RI Cultural Anchor: Uriah Donnelly

UD - uriah donnellyUriah is a nonprofit administrator and arts educator from Warren, RI where in early 2016 he launched The Collaborative, a nonprofit arts organization. Uriah is also a published writer and celebrated musician. He lives in Warren with his wife, Janet. We asked him a 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.
UD: Well, the Collaborative is one of four “jobs” that I have so each day is unique. But specifically yesterday I ran an art selection presentation for Art Connection-RI at WARM Center in Westerly, updated the website for Art Night Bristol Warren, met with the Superintendent of Bristol Warren Schools as part of my grant writing position with the Town of Warren, and then went shopping for refreshments for The Collaborative’s Student Artist of the Month Artist Reception. Later in the evening, I attended the reception (which was very well attended!)

RISCA: What do you love about the art community in Rhode Island?
UD: Simply put, it’s that there are so many folks doing great things here with creativity and drive to make the arts a permanent part of Rhode Island’s economic and cultural RISCA - uriah donnellylandscape.

RISCA: Why do you make Rhode Island your home, and how did you end up here?
UD: I’m a Rhode Islander. My family are Rhode Islanders. There’s not a way to un-become that, it’s in the blood.

RISCA: What is one thing, personal or professional, that you or your organization want to accomplish in the next year?
UD: My main goal has always been to grow The Collaborative into a sustainable organization with full time employees and year-round arts education programs. This year we were able to begin compensating our Gallery Manager with a small stipend. My hope to grow that position into full time by next year. Programming-wise, we are really working hard on adding more workshop and class opportunities for people of all ages.

RISCA: Why do you do what you do? What inspires you, drives you, to create or enable the creation of art?
Self - uriah donnellyUD: Have you ever seen the look on a young person’s face when they create something they are proud of and see it hung on a gallery wall? Or the look when someone they don’t know purchases it? The arts are so important to the community, I can’t think of anything else I’d prefer to do than support the folks creating it.

RISCA: What is one thing you think the art community in Rhode Island needs?
UD: More funding! Lots and lots of money please.

You can see what Uriah is up to at The Collaborative by visiting their website, and following them on Facebook and Instagram.

Rhode Island Cultural Anchor: Hernan Jourdan

Free Portrait Vancouver - Hernan JourdanHernan “Americo” Jourdan was born in Argentina. He studied filmmaking at Tokyo Visual Arts and after traveling across South and North America settled in Providence, Rhode Island. He has recently came back from a residency at Cité Internationale des Artes in Paris to write the chronicles of his travels and he’s an anchor host for the podcast “Thank You For Listening” –a bilingual platform where Latinx identities are debated and reflected upon, partially funded by RISCA, and a freelance producer for the arts.

RISCA: Give us a brief overview of your day yesterday- what did you do in both your personal and professional life.

HJ: I like this question –It feels gossipy. I like that there is an interest in the life of the artist aside from what it produces. So right now I’m in Argentina and yesterday I was filling out an application for a possible housing opportunity. I came to travel for long periods of time so my dwelling places change often. I consider myself lucky because living in different places gives one a lot to think of. It becomes inevitable to be surprised and to question, and the exercise can deliver a deeper understanding of how we live, and what cities are built for. Uncertainty is inevitable while moving in and out of places. I came to appreciate its confounding quality. It keeps me at bay.

RISCA: What are you the most excited about right now in your art practice and work as an arts and culture administrator?

HJ: A “culture administrator” is interesting terminology. How do you “administrate” La despedida - Hernan Jourdanculture? The image it brings to me is an intra-skin tube into something –as if anybody is waiting for it or depends on it. An unnatural procedure. But there is nothing unnatural about culture. It is the most unavoidable act after sleeping and eating. Perhaps even before having sex. Culture is our nature, and in any case we should feel proud to nourish it. I don’t identify myself much as a culture administrator but as a person who is an artist and is applying himself to projects where I can find money and interest –the first one for need, the last one for luck. I happen to believe culture is the one thing that we as a specie can do for fun while untangling the mysteries of our human condition. That I’m excited about. Pretty much all the time.

RISCA: Why do you do what you do? What inspires you, drives you, to create or enable the creation of art?

HJ: It’s my way of partaking. Unfortunately we have endangered the ecosystem we are a part of to such an extent I have to conclude the old ways have led us to failure. Some still have energies to deny this but we can’t afford to keep moving towards a black hole where entire species of the animal kingdom are disappearing daily, to mention one of the many facts. That’s why I want to be a piece of the puzzle. There is a bigger picture.

