URI UrbanScape project to examine the opportunities and challenges of urbanism in Rhode Island

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. – September 17, 2012 – The University of Rhode Island will launch a yearlong community education project this month that will focus on cities and urban centers as powerhouses of the global economy and a key to Rhode Island’s economic future. Titled “21st Century Urbanism: Integrating People, Infrastructure, Jobs and Environment,” the project features a series of lectures, panel discussions, cultural programs, and multimedia exhibits exploring the benefits and challenges of urbanism. It is hosted by the University’s Urban Initiative. All lectures and forums will be held at 7 p.m. in the Paff Auditorium, while gallery exhibits will be held in the first- and second-floor Lobby Gallery at the URI Feinstein Providence Campus, 80 Washington Street in Providence. 

Dubbed “the year of the urbanscape,” the community education project opens Sept. 24 with a keynote address and interview with one of the world’s most prominent voices in urbanism, Edward Glaeser, professor of economics at Harvard University and author of Triumph of the City. Glaeser’s book extols the virtues of the city, celebrating its vitality, importance as a place where ideas are generated, and ecological sustainability and health flourish. His talk “Why Cities?” will be followed by an interactive question-and-answer period.
Throughout the rest of the academic year, some of the nation’s most innovative leaders in the urban community will discuss urban renewal, challenges, and population issues throughout the United States in community forums moderated by Marc Levitt, host and co-executive producer of AS220’s nationally distributed radio show Action Speaks: Underappreciated 20th Century Dates that Changed America.

Oct. 22, Urban Environments Today. Professors Ravi Perry, Political Science and Stennis Scholar for Municipal Governance, Mississippi State University, and editor of the forthcoming volume 21st Century Urban Race Politics, Miguel Robles-Duran, Urbanism, The New School of Design, and David Faflik, English, The University of Rhode Island and author of the forthcoming book Boarding Out: Inhabiting the American Urban Literary Imagination, 1840-1860. They will discuss security concerns, economic dislocation, the housing bubble burst and consumer culture. Co-sponsored by URI’s Urban Initiative and The Harrington School of Communications and Media. 

Oct. 24th, Community Conversation: The Grassroots Innovators of the RI Economy. Drake Patten, Director of The Steel Yard, Bert Crenca, Artistic Director of AS220, John Jacobson, JTJ Investments, LLC. Sponsored by URI’s Urban Initiative.

Nov. 5, Where are the jobs, what kind are they, and who are they for? Professors Joan Fitzgerald, Law and Public Policy Program, Northeastern University and author of Urban Sustainability and Economic Development, Robert Margo, Economics, Boston University, Matt Bodah, Industrial Relations and Economics, University of Rhode Island, and author of a number of publications about workforce and workplace issues in Rhode Island. They will explore strategies for creating employment and economic regeneration, including Providence’s Knowledge District and creative class, drawn from three regional economic engines – New England in the late 19th century, Northern Ohio in the mid-20th century, and Silicone Valley in the early 21st century.
 Co-sponsored by URI’s Urban Initiative and the College of Business.

“These are speakers our students and our local community neighbors would not normally experience. More importantly, the collective of speakers, forums, and arts and culture exhibits truly bring our campuses and community together to explore urban issues, ponder the opportunities and challenges of urbanism, and talk about solutions,” said Kat Quina, associate dean of the URI College of Continuing Education.

At the URI Providence Campus, the Urban Arts and Culture Program is hosting several mixed-media art exhibits and live performances focused on the history, present, and future of urban Providence. That schedule is as follows. For more information about details and times, visit uri.edu/prov/arts.

•Through Sept. 28: The exhibit Architectural Treasures of Providence will celebrate Providence’s many private, religious, and civic buildings from the 17th to the early 20th Century, which have been restored to fully integrate in the 21st century urban landscape.

•Sept. 20, 5-9 p.m.: To coincide with Architectural Treasures, a Gallery Night Reception will include a special guided walking tour of downtown Providence, guided by Barbara Barnes and Russ Kushner of the Rhode Island Historical Society.

•Late Sept.: The Providence Latin American Film Festival will feature urban orientated film titles to be announced.

