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For 16 years Providence, Rhode Island was enlivened by a spectacular celebration of the arts, the Convergence International Arts Festival.
Considered one of the premiere arts festivals in the country, the Convergence International Arts Festival was founded by Bob Rizzo in 1988 as a one-day festival in Roger Williams Park in Providence, RI.
Over the course of those sixteen years Convergence grew into a three-week statewide festival centered in the heart of downtown Providence with sites spread throughout Rhode Island. Convergence featured an annual year long exhibition of temporary large-scale public sculpture by nationally and internationally recognized artists. These sculptures were installed throughout Providence, on street corners, in public parks and plazas and even in unexpected alleys creating a free sculpture park that was accessible to the public 365 days a year.
The Convergence Film/Video/Animation Festival showcased innovative and independent short films from across the United States.
Each year the festival continued to expand by presenting new, different and innovative ideas. Convergence provided the community with cutting edge visual and performing arts, allowing the public access to groundbreaking arts events.
The Convergence International Arts Festival fostered cultural connections that reached around the nation and the globe. These collaborations included exchanges with artists from Macedonia and Poland, and public Iron Pour demonstrations and workshops by a renowned studio in Minnesota.
Numerous world premiere performances were staged in unlikely venues, all of which allowed Convergence to maintain its spirit of innovation.
The 14-foot cone made of fiberglass cloth and steel, called Invoice, by Rhode Island artist Tony Ascrizzi, is in Fleet Center building a space within a space for inner space."
On Convergence International Arts Festival…
Outdoor sculpture in the public domain has become one of the dominant arenas of contemporary art. As monuments, memorials, civic ornament, sited work or identifiable place makers, outdoor art work is an idiom which many artists work, some experimentally, some more traditionally in abstract or figurative ways. Convergence, the annual exhibition of public art in Downtown Providence conceived and organized by Bob Rizzo is a consistently challenging classroom of outdoor work - for artists and audience alike. Each year, artists get to work through the possibilities and limitations of public art while the public is in turn invited to see the work in the context of an ever- changing cityscape. Professionals and amateur viewers alike see a range of "what's out there," what is on the mind of artists and how a variety of works can address aesthetic issues and be compatible with the natural/human made environment of large urban landscape. Ornament, symbol, visual critique and private exploration are only some of the parameters of public art.
By inviting artists from all over the world to work in a variety of urban sites including: parks, plazas, vacant lots, and waterways, Convergence has provided a kind of experiment station for art making. Thus allowing artists to test the physical obstacles, the civic responsibilities and the aesthetic issues of their work, often all three at once. Sometimes the works are embedded in the natural elements of a park - water, trees, earth - while others exist as free standing sculptures that could conceivably be placed elsewhere. While other distinguished programs focusing on outdoor work have and continue to flourish elsewhere, many like the Stuart Collection in San Diego or the Laumier Sculpture Park in St. Louis concentrate on relatively few, large, often permanent works. By renewing itself each year, Convergence has become one of the most consistently vital and engaging exhibitions of its kind in the country, raising the dialogue about the meaning of public sculpture, of artistic permanence and of the interface between art and environment in our time.
Ronald J. Onorato, Professor of Art, University of Rhode Island