RISCA: What is one thing you think the art community in Rhode Island needs?

lifted1 - Hernan JourdanHJ: Confidence –which doesn’t translate into sparkle and glamour (although it can have that too). People are already doing very interesting things –in the arts and culture. We need to make efforts to travel more locally in order to become more acquainted with neighbor districts. Rhode Island is a small state but it feels somehow fractured. We need to travel more to see that play in Pawtucket, even though the 20 minute ride makes it feel far away for our standard. When more people engage, more connections are made; we get to know each other more, and we might even start doing things together. I like to think this helps our places become bolder, more inhabited, more ours. What at least I can say is that this dynamic gave me a sense of belonging and agency in a place that was completely new to me five years ago.

RISCA: What is the biggest challenge for you in your art life?

HJ: Stay focused. There are not a lot of things really important to do right now for me. It s a straight arrow. And yet, distractions take me away from it. And I mean on a personal level. Which is my one and only life. I don’t always make the right choices and what’s striking is that I’m aware of it.

Check out Hernan’s Thank You for Listening podcast here.

Rhode Island Cultural Anchor: Meredith Stern

mush6 - Meredith SternMeredith Stern is a ceramicist and printmaker living in Providence. She is a member of the international group The Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative. She is RISCA’s 2019 drawing & printmaking fellow.

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.

MS: My typical work day in the winter begins by bringing wood inside for our woodstove and drinking coffee. I usually spend some time answering emails and managing other administrative issues. I’ll cook a lunch at home and then work on creating new work. Sometimes this means cutting up old prints and creating collages from them, other times it means drawing a new print onto a slab of linoleum or printing an image onto paper. I pick up our child from daycare in the afternoon and I often invite one of his friends over. Once my husband finishes work at 6, we have dinner as a family – usually cooking at home- and sometimes go on an adventure together. A walk outside, going to the playground, or when the weather is lovely, working in our backyard garden.

RISCA: How did you end up in Rhode Island?

MS: I visited Rhode Island in August of 2005 to visit some friends and we drove to the Fannie Simonowsky - Meredith Sternbeach and I fell in love with the salty air and the feel of the sand between my toes. I had been living in New Orleans for 7 years and there were no nearby places to swim in clean water. I was enthralled with the fact that we could get to the ocean in Rhode Island in less than one hour, so I decided to move in with my friends for a couple months. That visit turned into me now living her for 14 years.

RISCA: Why do you do what you do? What inspires you, drives you, to create or enable the creation of art?

MS: I am inspired by people and our need to communicate and to connect with each other. Artistic expression can allow people to connect through non-word based language which allows for subtlety, for emotions, for dreams to be shared through sound, texture, color, or touch. I think art can be many things to many people – it can communicate what is present but also who and what we can be. Art can allow us to think differently, to explore different possibilities, and to explore how our society can change and how we can be better. Much of my art explores history, social movements, family connections, and mutual aid and cooperation.

RISCA: What is one thing you think the art community in Rhode Island needs?

MS: I think our society as a whole needs to work to undo institutional inequality, specifically racism, sexism, transphobia; which means so does the arts communities. Nationally, white men have been over represented, celebrated, and rewarded in museums, galleries, etc. It’s essential that we acknowledge our historic biases, and work to correct it. This can include many efforts, including retelling art history from the perspective of those who have historically been marginalized or ignored. We can Justseeds InstallationPIttsburghBiennial2 - Meredith Sternhighlight artists and hire administrators in our museums, galleries, and other cultural centers who reflects the diversity of perspectives of people living in our city of various ethnicities and genders.  Another example is a custom that has been being adopted by cultural and educational institutions of land acknowledgements of the indigenous inhabitants of the land. I’ve seen this done in the University of Connecticut, and I’d like to see institutions in Rhode Island adopting this practice as well. There’s a lot of work to do to address systemic inequality, these are just a couple examples.

RISCA: What is the biggest challenge for you in your art life?

MF: Time. I used to spend 10 – 12 hours locked in my studio 5-6 days a week. Now we have a three-year-old and I have less time and need to budget my time better. I have less time to wander through the stacks at the library or get lost in the woods by myself. I think I am more efficient with my time, but sometimes miss the ability to lose myself in a book or random adventure for a day or two.