ON EXHIBITION at PPL This Spring. . .

April 10, 2024

We are thrilled to present an incredible array of exhibitions and associated programs this spring! See below for details on some and more news to come, but we welcome you to PPL for these exciting programs and events.

Rhode Island Creatives Show/Carl Yung Series
Prints by Jacques Bidon

March 18 – May 10

The exhibition will be on view during regular library hours in the Marble Staircase Community Gallery on the 3rd floor.

For a small city in the smallest state, Rhode Island has produced outsized Black artists in a variety of genres. In the 19th century, artists such as Sissieretta Jones, Nancy Elizabeth Prophet, and Christiana Cartreaux Bannister brought music, visual art, and style to the city. The 20th century saw artists such as Mahler B. Ryder and Cheryl Miller further Black art and design here and in the world. After attending Rhode Island School of Design (specifically to work with Ryder), Cheryl Miller went on to become a pioneering Black female graphic designer in the United States. Mahler Ryder, Illustration Professor at RISD, had an illustrious career that included a show at the Whitney Museum. Rhode Island continues to attract and produce artists, musicians, and designers of worldwide acclaim. The legacy that these past artists created lives on in the creative output of Rhode Island artists of all backgrounds today. We all stand on the shoulders of the greatness that came before.
— Ulli K. Ryder, Ph.D.

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Funded by RISCA and The Department of Art, Culture and Tourism


Words From the Library

Prints by Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr., created in collaboration with librarians, staff, and patrons of PPL and Community Libraries of Providence

April 1 – May 10

The exhibition will be on view during regular hours throughout the entirety of the Library.

As part of the Southern Graphics International Conference happening in Providence April 3 – 7, 2024, Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr. chose to create a new series of prints inspired by his love for, and in support of, public libraries. He began by gathering thoughts and experiences from librarians, staff, and patrons of Providence Public Library (PPL) and the Community Libraries of Providence, and translated them into exquisitely layered letterpress prints. These prints will hang throughout PPL and the Community Libraries of Providence. Thanks to Amos Paul Kennedy’s generosity, prints will be available after the conference for patrons of the respective libraries and as a fundraising tool for PPL and Community Libraries of Providence.

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This exhibition was organized by Dan Wood, local printer with DWRI Letterpress in Providence, in collaboration with SGCI. For inquiries about the conference or prints, please reach out to: dan@dwriletterpress.net.


Stand to Sea
An exhibition of prints by Allison Bianco

April 1 – June 30

The exhibition will be on view during regular library hours around the Auditorium Lobby on the 3rd floor.

Stand to Sea is an exhibition of prints by Allison Bianco. At the top of the stairs on the third floor, the monumental six-foot copper plate etching imagines watery worlds through the lens of maritime artwork traditions. Bianco was awarded a RISCA Make Art Grant to work with Ben Watkins to create two site-specific frames that wrap around the corners of the Library’s architecture. The rising sea of mythic proportions in the print comes in the form of seven waves that travel over hundreds of years, past whales and whaling ships, from the edges of faraway oceans to the Atlantic, where they reach land at the Point Street Bridge in Providence, RI on September 21, 1938. Bianco researched at Special Collections at PPL, blending a myriad of scrapbook references, aerial photographs, whaling log illustrations and sentiments of historic Japanese Kawaraban papers to produce a view of her home state of Rhode Island, with a bright and foreboding atmosphere.

Allison Bianco received her MFA in Printmaking from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, and her BA in Studio Art from Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA.

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From Hold to Horizon
Exhibition with Activations

Created by Kei Soares Cobb and Becci Davis

April 6 – June 25

The exhibition will be on view in the Joan T. Boghossian Gallery on the 3rd floor during regular library hours.

From Hold to Horizon is an immersive voyage toward Liberation, an inquiry into our complicated relationship with the ocean, sovereignty, and economies of capture. Inside its walls is a space for locating oneself. Journals detailing the nineteenth century whaling voyages of Captain William Martin, one of New England’s most prominent Black whaling-ship captains, will serve as our guide, leading us to explore a number of questions. Who are we? Where are we? What is happening around us? What are we experiencing together?

