Rhode Island Cultural Anchor: Veronica Mays

Veronica in braids - Conaky MaysVeronica Mays began quilting in 2004, and got serious quilt fever in 2015. She is based in Portsmouth, RI and works to preserve African-American heritage and history, as well as her family’s history, through her quilts. She received a Project Grant for Individuals last year to create quilts celebrating African American history, as well as demonstrations, classes, and public showings of these pieces.

We asked her a few questions about her life and art making in Rhode Island for our new 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.

VM: Yesterday I went to church, then entertained my Aunt Marsha who is visiting from California – I took her out for a lobster roll. After that, I prepared lessons for my week as an English teacher and got my clothes, lunches and thoughts together. I took a long leisurelyBlack Regiment - Conaky Mays nap, which I regretted because I woke up at four in the morning – tossing and turning for an hour. I woke up and cooked three nights worth of dinner – baked chicken wings, steak and onions, a big pot of yellow eyed-beans, oven fries, broccoli, and fried monk fish. When I was done with these obligations, I returned to the love of my art life – quilting. I prepped three quilted post cards, created a Barack Obama quilt pattern, and continued to spread material all over the living room, two bedrooms, and the dining room table.

RISCA: Why do you make Rhode Island your home, and how did you end up here?

VM: I was born and raised in Newport in 1961. I have lived in three far away places – Long Beach, California, Fairbanks, Alaska, and Naples, Italy – but I always return home.

RISCA: What are you the most excited about right now in your art practice?

VM: When it comes to quilting I am like a kid in a candy store! This year I learned several new (to me) techniques including multi-media collage, fabric painting, quilted quilted-post-cards-conaky-mays.jpgpost cards, bottles and blooms, and accidental landscapes. However, the quilted post cards have taken on a life of their own.

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

VM: The biggest challenge is having to put my supplies away so that my family can have the space to use for its original intended purpose! This creates a wrinkle in my fluidity.

RISCA:What Rhode Island artists and/or arts organizations most inspire you and why?

VM: I am inspired by URI Professor Robert Dilworth. He is an art professor, painter, and has recently become an incredible quilter. In addition, I love two organizations I am a part of: Quilter’s By the Sea and Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA). Both of these organizations expose me to artists and techniques that enhance my skills and creativity.

See more of Veronica’s work on facebook or instagram, and catch her at the Broadway Street Fair in Newport on October 6th.

Rhode Island Cultural Anchor: Eric Bennett

Eric-Bennet-1 - Eric BennettEric Bennett is a Providence based writer and Associate Professor of English at Providence College. He is this year’s fiction fellowship recipient, for his novel Make Yourself Decent.

We asked him a few questions about his life and art making in Rhode Island for our new 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.

EB: After dinner I polished a 250-word endorsement of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man for the student newspaper at Providence College; googled clips of the Chinese internet celebrity HoneyCC; read about Meitu apps that transform Shanghai selfies into universal fantasies of perfection and drive the booming business in plastic surgery in Chengdu; kept trying to record a MIDI part for “Broke My Heart on You” for the forthcoming Hopper album, Hopperesque; and typed up some notes on William F. Buckley’s God and Man at Yale.

RISCA: What Rhode Island artist or arts organization most inspires you?

EB: The painter Todd Ingham, now in exile in Oregon City, was an undervalued civic marvel throughout the years he roved the streets sorting plastic, gluing memory boards, painting the beauty in defunct bridges and saggy wires, and postulating how the divine delight of numbers, coursing invisibly all around us, structured reality, including the street plan of Elmwood.

RISCA: What do you love about the art community/scene in Rhode Island?

EB: On Monday and Thursday nights you can walk from your apartment in the West End big enough lieto band practice at the Wurks. On Tuesday night you can walk an even shorter distance to your writing group, comprised of brilliant, serious writers, meeting just off Dexter Field. On Wednesday night you can drive down to Cranston and drink a beer with Andy Davis at subModern Studios as he runs punk vocals through a wurlitzer and humors your affection for Bob Seger’s “Fire Lake.” On Friday, at Ada Books (also a short walk) you can browse comics drawn by locals, then head over to an opening at RISD or a play at The Players on Benefit Street. On Saturday afternoon you can chat with Mike Samos at Empire Guitar about what the band Geraldine’s up to. Do I sound like a promotional magazine? Who cares? This place is the best!

