Home Iconic bar Providence’s Gallery nighttime trolley tour shows the city as art

Providence’s Gallery nighttime trolley tour shows the city as art

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It’s not often you see a didgeridoo performance and a larger than life Buddha in one night. But on Gallery Night, it’s just another night.

Back from their pandemic-induced virtual tours on Facebook Live, the guided hikes through Providence’s art scene launched this month.

I joined the first trip of the season, queuing in the lobby of the Graduate Providence Hotel, where a tour group was waiting for our excursion to begin.

This is where I met our captain, Frank Toti, who has been working there for about five years. Leading passengers outside and into a white trolley, he delivered his speech: “I love food, so think of tonight as a tapas bar for art.”

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Tour guide Frank Toti shares historical information about downtown buildings and murals as he embarked on a Gallery Night Providence trolley tour last week.

As I consider tapas to be a food group in its own right, regularly eating bar bites once a week, my interest was piqued.

At the press of an accelerator pedal, our tank was gone. With enthusiasm, Toti, stationed at the head of the bus, led the driver through the twists and turns of the city center towards a series of murals hidden between the buildings. Our guest guide, Rebecca Leuchak, offered a history of the city’s murals. We cruised around Gaia’s iconic “Still Here” on Custom House Street honoring indigenous history, and Shepard Fairey’s “Creativity, Equity, Justice” on Clemence Street, which marked the artist’s 100th mural .

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Fairey, the Rhode Island School of Design graduate who captured national attention with Barack Obama’s campaign poster that featured the word “hope,” made his first mark on the city during the mayoral election of 1990, disfiguring a Buddy Cianci’s Billboard by covering the candidate’s face with the head of André the Giant. The next day, seeing that the billboard had been repaired, Fairey went to a Kinko’s, printed an even larger head, and glued it back on.

Odette Safarian, visiting Rhode Island from California, snaps a photo of one of Providence's many murals from the Gallery Night trolley.

As we ride through the city, Toti and Leuchak encourage cyclists to marvel at the artistry of its structures, from the Greek Revival Arcade to the Turks Head Building, where we stopped to take a peek. take a look at BankRI’s small gallery of works by David Everett. The artist was on hand to chat with visitors while a tourist took photos of each site, carefully documenting our excursion.

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Then it was back on the trolley, which climbed up the east side for our final stops, one to see the enormous Japanese Buddha at the RISD museum, and another at the peaceful kingdom of Fox Point, a gallery and gift shop. which sells tribal textiles, silver snake earrings and Tibetan singing bowls, among other items.

Journalist Amy Russo checks out the work of artist David Everett at the Bank RI Gallery in downtown Providence on Gallery Night Providence.

In a back room, amid piles of hand-woven rugs, musician David Brown, sporting an all-black ensemble, played the didgeridoo.

As Toti said, when you look at it, “the city itself is art”.

For a list of free Gallery Night Providence walking and trolley tours, visit his website, www.gallerynight.org. Tours take place one night per month until November.