Still Here by Gaia (2018)

The Avenue Concept x RIHPHC Public Art Tour

Still Here by Gaia (2018)

Providence, Rhode Island 02906, United States

Created By: The Avenue Concept


Building name: 32 Custom House. Lot was home to the Daniels Building

Architect: William R Walker

Date built: 1873

Perhaps considered the most iconic mural in the current Downtown portfolio, Gaia’s Still Here is a portrait of a contemporary Narragansett woman named Lynsea Montanari holding a portrait of her tribal elder, Wampanoag and Narangansett leader Princess Red Wing. Lynsea wears contemporary clothing in lieu of traditional regalia, an inference to the community of Indigenous people currently living, working, and holding tradition in modern-day Providence.

The location of the 32 Custom House building (and the parking lot that was the former Daniels building) provides a sweeping view of the wall from the Weybosset bridge and river. According to the City Department of Art, Culture & Tourism, “Weybosset Street was a site where three important Indian trails met, one coming down from the north, the second up from the southeast Mount Hope region called the Wampanoag Trail, and the third up from Connecticut in the southwest called the Pequot Trail.”

Gaia’s opening idea for the mural was to consider erasure, considering the landscape that existed before colonial settlement, asking the question of whose history gets recorded and whose doesn’t. As he captures in his artist interview (viewable above), through partnership and permission seeking with the Tomaquag Museum, the work evolved into a narrative that captures a living person holding legacy and tradition, advocating for human rights and environmental justice, a people still here across time that continues today.

About the Artwork:

Princess Redwing was a Narragansett and Wampanoag elder, activist, historian, folklorist and curator. While the portraits take center stage in the piece, the native flora that surrounds the figures holds deep symbolism for the community:

Sunflowers carry a long history in the Western Hemisphere and are an important local symbol as a crop grown by the Narragansett Tribe.

Strawberries are of particular importance to Lynsea and invoke the Montanari family crest and heritage. The strawberry is endemic to the region, but additionally it is a symbol of love and friendship. Lynsea’s earrings are also strawberry shapes.

Pink Lady’s Slipper flower pays homage to Lorén Spears, educator, activist, author, and artist as well as executive director of theTomaquag Museum. Her Narragansett name is Lady Slipper. The large wildflower grows in RI.

The little deer is the only element not to scale. Endemic to the region, deer represent a valuable resource for Indigenous communities.

Red-winged Blackbirds, the bird for which Princess Red Wing was named, represent companions of ancestral history, keeping company with the next generation into the 21st century to inspire stewardship and leadership.

This point of interest is part of the tour: The Avenue Concept x RIHPHC Public Art Tour


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