You are welcome to experience the space on your own. You are also invited to return on scheduled activation days to experience a guided journey of the horizon and journaling as rituals of transformation led by the artists. Please register for planned activation days listed below, the PPL event calendar.

Activation Schedule
Saturday, April 20, 1:30 – 3:30pm
Saturday, April 27, 1:30 – 3:30pm
Saturday, May 4, 1:30 – 3:30pm
Saturday, May 11, 1:30 – 3:30pm
Monday, May 20, 4:30 – 6:30pm
Saturday, June 1, 1:30 – 3:30pm
Monday, June 3, 4:30 – 6:30pm

Kei Soares Cobb is a Cape Verdean-American sound designer, dancer, gardener, educator, and somatic therapist based in Providence, Rhode Island. Learn more about their work: keisoarescobb.as.me, @keisoarescobb

Becci Davis is an interdisciplinary artist and mother who finds inspiration in exploring nature, archives, memory, and connection to place. Born and raised in Georgia, she now calls Providence, RI home. Learn more about her work: beccidavis.com, @bdavissynergy

The whaling logs of Captain William Martin are part of PPL’s Nicholson Whaling Collection; view digitized versions of the logs here.

This project is made possible, in part, by generous support from the Langston Hughes Community Poetry Reading and from the Papitto Opportunity Connection.

This project is made possible, in part, through funding support from Rhode Island Humanities, an independent state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. RI Humanities seeds, supports, and strengthens public history, cultural heritage, civic education, and community engagement by and for all Rhode Islanders. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of Rhode Island Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


10th Anniversary of The Whale Guitar!
A Celebration and Exhibition Kick-off

Wednesday, April 24, 5 – 6:30 pm
Donald J. Farish Auditorium, 3rd Floor

Join us for an evening of music to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of The Whale Guitar Project, originally launched at PPL in 2014! We’ll share stories of the guitar’s making (and PPL’s role in its inspiration), meaning, and journey – and meet some of the musicians who have played it in its first decade. Featured events will include sea shanties by Sharks Come Cruisin’ Duo, songs by Jen Long and Beth Barron performed on The Whale Guitar, spoken word by Christopher Johnson, and more.

The evening will culminate in a procession from the Auditorium to the Rhode Island Room, where The Whale Guitar will be added to a selection of the archival items from PPL’s Nicholson Whaling Collection that inspired its making, to create The Whale Guitar 10th Anniversary Exhibition.

(Befitting The Whale Guitar’s origin story in the Library, the whole project was inspired by Herman Melville’s great book, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale!)

This event is free and open to the public, registration is appreciated.


The Whale Guitar 10th Anniversary Exhibition
This exhibition is on view in the Rhode Island Room during regular library hours, from the evening of Wednesday, April 24 until Thursday, May 30.

The Whale Guitar — an astonishing, iconic, one-of-a-kind guitar that was inspired by Herman Melville’s great book Moby-Dick; or, The Whale; dreamed up by toy designer/guitar novice Jen Long; and handmade by Rhode Island artisans — made its public debut at PPL on April 24, 2014.  In celebration of its 10th anniversary, The Whale Guitar will be the centerpiece of an exhibition that also features artifacts of its creation process and visual influences, including design sketches by artist William Schaff, and specimens from PPL’s Nicholson Whaling Collection, including whaling log books and scrimshaw.

Mementos of The Whale Guitar’s decade-long journey as an Instrument of Change will also be exhibited, including event posters, magazine spreads, classroom material, and movie stills. Also on view will be photos and signatures of the hundreds of people who have played The Whale Guitar during its mission to reinterpret Melville’s epic tale as a climate warning and call to change — away from climate-heating fossil fuels and plastics, and toward renewable energies and eco-friendly materials.

Finally, observe the challenging shift that this Instrument of Change stirred up in the personal life and livelihood of its producer, Jen Long, who had been a successful toy designer creating My Little Ponies and baby playthings from fossil fuel-based plastics – prior to experiencing her extraordinary vision for The Whale Guitar.