In last week's City Eagle, I introduced Imaging America and the beginning of its Art in Motion in Syracuse. As part of this project Art in Motion is bringing major artists to engage Syracuse on art's role in community.
Recently the first of these speakers, Barnaby Evans the creator of Waterfire in Providence (RI), spoke to civic leaders and community developers about the transformative power his 18 year running public art installation has had on the economic well being of that city, and more importantly, the public's morale.
He brought with him aerial photographs of Providence before Waterfire, photos that looked remarkably similar to Syracuse; then displayed photos of a very vibrant Providence today. He was also equipped with numbers demonstrating the enormous positive effect on the city in dollars and cents.
At the center of Waterfire
Waterfire harkens back to a medieval spectacle, at its essence is a pairing of opposite elements such as water and fire, light and dark, ancient and modern, urban and natural, and even, life and death. Evans said up to 100,000 people have converged on the city of Providence for a Waterfire, which begins at sundown and goes past midnight.
What started as 10 fires above a frozen river on New Years Eve has grown to up to 100 fires burning boldly, flickering over tidal waters in four seasons. Evans said it always fascinated him that water and fire were both alive and having a will and beauty, then also mutually destructive.
"Having the fire as close as possible to the river," he said, "that balance creates the tension."
Evans said it's a symbolic structure of fire being a symbol of life and death. Fire can represent civilization, purity, accomplishment, divinity, but also destructiveness, loss, pain, health and death. Water has similar polar qualities in its purity and life, its cleanliness, repose, fertility contrasted with rootlessness, chaos.