VRA 2012 Providence, Rhode Island Preview


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Presented by Mark Pompelia at the Annual Conference of the Visual Resources Association, April 18th - April 21st, 2012, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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  • Good morning. I have the distinct pleasure of inviting you to attend the 31st annual conference of the Visual Resources Association from April 2–7, 2013 in Providence, Rhode Island.
  • That pleasure is even more distinct since we are gathered here in New Mexico and I’m willing to wager that nobody before me has ever tried to promote “The Ocean State” from Old Town, Albuquerque.
  • Allow me to offer a quick geography lesson.
  • Rhode Island is the smallest state in the union at 40 square miles.
  • Rhode Island is bordered by Connecticut to the west, and Massachusetts to the north and east, to the southwest by a waterway shared with Long Island, and to the south the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Providence is the capital of Rhode Island and is the most populous city in the state. Greater Providence spills into southern Massachusetts and this total metropolitan population of 1.6 million is actually 60% larger than the entire state of Rhode Island. Some of you may recall an odd headline in the news a year or two ago: Rhode Islanders voted resoundingly against changing the name from the formal Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. So just remember: small state, long name. And that there is no actual island named Rhode.  HISTORYNow indulge me for a quick history lesson, as Rhode Island and Providence have an important story of independence that is largely unknown.
  • The figure of Roger Williams literally looms large in Providence and is commemorated throughout the city and state. As Philadelphia has Benjamin Franklin, Providence has Roger Williams. Born in 1603 in London, he was educated at Cambridge and had a gift for languages, which later helped him to be an able communicator with the Indian tribes in New England.
  • An independent-minded man, he became a Separatist Puritan and that led to his coming to America in 1631. He turned down an offer to join the church in Boston, believing the Church of England to be hopelessly corrupt. Williams maintained a strong belief in separatism, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state, and some research points to Roger Williams as a source for the Founding Fathers in drafting the United States Constitution and its First Amendment. In 1632 he wrote a tract attacking the King of England and the land charters that served as a basis for the colonies, saying essentially that land was not purchased fairly from the Native Americans. By 1635 he was tried and convicted of sedition and heresy, of spreading "diverse, new, and dangerous opinions". Sentenced to banishment, the court allowed for the enforcement of the verdict to wait until after winter, provided that Williams would cease his agitation. He refused to keep quiet and managed to slip away to make the 105-mile walk from Salem through deep snow in January 1636.
  • In the spring of 1636, he and twelve friends founded this new colony and called it Providence because he felt that God’s Providence had brought him there. From the beginning, the settlement was governed "only in civil things". In 1637 they drew up a town agreement, which again restricted the government to "civil things". Thus, Williams had founded the first place in modern history where citizenship and religion were separated, a place where there was religious liberty and separation of church and state. By the 1640s Providence was well known as a haven for dissenters and independent thinkers.
  • Throughout the 1700s the British levied increasingly punishing taxes on the economy of Providence, causing Providence to be the first colony to renounce allegiance to the British Crown—two months before anyone else in the convention. Providence residents were the first to spill British blood in the lead-up to the American Revolution in the notorious Gaspée Affair of 1772.
  • After the Revolution, it was also the last to ratify the United States Constitution and did so only after the threat to be taxed as a foreign nation if it did not.
  • ] Over time, Providence’s economy switched from maritime to manufacturing, primarily machinery, tools, silverware, jewelry and textiles. Manufacturing waned over the course of the 20th century and the city encountered a downturn in the 1950s and 60s and became infamous as a bastion of organized crime.
  • By the 1970s a rebirth was underway with service industries such as medicine and education, and today this 35th-largest city in the U.S. boasts eight hospitals and seven institutions of higher learning.
  • In the 1990s the city pushed further revitalization and uncovered its natural rivers and created a Venice-style installation of riverside walks [SLIDE] with bridges and lagoons called Waterplace Park
  • In the 1990s the city pushed further revitalization and uncovered its natural rivers and created a Venice-style installation of riverside walks [SLIDE] with bridges and lagoons called Waterplace Park
  • that is home to the Waterfire sculpture, a public art phenomenon of one hundred bonfires that burn just above the surface of the three rivers and attract an average audience of 40,000.
  • Waterfire was just voted Best New England Event and one of the top five nighttime events in the world. 
  • Providence recently rebranded itself as the Creative Capital to spotlight its educational, fine arts, and culinary arts resources. With a low cost of living for New England, Providence is home to a substantial educated community of artists and designers, writers and performers.
  • Brown University sits atop nearby College Hill. The first college in the nation to accept students of all religious affiliations, Brown was founded in 1764 and is the seventh-oldest U.S. institution of higher learning.
  • With a charter that was characterized at the time as being extraordinarily liberal, Brown maintains a reputation today as being the most liberal among the Ivy League schools.
  • Rhode Island School of Design, aka RISD, sits at the base of College Hill and is contiguous with the Brown campus.
  • The two institutions share social, academic, and community resources and offer joint courses.
  • RISD consistently ranks as the number one fine arts college in the United States. RISD maintains over 80,000 works of art in the RISD Museum, making it the twentieth largest art museum in the country.
  • Providence reputedly has more restaurants per capita than any other major city in the United States, making it a culinary enthusiast's dream. Many of Providence's restaurants are founded or staffed by graduates of the famous College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University.
  • Immediately in the vicinity of the hotel, conference attendees will enjoy a lively environment of craft shops, bookstores, restaurants of every taste, galleries, poetry readings, jazz, martini bars, pubs, and a large Little Italy district on nearby Federal Hill.
  • The VRA conference hotel is the Providence Biltmore. With an atmosphere similar to that of a grand European hotel, the Biltmore was originally built in 1922 with 600 rooms and for 71 years was the largest and tallest hotel in Providence. Walls were later knocked down and suites were created. The hotel now offers 292 guestrooms that are the largest sleeping rooms in the state with over half the hotel's rooms averaging 600 sq. ft. in size.
  • A grand ballroom on the rooftop level in addition to other meeting and event space along with four elevators will ensure that VRA2013 is a logistical success. The hotel currently contains the largest Starbucks in New England.
  • Located in the center of downtown just hundreds of feet from the train station and bus depot, two blocks from the Providence Place shopping center,
  • and just minutes from dozens of restaurants and galleries,
  • the RISD campus including the Fleet Library and Museum, the Providence Biltmore is ideally suited to provide conference attendees with optimal meeting spaces within the hotel and
  • proximity to everything else when you want to step out.Providence and the conference hotel are easily accessible by rail, air, car, and bus. The Providence rail station is serviced by both Amtrak (express and regional trains) and the Boston Commuter Rail Providence-Stoughton line. TF Green Airport (PVD) is located 10 minutes to the south and offers ground transport to downtown Providence for as low as $2 one way via express bus;
  • Boston Logan Airport is 1.5 hours to the north and you can reach Providence for approx. $10 one way. The Biltmore is just off the I-95 freeway as it passes adjacent to downtown Providence and a number of coach busses offer transport to Providence for as low as $14 from New York City. Affordable travel to Providence is possible from virtually any point of origin.
  • A thriving arts capital in a city founded on independent thinking, a hotel with old world glamor, nearby institutions to offer rich collections, and tour options to satisfy any interest all combine to make
  • Providence the place to be for VRA2013.
  • VRA 2012 Providence, Rhode Island Preview

    1. 1. Visual ResourcesAssociationAnnual ConferenceProvidence, Rhode IslandApril 2-7, 2013
    2. 2. Driving directions: Albuquerque to Providence