Upper School students in Ms. Thoma’s Humanities Alive elective spent a whole day in Providence learning about the historic and cultural significance of our city’s monuments, memorials, and public art. As part of the experience, they asked and answered essential questions like: How do we preserve culture? Whose culture are we preserving–and who decides that? And ultimately: Do you feel represented in your city?
The students started their explorations by visiting the monuments at Kennedy Plaza, Burnside Park, and Memorial Park. Each student presented to their classmates what they learned at a specific monument, sharing the history with the group and asking probing questions. After their monument visits, the students walked to the Roger Williams National Park to learn about his legacy and vision for our state, and then reflected about whether the park in his name captures his ideals.
After lunch and a quick peak at the RISD Library’s impressive interior architecture, the students made their way across the pedestrian bridge and visited the new Steven Siegel sculpture that had just been completed the week before. From there, they headed back downtown to look at the work of the Avenue Concept and other public artists, including Shepard Fairey, AREA C Projects, Mary Beth Meehan, Becci Davis, and more.
For many students, this was a first time exploring these areas of the city and discovering how their own lives are reflected here in monuments, murals, graffiti, and public art installations. Juleidy Perez, a Cuffee senior, noted that she had never visited these projects and places in spite of living in the city for 17 years. She described a growing sense of civic pride after having had the chance to see and learn about the meaning of these cultural landmarks and icons in Rhode Island’s capital city.