This project has been made possible by a grant from the Creative Arts Council of Brown University.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The future of the Arcade

There were some whispers of plans for the Arcade a few months ago (discussed in this previous blog post), but now it seems for certain that the Arcade has renovation in its future.

On January 25th Mayor Angel Taveras, Senator Jack Reed, Governor Lincoln Chafee and representatives of the Arcade attended an unveiling ceremony for the new plans. They were joined by "more than 100 business leaders, government officials and downtown leaders" according to this article on the official website of the city of Providence.

The new incarnation of the Arcade will be a combination of retail and residential spaces. Shops and restaurants will fill the ground floor spaces, and, in a departure from previous designs, the second and third levels will be converted into 48 loft-style apartments. According to the Daily Dose, the apartments "will be furnished, including refrigerators, dishwashers and microwaves - but no stoves - will be marketed toward recent college graduates and young professionals, Granoff said. Rents will start at $550 per month". The no stoves part is an interesting one- perhaps limited by fire restrictions on a historical building? It will be interesting to see how this feature affects the clients that these apartments will attract, and whether this stipulation will eventually be modified. (A comment left under this article raises a good point: "Why would they need to waste what little space they have with a dishwasher? they don’t have stoves, so I think just using the old sink and drying rack method would work").

The title of the Providence website article, "A Providence Landmark is Reborn" suggests that a similar rhetoric to the rhetorics of the past is being used about the Arcade today. Themes of monumentality, historical significance, and myth abound.

The reopening of the Arcade is an exciting development for Providence...This project breathes new life into America's oldest indoor mall and one of our city's most historically significant buildings, with a mix of retail, restaurants and affordable housing for young professionals in the heart of downtown Providence. --Mayor Angel Taveras 
It will be called The Arcade Providence and it will be a historic revival...This historic revival will create an Arcade community, increase the energy in the heart of downtown, help drive business to surrounding retailers, attract new retail and restaurants, and bring micro-loft residents into downtown to live, eat and shop - and it begins today. --Mr Granoff

It is hard to read these descriptions of the Arcade and not be reminded of similar rhetoric used just over 30 years ago in  conjunction with the 1980 renovation and opening of the Arcade. Specifically one quote discussed a previous blog post comes to mind. Taken from the 1980 opening campaign, it describes how the Arcade is "not just in the heart of Providence. It is the heart of downtown Providence."

Photo of Mayor Angel Taveras at the Arcade on 25th January, 2012. Photo from

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Conversation notes

These are my notes from a conversation with Laura (who I interviewed earlier in the year about her memories of the Arcade) after she saw the performance where she shared some of her thoughts:

The building should be listed as a cast member- the dancer's relationship to it gave it character, personality.
It successfully created a structure to work with the 'accidents', moments where people not involved in the project became a part of it.
It made you look at everything differently.
'Mirror duet' was the "most effective" part- it brought the two sides of the Arcade together.
The piece as a whole created a situation where there was a lot for the audience to "puzzle out".

Her comment that "it made you look at everything differently" is particularly exciting for me to hear, as part of the intention was to re-contextualise and de-familiarise the space to allow multiple identities for the space, and create new relationships to it.

And although there are several parts of the piece that I find particularly satisfying, the 'mirror duet' is definitely one of them. This is the section where Amy and Nadia perform the same phrase across the length of the Arcade. One performs it on the right, one on the left, so they mirror each other. It is discussed more in this post and can be seen below.

It is one of the most successful moments in terms of connecting the two sides, but also in challenging the audience's perception of being able to see the whole picture, imparting a fuller understanding of the sense of the spatial extent of the Arcade, and in playing with the inaccessibility of the interior.