'Locally Made'

By PHILIP EIL  |  July 17, 2013

Local means local

There were guffaws back in 2009 when the city of Providence paid $75,000 to a firm from Nashville — literally 1000 miles away — to re-brand the city “The Creative Capital.” The affair triggered the obvious question: if the city is so damn “creative,” why the hell did we outsource our own makeover?

The RISD Museum seems prepared for the scrutiny that comes along with a show titled “Locally Made.”

Exhibit A: the bright red glowing button on top of a wooden box with the message “Press here for today’s guide” that greets museum visitors as they enter. Once pressed, a long, thin strip of paper spools out of a slit in the box. The receipt-style slip is a customized schedule of the day’s events at the museum.

The whole apparatus, which contains a specially coded computer inside the box, was designed over nine months by a seven-person team at Westminster Street’s Design Office, the rentable drop-in office space founded by local artist and RISD Graphic Design professor, John Caserta.

The project was a case study in how the Design Office works, he tells us. “[I]nterdisciplinary, collaborative, self-initiated (the museum asked for a few posters originally), and contemporary in format and focus.”

Might we say the same for the city, itself?

What’s it all mean?

Speaking of the Providence “brand,” we asked every “Locally Made” participant whom we spoke with a version of the same, perhaps-impossible question.

Is there some kind of distinctive local idea or attitude or aesthetic that’s on display in “Locally Made”? And if the RISD Museum has succeeded in bottling the creative essence of this place, how might we describe it?

Most folks said that it’s too early to tell; this is a question better answered after the show ends. But a few bold interviewees took a stab, nonetheless.

PASSIONATE! A 'romance novel' by Sofia Poe.

Sofia Poe, a Washington state native who graduated from RISD in 2012 with a BFA in photography, will read erotic lit — excerpts from Take Me To Your Breeder, for example — written by her fictional alter ago, Rosalinda Fontaine, at “One Room.”

“I’d like to think that the boldness of New England seeps into all our work in some subtle (or not so subtle) way,” she says. “It’s a great city for performers especially — there’s such a tight knit community of artists.

“Providence is the birthplace of Rosa-linda, the place where I discovered my other selves . . . and in turn, I suppose, myself,” she adds.

Ricky Katowicz, the man with the white shroud and the sewing machine, offered a shorter description that gets our vote for replacing “The Creative Capital” as the city’s tag line.

“It’s an OK place to be a freak,” he says.

The last word

Just before our deadline, we received a note from Peter Glantz, the previously mentioned auteur (he’s directed music videos for Wilco and Andrew W.K. and has a cartoon series in MTV’s reboot of Liquid Television this fall) who will debut his one-man-show “Being Invisible” in the “One Room” “Spotlight” series.

Glantz was profiled in the Providence Journal’s recent article on “Locally Made” and in the piece, his name was repeatedly spelled “Glanz.”

He wrote to us to set the record straight:

“The story goes that my grandfather ordered stationary for his business that came back with a typo where his name was written as ‘Glantz’ instead of ‘Glanz.’ In lieu of the cost and time involved with reprinting, he decided to change the spelling of our family’s name. After all, it was a made up name created on Ellis Island because that was the town in Germany his family had been fleeing. Quite possibly, the ProJo did this in-depth family research and decided to honor the original spelling of my family’s name in their recent article about me, or perhaps they just don’t care enough to do basic fact and spell checking before going to press. Either way, I want to thank RI’s paper of record for reminding me of where my family came from. . . and to always cross my Ts.”

Philip Eil can be reached atpeil@phx.com . Follow him on Twitter @phileil.

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