The Big Blue Bug is here. So are Mr. Lemon and the one-armed Caesar Augustus statue from Brown University. Strewn around the room are a set of uprights from the Hope High football field, smokestacks from the Narragansett Electric Power Station, the yellow sky bridge connecting the Westin to Providence Place, and a Spike's Junkyard Dog truck with a message on its side that reads, "Give Spike a whistle for your next party 861 — MUTT."
They are all here — as postcard pictures, that is — resting on wooden slats that jut out from the walls of a gallery at Brown's Granoff Center for the Creative Arts. And they are all on display together for the first time — a drizzly Friday evening that marks the opening for the Providence Postcard Project.
"I have to say it was a relief to see them come in," says Betsey Biggs, the artist behind the project. "I thought, 'My God, if they all just get taken and none of them come back, I'm kind of in trouble.' "
She is describing the final stages of a process that involved her taking photos of 100 Providence sites; then transferring the images to postcards; printing and pre-stamping 10 copies of each; and distributing them at local libraries with a sign encouraging patrons to take a few, fill them out, and drop them in the mail. It was a perfect partnership between a multi-media artist who describes herself as a "professional wanderer" and Urban Cultural Heritage & Creative Practice, an offshoot of Brown's Office of International Affairs that matches place-based research in Providence with similar projects in Cape Town, Istanbul, and Hong Kong.
"Traditional postcards represent places that are important to institutions," Biggs says. "I wanted these postcards to represent things that were important to people." And so, from a heap of gnarled and twisted scrap metal in South Providence to the Canada Pond Dam near the Pawtucket border, she walked around the city, talking to people, snapping pictures, and constructing what she calls a "love letter" to Providence.
Her images of train tracks, cemeteries, and abandoned movie theaters have a slightly faded tint that makes them hover between past and present. Places like Nick-a-Nee's and the Hot Club are instantly recognizable; though, posted on the walls at the Granoff Center, they somehow feel more important.