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Sunday, August 29, 2004


This weekend I was definitely in the right place at the right time. On Saturday at dusk I found myself in Providence RI during a city-sponsored artistic installation called WaterFire. It was one of the most spectacular things I've ever seen.

Over 100 braziers of wood were floated in the center of the two rivers that cross the city. As the sun went down, these were lit and tended by a troupe of black-clad performers sliding over the water in black boats. Music was piped in over loudspeakers, and though it was a bit New Agey it was enjoyable nonetheless . The music and fires went on until 1 am.

The nicest thing about the event is that there was no single ideal vantage point from which to view it. That meant everybody could mill about casually, rather than strain and jostle to "get there." Nobody saved seats and there were no lines. The fires looked nice from up close at river level, from overhead on the bridges, from afar while sitting on the hill. And so, we walked about then sat on a hill and were happy being where we were.

While lots of cities have urban renewal projects, few actually succeed in giving human warmth to an urban space. Clearly, more cities need to build great, crackling fires right in the middle of downtown.

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