Four Rhode Island BIPOC artists designed a new work of public art that promotes civic engagement – and selfies with John Lewis.
Providence, RI – The Avenue Concept, Rhode Island’s leading public art organization, today announced the completion of a new mural that promotes civic engagement and citizenship. The “VOTE” mural began with four empty outlines of block letters on a plain black background. Four Rhode Island BIPOC artists – Angela Gonzalez (aka AGonza), Kendel Joseph (aka Lucid Traveler), Jessica Brown (aka The Lady J) and ABOVE – were each invited to design a letter. The mural was installed on the exterior wall of 1 Ship Street that faces the Point225 innovation center, as part of The Avenue Concept’s ongoing public art partnership with Wexford Science & Technology, the developer of the innovation center.
Joseph used the ‘V’ to depict two local artists, Nafis White and Jacques Bidon, both of whom are affiliated with the Providence-based arts nonprofit AS220, citing them as inspirations to his own career as an artist. Gonzalez’s ‘T’ includes a portrait ofJustice Ameer Gaines, a local queer Black poet and community organizer, and ABOVE’s ‘E’ reflects a fractured political system, incorporating blues and reds as well as stars reminiscent of the American flag. Brown’s ‘O’ brings a touch of interactivity to the mural, showing several protesters holding signs, one of which contains a QR code that directs to the voter registration page on the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s website.
Standing apart from the mural is another of Brown’s designs: a (slightly larger than) life-sized cutout of recently deceased civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, depicted as he was during the famous march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965. Visitors to the mural are invited to take selfies with Lewis and share them on social media with the hashtag #avenuepvd.
“The Avenue Concept as an organization wanted to create a highly visible statement to encourage others to act upon something that will actually make a change in our community, such as voting. We wanted to create an inviting, dynamic and interactive mural that would send a bold, clear message,” said Gonzalez, who was a resident artist with The Avenue Concept in 2019 and now sits on the nonprofit’s board of directors.
“As an artist it’s important for me to communicate, educate and inspire my community to vote for those who will create the equality and justice we need. I believe we should make a change by being the change – and go vote.”
About The Avenue Concept
The Avenue Concept makes public art happen. We do this by investing in permanent infrastructure, funding public art projects, documenting and promoting the work of artists, using art as a tool for education, and advocating for policies, processes and partnerships that develop sustainable avenues for public art. Our goal is to build an environment in which art thrives and to create public art encounters that encourage people to engage and interact with art instead of passively observing it.
Founded in Providence, RI in 2012, The Avenue Concept is the state’s leading public art program. Since then it has installed or exhibited more than 150 works of public art, and invested $1.1 million in both artwork and infrastructure.