RI Cultural Anchor: Steven E Pennell

Steven Pennell is the Founder and Coordinator of the URI Providence Campus Arts and Culture Program since 1996 with a fulltime gallery of monthly exhibit and performances. He is a Theatre Director, Oral Historian, Actor and Musician, and Lecturer in Theatre History and Performance. We asked him few questions about his life and art-making in Rhode Island for our series, Rhode Island Cultural Anchors.

RISCA: Give us a brief overview of your day yesterday- what did you do in both your personal and professional life?
SP: I picked vegetables, went to the gym, and worked on administration for the Fall Semester of monthly exhibits and events ending with a follow up meeting on the Public School Art Exhibit from last May.

RISCA: What do you love about the art scene in Rhode Island?
SP: The art community is so vibrant and varied. There is something for everyone and so many opportunities available to enjoy.

RISCA: Why do you make Rhode Island your home, and how did you end up here?
SP: I was born in Rhode Island, but I lived and worked in New York, Ohio, Korea, Great Britian and Germany as a Theatre Director, Performer and Educator. I returned to Rhode Isalnd in 1994 to reestablish my roots and begin exploring new opportunities here in the visual and performing arts committed to education and social change.

RISCA: What is one thing that you want to accomplish in the next year?
SP: Establishing a PVD Solo Performance Festival.

RISCA: What is one thing you think the art community in Rhode Island needs?
SP: More interconnectedness, and more communication channels.

RI Cultural Anchor: Vilia Putrius

Vilia Putrius
Photo by Saulius Ke

Vilia Putrius graduated from National M.K. Ciurlionis School of Art and following graduation joined Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre. She has also danced with Ballet Arlington, Boston Ballet, and Festival Ballet Providence where she was a leading dancer for 11 seasons; she is currently School Director at Festival Ballet Providence. She received the 2019 RISCA merit fellowship in choreography. We asked her a few questions about her life and art-making in Rhode Island for our series, Rhode Island Cultural Anchors.

RISCA: Give us a brief overview of your day yesterday- what did you do in both your personal and professional life.
VP: We had the last day of classes at Festival Ballet Providence School, after I taught two ballet classes, we went with the students to Lippitt park and we did a flashmob. After that my husband and I went to see Boston Ballet perform Rhapsody.

RISCA: What do you love about the art community in Rhode Island?
VP: I love how many wonderful arts organizations are located in Rhode Island, you don’t need to travel far to listen to a good music or to experience an amazing play.

RISCA: Why do you make Rhode Island your home, and how did you end up here?
VP: I got a job at Festival Ballet Providence in 2006 and that’s when I discovered Rhode Island. I fell in love with artsy Providence and the beautiful nature here. It’s also such a convenient location, so close to Boston and New York. A win win situation to live here.

Culmination 2019 Final Bow, photo by Jim Turner

RISCA: What is one thing, personal or professional, that you want to accomplish in the next year?
VP: I just started a new job at Festival Ballet Providence, this was my first year to direct the school. I would like to give our students more opportunities to perform and of course to keep improving the quality of training and raising a generation not just of beautiful dancers, but also happy and confident human beings.

The Seasons, featuring dancers Izabele Bauzyte and Joseph Lynch. Photo by Jim Turner.

RISCA: Why do you do what you do? What inspires you, drives you, to create or enable the creation of art?
VP: I wouldn’t be able to imagine myself doing something else. I get inspired by peoplesurrounding me, by going to the theatre or especially a music concert. When I listen to a piece of music my mind starts going and I start creating a movement in my head.

RISCA: What is the biggest challenge for you in your art life?
VP: This year I was so busy with my work that I didn’t have enough time in the day and I wished I could be cloned. I hope next year I will get more comfortable with the new position and I will be able to spend more time with my family and to be able to have time to go out with my friends.

To keep up with Vilia, and her work at Festival Ballet, you can follow her on Instagram and check out Festival Ballet’s website.

New Exhibits at TF Green and Block Island Airports

RISCA RIAC Luke Randall Russian Night Flowers
Russian Night Flowers by Luke Randall

The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts announced new art exhibitions on display at Rhode Island’s airports. At the GREEN SPACE Gallery at TF Green Airport, an exhibit entitled FORMAL CONSIDERATIONS, featuring works by Eveline Luppi, Luke Randall, and Stacey Messier, is on display through September 22, 2019. At the Block Island Airport Gallery, works by Jim Gwiazdzinski are on display through August 4, 2019.

Abacus Eveline Luppi
Abacus by Eveline Luppi

In the GREEN SPACE exhibit FORMAL CONSIDERATIONS, the viewer is invited to examine the various ways in which a visual work can underscore an artist’s relationship to aspects of art history. Works by Eveline Luppi reference the history of abstraction; art by Luke Randall pays homage to early american craft; artwork by Stacey Messier refreshes a long line of works that focus on geometry. In all the work, the artists indicate their appreciation for the creative arc of humanity.

At the Block Island Airport Gallery, Jim Gwiazdzinski is exhibiting pen and ink to create works from marine species that connect him to his IMG_3147fishing adventures on the waters off the coast of New England. His intimate connection to the waters of New England has led him to fishing aboard various commercial vessels, calling Shinnecock Inlet, Point Judith, and Stonington their home ports. Shark, tuna, sunfish, whales, various seabirds, as well as the occasional submarine provide his mainly naturalist subject matter.

Exhibitors for GREEN SPACE were chosen by panelists Saberah Malik, Jodie Goodnough and David Barnes, while exhibitors for the Block Island Airport Gallery were chosen by Lisa Robb, public school arts educator.

The GREEN SPACE Gallery and Block Island Airport Gallery are a partnership between the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, promoting outstanding work by artists living and working in Rhode Island. The galleries present art to an ever-changing audience of local, national and international travelers.

About RISCA:
The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts is a state agency supported by appropriations from the Rhode Island General Assembly and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. RISCA provides grants, technical assistance, and staff support to arts organizations and artists, schools, community centers, social service organizations and local governments to bring the arts into the lives of Rhode Islanders.

About RIAC:
The Rhode Island Airport Corporation operates T.F. Green Airport and the five general aviation airports in Rhode Island. A long-time supporter of public art in Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Airport Corporation has worked with the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts on a number of public art commissions for T. F. Green and Block Island airports.