Arts & Culture

Art, aliens invade Thayer Street for festival

Festival Fete’s second annual Thayer Street Art Festival showcases local artists’ work, community spirit

By
Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Streetgoers on Thayer Street this Sunday may have been accosted by an alien, swayed by a salesperson or serenaded by a troupe of musicians at the second annual Thayer Street Art Festival. Organized by Festival Fete, the community event provided a space for a celebration of local businesses and artists.

Thayer Street was lined with white tents housing over 100 artists and craftspeople Sunday, as crowds wove their way through the stalls. Students may claim to have encountered some strange sights on Thayer Street before, but this weekend’s scene of people dressed in larger-than-life alien costumes and squawking at passers-by was one not many can say they have experienced.

Vendors set up shop on Thayer Street as part of the second annual Thayer Street Art Festival organized by Festival Fete.

Festival Fete coordinates art fairs across Rhode Island. According to its website, its mission is to “offer a platform for local artists — of various mediums and levels — to show their work.”

The festival drew people of all ages to Thayer. Undergrads leaving their dorms wandered through the street, picking up glass-blown vases, potted plants and handmade jewelery. Children skipped along, pulling their parents toward the intersection of Thayer and Meeting Streets, which was splattered with chalk doodles  earlier visitors had drawn on the sun-drenched concrete.

In addition to the interactive art exhibits the festival offered, children at the festival were particularly intrigued by the alien figures brought to the fair by Big Nazo Lab, a performance troupe with a store in downtown Providence.

“Aren’t you hot in there?” a girl asked one of the artists in a heavy green alien costume.

“Do you need a tissue to wipe your nose?” a boy asked, pointing at the globs on the figure’s snout.

A variety of vendors

Emery Wenger stood behind his lineup of glass-blown objects, introducing himself to every customer who stopped to look at the vases, cups and animal figurines he had made.

He said his most popular product was his “mini-pumpkin.” Small but surprisingly heavy, these glass pumpkin figures came in a variety of lavish colors. Wenger said he has taken to experimenting with the colors of the pumpkins and has recently added a Bruins-themed black, gold and white pumpkin to the collection.

Adam Salisbury’s “license plate art” caught the attention of the festival’s student attendees. Salisbury’s products feature Rhode Island and Massachusetts license plates cut out into shapes and slices, mounted on wooden boards.

Salisbury said he thought of this unconventional idea when sorting through the unused items that had accumulated in his garage. “The idea came to me one day, and I just went with it,” he said.

Also popular was Melanie Champagne and her “My Magical Emporium” stall, which featured small wooden trinkets imported from countries around the world.

One of these was a small bird whistle from Mexico. The whistle blows at different pitches when different levels of water are added to it, Champagne said.

But Champagne said she is most proud of her homemade, all-natural oils and creams. She started making these over a decade ago, after her daughter sustained third degree burns in an accident. The cream she made for her daughter, called “Maelie’s Miracle Cream,” treats a variety of skin problems. It contains sweet almond, eucalyptus and peanut oil among its natural ingredients.

Champagne’s homemade products also include muscle rub, blister treatment and bug repellent. “I make these because I want to heal people without chemicals,” she said. 

Praise for Providence

Vendors said Providence was an ideal location for art fairs.

Salisbury said he enjoys the large population of local artists he meets at Festival Fete’s events.

“I love doing art fairs here because Providence has such a diverse cultural population,” Champagne said. Many of her products are traditional goods from South America and Asia, and Champagne said she wants them to make “people feel at home.”

Students said they were surprised by the transformation Thayer had undergone overnight and said they appreciated and enjoyed all that the festival had to offer. 

“I was really shocked to see this when I came out of the SciLi,” said Masahiro Nakanishi ’15. “But it’s a beautiful day, and I’ve found some really cool things here,” he said.

“The space men dancing to the banjo were quite alarming,” said Steven Brownstone ’16, “but I appreciate the culture and free spirit of our community.”