Mesmerizing WaterFire

2 07 2012

On June 23 attendees to the Hearing Loss Association of America Convention 2012 were treated to the WaterFire experience at WaterPlace Park in Providence, R.I. After dinner we walked along the river and I photographed the festivities.

It was a really unique event and the accompanying music piped through speakers all along the river was especially mesmerizing, encompassing Italian opera, classical, contemporary pop, oldies, acoustic guitar and other genres. The 2012 soundtrack to WaterFire included pieces such as Hallelujah (written by Leonard Cohen and performed by Jeff Buckley), Desperate Man Blues (composed by John Fahey), I Am You (composed by Sally Potter and Yo-Yo Ma), Bella Ciao (performed by Franco Morone), Amazing Grace/House of the Rising Sun (performed by The Blind Boys of Alabama), I Won’t Give Up (Jason Mraz from Love is a Four Letter Word), Ain’t No Sunshine (composed by Bill Withers and performed by Buddy Guy and Tracey Chapman) and Lovesong (performed by Adele).

Braziers, clad all in black and with an air of mystery and suspense, motored down the river in small boats full of wood, tending to the dying embers along the way. Gondoliers, clad in black and white striped shirts and straw hats, steered visitors down the river as well. Below are just some of the images I shot of WaterFire.

To give you some background on the origin of WaterFire, here is an excerpt from wikipedia:

WaterFire is the award-winning sculpture by Barnaby Evans presented on the rivers of downtown Providence, RI. First created by Evans in 1994 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of First Night Providence, WaterFire has grown to become an annual public art phenomenon.

WaterFire is simultaneously a free public art installation, a performance work, an urban festival, a civic ritual and a spiritual communal ceremony. Well known nationally and internationally as a community arts event, WaterFire’s symbolism and interpretation is both inclusive and expansive—reflecting the recognition that individuals must act together to strengthen and preserve their community.

On WaterFire evenings, downtown Providence is transformed by one hundred bonfires that burn just above the surface of the three rivers that pass through the middle of downtown Providence in Waterplace Park (the Woonasquatucket, Moshassuck and Providence rivers). The public is invited to come and walk the riverfront, and enjoy the beauty of the flickering firelight, the fragrant scent of aromatic wood smoke, the changing silhouettes of the volunteer firetenders, and the music from around the world—each of which engages the senses and emotions of all who stroll the paths of Waterplace Park.

Average attendance is 40,000 a night, ranging from 10,000 to 100,000. WaterFire is presented for free, with only ten percent of the funds needed to host WaterFire acquired through governmental means and the remainder coming from private and corporate donations.WaterFire Providence consists of about 15 staff members and relies heavily upon volunteers for the production of WaterFire. On a given night, up to 160 volunteers make the entire event possible.

Barnaby Evans created First Fire on New Year’s Eve 1994 for the tenth anniversary of First Night Providence. First Fire consisted of 11 braziers on steel tripods stretching from WaterPlace Basin to Steeple Street. In June 1996, Barnaby created Second Fire for the Convergence Art Festival and the International Sculpture Conference.

Through the support of dedicated volunteers, WaterFire returned as a seasonal event. WaterFire gained regional attention and a coordinated effort to fund the project began. In 1997, WaterFire expanded to 42 braziers, and had an estimated attendance of 350,000 people over the entire season. Barnaby Evans received The Renaissance Award for his effort to revitalize downtown Providence, and WaterFire became the symbol of the city’s renaissance.

Photos © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.



5 responses

2 07 2012
Betty Londergan

Very, very cool — how did you get these shots?? So difficult to shoot at night… but yours are gorgeous!

2 07 2012

That is so cool!!

Will you help us Save our History?

3 07 2012

these are great photos cindy

3 07 2012

Your post was very interesting because of its content. I had a great time reading your blog. This is really awesome! Nice shots. Thanks for sharing.

3 07 2012
Peter A. Mello (@petermello)

Thanks for your kind words and awesome pictures! Summer WaterFire weekend nights in Providence are a lot of fun. We’re glad that you were able to visit and hopefully you’ll make it back soon. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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