-Off & Newport Oyster Festival
For seafood enthusiasts, this is the ultimate summer event. Coinciding with the Newport Oyster Festival, the Great Chowder Cook-Off makes this a double-hitting event on 7 June. This chowder championship has competitors and crowds coming from all over the United States. Visitors can enjoy a delicious mix of traditional seafood and clam dishes, but there are also numerous exotic creations to be experienced. The Newport Oyster Festival showcases the best in fresh, local seafood and shellfish, with a selection of seafood cocktails, rolls and snacks. The event offers seven hours of oysters, beer and spirits, with some interesting presentations and oyster slurping contests along the way. A peaceful way to spend the evening, diners can relax with chilled music and bistro-style seating.
Newport Flower Show
27 – 29 June
The Preservation of Newport County, Rhode Island, is a non-profit organisation dedicated to preserving the area’s historic environment, including architecture, landscape and art. The 2014 Newport Flower Show (Journey: Grand Vistas) showcases the finest flowers in the area, and traditional miniature replicas of summer cottages and the old luxurious railway system that changed the way that people travel, representing a ‘Journey to Grand Vistas’ in flowers and photography. After the opening night cocktail party, visitors will find plenty to see and do, including displays and classes. All proceeds from the show will help preserve and restore historic landscapes within Newport County.
Bristol Annual Fourth of July Celebration
3 – 4 July
Americans celebrate Independence Day on 4 July annually, to celebrate the United States Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom in 1776. Food, family and friends are key factors of this federal holiday and one of the oldest continuous celebrations is held in Bristol, Rhode Island. Established in 1785, the Bristol Annual Fourth of July Celebration offers visitors entertaining activities, including an exciting fireworks display and preview of summer music on 3 July. Events culminate in ‘The Parade’ on 4 July, conducted by Civic workers, firemen and the military. It begins at 10:30 a.m. on Chestnut Street and concludes on High Street, with roads closed for revellers’ fun and safety.
Newport Jazz Festival
1 – 3 August
This is a fantastic event for music lovers. The Newport Jazz Festival is held at the height of summer on three stages in Fort Adams State Park. The Festival draws thousands of visitors each year and incorporates both jazz and rock music into the event, with both established and emerging musicians taking part. Dozens of musicians are expected to play this year as the festival celebrates its 60th anniversary, including Wynton Marasalis, Bobby McFerrin, Dr. John, Trombone Shorty and Maria Schneider. Revellers can also enjoy the cooling ocean breeze and soak up the breathtaking views, while sampling the food and beverages at this special event.
Rhode Island Watercolor Society
Throughout the year
The Rhode Island Watercolor Society (RIWS) was founded in 1896. It is regarded as one of the oldest watercolour organisations in the United States. With over 300 members, visitors are guaranteed to have knowledgeable guides for the artwork being exhibited. Throughout the year RIWS hosts several exhibitions, events and training sessions which are open for the public to enjoy and take part in. The RIWS is housed within a building of historical interest, a ‘boathouse’ on a lakeside, known as the Casino Building.
Museum of Primitive Art and Culture Exhibitions
Throughout the year
As part of The Culture Collection, this museum is the place to visit to find out more about Rhode Island’s rich cultural and historical identity. The Museum of Primitive Art and Culture houses over 15,000 historical objects, including artifacts from Native American cultural areas and items from all around the world, including arrow heads, tools and baskets from Rhode Island, East African spears and Peruvian textiles. Ongoing exhibitions at the Museum currently include New England Woodsplint Baskets, Early Rhode Island Life and Visible Spirits: African Masks and Sculpture.
By James Norman