In my experience as a Master’s Candidate for community organizing I have learned that the people behind the scenes are not only invested in the event’s success, but also in the representation and relationships that are cultivated from it. Public spaces like the Providence Riverfront are not made for people: people make them. People who populate a public space are a reflection of its society. Any city or any state can be judged (somewhat) on the use of its public spaces. What goes on within a public space and how people utilize it speaks volumes about the sense of community fostered in that area. . .
Barnaby Evans’ award-winning sculpture not only brings new visitors to the state, but it also allows residents to participate in an event that improves their community. As a resident of Rhode Island, I have seen WaterFire many times. As a spectator, I always wondered who and what went into its production. To my amazement there is more work and creation than I could have imagined. Hundreds of volunteers contribute to this event all day long into the wee hours of the morning, making me feel twice as good about being part of this community of helpers.
Let’s face it: not everyone has the time or the energy to offer their services free of charge these days. Yet from setting up stations, loading wood, or working at the ribbons of light station, people are happy to be helping. Volunteers are part of something more than just WaterFire. They are valuable members of a non-profit who help maintain the efforts of this organization. Current WaterFire projects include building new boats to transport WaterFire guests up and down the river and crafting LED mechanical fish, which will attach to boats, creating the appearance of a school of fish among the flames. While these countless ideas are all part of Mr. Evans’ artistic vision, the work it takes to implement his ideas is what I find spectacular. How many people can say they’ve volunteered to build a boat or feed fires? I am going to go out on a limb and say not many! These people are hard working, dedicated, and enthusiastic about what they are doing. This not only develops them as individuals, but also as members of the community here at WaterFire and society as a whole. Not only can volunteers say they have had a hand in creating this artwork, but they also can say they helped to create a space that more and more people can enjoy. Seriously, what is better than that?
– Kasey Johnson