Four Directions is a Landmark Public Art piece that aims to bring people together for a sensory and learning experience, paying respect to all residents of Providence throughout the history and celebrating the value they bring to our community. The sculptural work consists of many elements that are thoughtfully designed and integrated to the site.Our design “FOUR DIRECTIONS”, created as a collaborative effort by a team of artists and architects have won the 2nd place in the City of Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism and Art in City Life Commission’s national call for Landmark Public Art in the City’s new Providence Innovation District Park.
Their innovative proposed work Four Directions will bring awareness to a historic site, honor cultural democracy, equity, water ecology, stewardship and conservation. The center, heart and soul of our sculpture is a prominent rock, seemingly there since time immemorial. On top of the rock is the focal point of the site, where there will be four larger-than-life Figure Beings that represent the North South East and West, circling a large stainless steel tree rooted on top of the rock. This area known as Weybossett in the Algonquian language means a “place to cross water during low tide”. Indigenous People crossed the river at Weybossett for tens of thousands of years before Colonial America. This crossing was an intersection of four directions with trail names we still recognize: Wampanoag, Pawtucket, Narragansett, and Louquassuc.The trails met where parties arrived and departed via land and mishoon (canoe). Through Oral Tradition the Wampanoag, Narragansett, Nipmuc and Pequot tribes remember Weybossett crossing as a place to cross the river and to rendezvous with old friends and meet new ones. It was a trade route destination, where items, information, and news from lands far away were exchanged.
We have chosen Four Directions corridors that already exist in the park’s design, to embed the names of these historic trails. The Eastern Woodland trails overlay the existing pathways perfectly. We find this concept and path finding profound now with and in reference to the new Michael Van Leesten Pedestrian Bridge, a bridge that brings the people of Providence from all directions, across the river and to the overlook site. This site is now used by people of all ethnicities, financial status and cultures.The park is in the city’s new Innovation District. We celebrate this relationship with a work of art that is also an innovation in water sustainability. Allison Newsome holds utility and design patents on RainKeep, a passive rain and dew harvesting sculptural design. In the Four Direction plan, rainwater is harvested by a RainKeep design that stores water in the rock/vessel and provides water for a Medicine Wheel garden encircling the rocks base.
In the Eastern Woodland Native Americans “way of life philosophy”, the understanding is; Four Directions is one component of the Medicine Wheel that represents equality amongst all human beings from all corners of the earth. The four beings will represent the stages of life that correspond with the “Circle of Life” that emerge from the Medicine WheelEach direction will have a historical Native American trail associated with it. Our sculpture is a place of lessons, education, and reflection. Holding the canopy, will be seven stainless steel trees. Seven is a Native American sacred number. As the living generation of people, we are considered the Seventh Generation. Our ancestors prayed and did everything they could to make sure we would come to be alive today. Four is represented in directions and equality, and three represents the Creator of the Universe, the Earth as our Mother, and the Spirit that lives within us, that lets us realize we are all related. Knowing who you are by knowing the balance of the Seventh Generation philosophy makes one realize their place in the Universe. As Native Americans innate in our identity, stewardship to Mother Earth is “Earth Day” every day. We are taught to leave no trace of where we have been and always to leave the land in better condition than when we first arrived, therefore we are constantly preparing for the next seven generations.
Our design is sensory interactive. As visitors explore the sculpture it will awaken their senses with tactile materials, kinetic sounds, visual stimulation, and garden scents. The visitors will be urged to read and sing the Sacred Water Protection Song embedded on cast bronze river forms embedded on the ground, following the circle of the medicine wheel. Equally, our sculpture promotes thought, reflection, and questioning. The materials and process that create the figures, recognize the artistry that is an important part of the growth and development of Providence, namely the abutting property called the Jewelry District. The outlooks timeline will tell the story of the people and cultures who have made their home here in Providence. Visitors can interact with the impressions by touch and try to figure out what they are. Some they will recognize and some they can refer to a QR Code or App that shows the artifact and why it is important to that period of time.
With our concept, passersby will approach the outlook, drawn to the lacy filigree river forms and the timeline, in a profound way and will not sit with their backs to the river as it is now being used. Our purpose is to get the public to really look with intent in an informed and profound environment, a place to absorb the solitude of nature, the spectacle of the river, to unwind and sit by the gardens, experience the beauty reflected in the rock, and witness the wind interacting with the four directional figure beings. A rainy day becomes a special day at our site. On a rainy day listen to the water being collected in the canopy and streaming into the rock/ vessel. Here one an put their ear up to the rock and hear the water softly echoing with various sounds as it fills the tank. It is an unearthly watery sound, magical in the same way that holding a shell up to one’s ear is like hearing the sea.
We have created a site that celebrates the ‘Four Directions’ and brings awareness to a site that is historic on so many levels. Our sculpture is a land acknowledgement to the Indigenous people of this land. Our work honors this as the homeland of the Eastern Woodlands people particularly the Narragansett and Wampanoag Nations, and from this central concept we unfold our histories, cultural democracy, and equity; while equally honoring water ecology, conservation, stewardship and water practice innovation. Our intent with our choice of materials reflects the history of the site, the elements, and the water herself.
We envision this site to be a place where one feels a connection with all humanity, nature, a place to contemplate our histories, where we come from and where we are right now ‘in the moment’, a place to share ideas, art, goods, information and engage in environmental stewardship of our shared home. This will be a place where one will feel a resounding feeling of interconnectedness to the site on many levels, in physical, visual and auditory modes, with touching, seeing and listening, and going forth to teach the water protection song to all woman, and will equally inspire questioning, learning, contemplating our histories, and our future. The river always has been and will continue to be, past and present flowing together.
Nee bee wah bow
En die en
Aah key mis kquee
Nee bee wah bow
Hey ya hey ya hey ya hey
Hey ya hey ya hey ya ho
Sacred Water Protection Song