•Oct. 1-31: The exhibit, Knowledge is Power, uses medical, scientific, technological, mathematical and recycled materials as art to explore Providence’s industrial past and opportunities for future economic growth and stability.

•Oct. 18, 5-9 pm: To coincide with Knowledge is Power, a Gallery Night Reception will feature live, open-mic performances by Voices from the Street.

•Oct. 18-21: The Mill Project, an original play about Rhode Island’s mill workers, performed by the LaVoce Theater.

•Nov. 5 – Dec. 26: The exhibit, Our Global Community: A Mosaic of Diversity and Unity uses mixed media to tell the stories of people who have come to Providence and struggled to maintain their culture while integrating into the fabric of their new community. 

•Nov. 15, 5-9 p.m.: To coincide with Our Global Community: , a Gallery Night Reception will feature performances and presentations by the artists.

•Nov. 8: Triple Decker,7:30 a musical performance about the lives of three diverse immigrant families starting over in Providence, performed by a group of local professional musicians and storytellers

•Nov. 16-18: Cultural Identity(s), a live dance theatre performance by Imagine Theatre.

•Jan. 21 – Feb. 29: Urban Black Rhode Island is an exhibit of the stories of African-Americans throughout the area, when and how they came to Providence, and their involvement in their new community.

•Jan. 31 – Feb. 3: Occupy Central Falls: Performing Life, a live dance performance by Imagine Theatre.

•Feb. 21-23: Lady Fingers: A Tale of Four African-American Guitar Players, an original musical performance by Kim Trusty and Valerie Tutson about four African-American women who performed at Newport’s Folk and Jazz Festivals during the 50s and 60s.

•March 4 – 29: Domestic Nonviolence: Women’s Health and Wellness, an art exhibit focused on home, work and social life of Rhode Island women

•Mar 22-24 We Served Too! a play from oral history gathered from Rhode Island World War II Women Veterans.

•Mar 21, 5-9 p.m.: Gallery Night Reception

•April 1-26 Urban Wildlife/Sustainability, An exhibit exploring urban gardening and wildlife past and future .

•April 18, 5-9 p.m.: Urban Wildlife/Sustainability, a Gallery Night Reception, followed by an Urban Garden Tour.

“The series is all part of a yearlong interdisciplinary celebration of the urban mission of the University, which has served nontraditional learners for more than 70 years at our Feinstein Providence campus,” Quina said. “Our students and faculty are engaged in research, visual and performing arts, internships, and collaborative work in and around Providence and other urban settings around the globe. And yet, we find that URI is not known for its urban campus or its urban mission. From all of these things, UrbanScape was born,” she said.

In addition to the public education series, URI recently rolled out a new Urban Studies program, with urban-focused courses in history, psychology, political science, film, communications and health and is developing an Urban Studies minor. The campus’ Urban Arts and Culture Program regularly features multimedia exhibits designed to explore and raise public awareness about topical issues in the urban community setting.

“The Urban Arts and Culture Program is all about bringing local community groups, organizations, and individuals into conversations about our city’s history, heritage and culture, and to encourage connection with each other as an urban campus and community that is here for everyone,” said Steven Pennell, coordinator of the Urban Arts and Culture Program.

“This year of the UrbanScape at URI’s Providence campus is tremendously relevant today, as Rhode Island still struggles to get out of financial ruin. There are conversations about our industrial history and conversations about our future as a knowledge district, but there is a void of conversation about the industrial capability that still exists here and the possibilities for making our history a part of our future,” Pennell said.

The University’s current strategic priorities assert that “if our graduates are to succeed and lead in the 21st century world, with its wide diversity of cultures, lifestyles, beliefs, religions, political systems and philosophies, we must help them develop the ability to communicate, understand, and engage…”

“Today, most employers are located in urban settings, and they are seeking graduates who are educated about and engaged in urban issues. Although our main campus is located in a smaller, more rural setting, we have a responsibility to teach them about urban issues and give them real world experiences in urban settings,” said Quina.

“21st Century Urbanism: Integrating People, Infrastructure, Jobs and Environment,” is a public education project funded in part by a community block grant from the State of Rhode Island. UrbanScape sponsors