On September 29 we made our yearly trip to WaterFire in Providence, Rhode Island, with my parents. Following is from the program.

The Place Where Water and Fire Meet

WaterFire is a work of art that involves movement, participation and surprise. When visitors encounter WaterFire, they cannot absorb the sculpture from just their sense of sight or even from a single vantage point — they must walk through the installation and they must use all five of their senses. WaterFire is full of motion — throughout the night the fire tenders stoke the fires, the boats glide past the flames, the rivers flow quietly beneath the braziers, the sparks whirl through the night air, and the flickering flames reflect off the dark surface of the water, animating the architectural fabric of the city of Providence.

The multi-sensory stimulation of WaterFire transforms our perceptions of the urban landscape. WaterFire opens all of our senses to our surroundings — it invites us to slow down and walk through the city echoing the European tradition of the paseo and the passeggiata. We savor the artwork’s surprises, view the city’s vistas and mingle with our fellow citizens. In the process, we reinvent the social fabric and the public spaces of downtown Providence.

As WaterFire begins, the empty void is invoked through the striking of a gong, which heralds the setting of the sun, the lighting of the fires and the beginning of the evening. Music from all over the world and the gentle percussion of the crackling fires add a rich accompaniment to the more familiar sounds of urban life. An unexpected operatic aria blends with the wind, or a lingering minor chord from a nocturne intermingles with the sound of rippling water. These juxtapositions heighten our awareness and intensify our experience of our surroundings.

All of us, both on the water and on the shore, are active participants in the creation of WaterFire. As we return home from the fires, we bring the magic of the evening and the spirit of the community back with us to our homes — along with a hint of the sweet scent of cedar.

–Barnaby Evans, Installation Artist

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