Saturday's East Bay / Bike Way / Art Day will be the first community art day of its kind

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 9/27/19

"It's the first time it's ever been done anywhere, and the first community art-making event in Rhode Island that the Rhode Island State Council on the arts has funded," said organizer Sally …

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Saturday's East Bay / Bike Way / Art Day will be the first community art day of its kind

Posted

"It's the first time it's ever been done anywhere, and the first community art-making event in Rhode Island that the Rhode Island State Council on the arts has funded," said organizer Sally Johnson.

"I thought it was a good idea — but I didn't realize just how original it was."
It's East Bay / Bike Way / Art Day, and this Saturday, visitors to the East Bay Bike Path will find art stations stretching from Colt State Park in Bristol to Kettle Point in East Providence.

Ms. Johnson's vision is a reality thanks in part to what she is not doing anymore — working, in the traditional sense of the word. A former state employee who one day came to the realization that she was not living her best life, Ms. Johnson left that all behind and, by all indications, is probably busier than she ever has been.

An artist, weaver, and horticulturalist with a keen interest in native plants, Ms. Johnson lives in an eclectic, art-filled home; a labor of love meticulously restored by her and her husband over the last several years. A stone's throw from the bike path, the riverfront Riverside home includes two large looms, a very active pollinator garden, and hops, with which she brews her own beer, cascading down the facade of the house.

In keeping with Ms. Johnson's passion, the artists and their stations all have an environmental slant. They are: May Babcock, a paper artist who will be making paper out of Japanese knotweed; Erin deThomas, owner of MakersRI, an arts daycare for preschoolers in Warren, who will be painting with young children at the playground at Vintner Park in Riverside; Ava Varsvegi, illustrator, will be looking for bugs and drawing insects and native plants at Brickyard Pond in Barrington; Marlon Carey, spoken word artist of Shakespeare to hiphop, will be writing environmental poetry as a community at Burr's Hill park in Warren; and Melissa Guillet, art teacher and naturalist of 15 Minute Fieldtrips, who will be making fish kites and talking about fish where the bike path crosses Colt State Park.

"Pop up" art-making is strongly encouraged. "The artists I have lined up are just to get us started," Ms. Johnson said. All members of the public are encouraged to bring their own supplies and paint, perform music, recite poetry, dance or otherwise be artistic. She is also looking for musicians to show up. "Ideally there will be one at every lot."

“RISCA is thrilled to support the East Bay / Bike Way / Art Day through our Project Grants for Individuals program," said RISCA Executive Director Randall Rosenbaum. "This project is a wonderful example of community coming together to celebrate nature and the arts through activities for people of all ages, and for artists to share their work with others. We applaud the energy and enthusiasm of the project organizers, and look forward to this being the first in an annual series of art gatherings along the East Bay Bike Path."

For Ms. Johnson, the event is not the final realization of her vision. "I'd like to see the East Bay Bike Path become more like the Hi Line or the Rose Kennedy Greenway, interpreted for a suburban community," she said. "It's one of the earliest bike paths in the country, and back then the focus was on getting rid of the tracks and putting down pavement. This was before we were thinking about storm water regulation or global warming or a lot of these things. A lot of the plants along the bike path are invasive species."

"I'm reminded of when Albert Bierstadt went out west and painted those oversized, gorgeous paintings of Yosemite and Half-Dome. When and he came back and showed those paintings to Congress, that's when they passed the National Parks System. There's always been a relationship between art and policy."

"If artists get it, it allows people to understand and see things," said Ms. Johnson. "So I thought starting with art would be good."

The East Bay / Bike Way / Art Day, a community art-making event, will be held along the East Bay Bike Path on September 28 from noon to 4 p.m. If you have any questions or would like to coordinate an activity with a location please contact Sally Johnson at ecoastaldesign@gmail.com, or visit the event's Facebook page. There's also a map of the sites along the path, which can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/artdaymap.

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