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

EB: Authentic German rouladen.

You can read more about Eric at ericbennett.org, and catch him at Writers Night during the Fellowship Exhibition at the Warwick Center for the Arts in March 2019!

Meet Keith Munslow and Mandy Howe

Twice a year RISCA awards grants in a number of categories. Over the course of a few months, we will be profiling the amazing artists and organizations that received grants at our April 1, 2017 deadline, two at a time.
EmpireRevueGroupSketch-CourtesyDavidRickerby2Project Grants for Individuals
Artist: Keith Munslow
Project: Keith Munslow curates, produces, directs, and performs in the Empire Revue, a monthly variety show. This show provides work and a performance showcase for 9-12 comedic actors/writers every month, as well as a performance showcase for 4-6 guest acts of many performance varieties. His focus is on local performers and often local topics. It has been going on at AS220’s mainstage for over 11 years.
Each month the show revolves around a different theme, decided upon by me with the input of the Sparkling Beatniks. These themes are designed to create a central focus for the writing of each show; I will be asking the group to brainstorm ideas on the basis of this theme, and to deeply explore the different interpretations of that theme, in order to achieve a true variety of material. In addition, I focus on pushing each writer/performer to explore different modes of comedic expression, to create a variety not only in topics but also in their presentation. Each show may include several traditional sketches (several characters acting and speaking), but I will also strive to inspire the group to create pieces based more in movement, song, puppetry, or other presentations.
The outcome of this project is that, each month, a high quality show will be presented at an affordable price for audience members. It provides a showcase for the writing and performance skills of each of the Beatniks, as well as a showcase for the local guest acts. It is my intention to provide a stipend to all performers (actors, guest acts, and house band), as well, in appreciation for the time and energy they will be devoting to ensuring the ongoing quality of the show, and to acknowledge the value of their work and creativity.
Artist Bio: Keith is an award-winning performer who combines music, storytelling, Keith piccomedy, visual art, and improvisation. He began the Empire Revue in 2006 after talking with the founding Artistic Director, Burt Crenca, about ways that he could become more involved with the organization. Burt identified a cabaret-style variety show as programming that would benefit the community, and Keith took that suggestion and ran with it. As of this writing, the Revue has produced 128 shows since its inception; many times over the years, the show has been sold out as its popularity has grown.
In addition to the Revue, Keith performs hundreds of shows annually, for children and adults at festivals, concerts, schools and libraries throughout New England and beyond. His music for children has earned him three Parents Choice Awards, an American Library Association Notable Recordings Award, and a NAPPA Award, and can be heard on Sirius XM Kidsplace Live. He is a founding member of The Providence Improv Guild, for whom he currently teaches musical improv, and leads the house musical improv team. He also performs with the New Orleans-flavored blues band, Superchief Trio, and in a duo show with musician/storyteller Bill Harley. He recently released “Big Buncha Buddies,” his eighth album of music for children and families, with fellow songwriter Bridget Brewer. Keith has composed music for Perishable Theatre, Manton Avenue Project, and Elemental Theatre, and created an original score and libretto for an adaptation of Lysistrada at Providence College. A dedicated teaching artist, he currently teaches theatre arts at Moses Brown School, and is the Artist-In-Residence at Paul Cuffee School.
bio picTeaching Artist Roster
Artist: Mandy Howe
Discipline: Visual Art
Artist Bio: Mandy Howe is an artist and art teacher from Rhode Island. Her paintings reflect her connection to the natural world and her concerns for the environment. She uses  both natural and man made objects to describe the landscapes and shorelines of Aquidneck Island, exploring the influence of the environment on the art of different cultures.
Students will explore their own environment and make art about where they live.  Art projects will be inspired by Navajo sand art, Tlingit button blankets, Kente cloth patterns and El Anatsui sculptures; as well as Australian Aborigine song lines, Marshall Island stick maps and navigational charts of local waters.  The curriculum is designed to meet the needs of any age and can be integrated with any subject:  Social Studies, World Cultures, Literacy, Natural History, Science, etc. Visiting artists and field trips will be included.  Collaborations will generate a culminating project such as scrapbooks, an exhibition, a mural or a site-specific installation.