Grants & Scholarships

Exploring themes of community resilience, climate change, and place-based history

Sitting on one of the wooden benches creatively-designed from a fallen log and surrounded by several varieties of small trees, hundreds of sunflowers, and curving mulched walkways, it’s hard to remember when this small stretch of land was a strip of patchy grass.

The transformation between Providence’s South Water Street and the Providence River is the result of a Community Grant-funded project initiated by DownCity Design, a Providence-based nonprofit that “empowers students, educators, and community members to use design skills to improve the places where they live, work, and play.”

Executive Director Adrienne Gagnon explains that through the organization’s CityWorks program (co-facilitated by Manuel Cordero Alvarado and Bryce DuBois) 16 CityWorks Collective members invited residents, municipal agencies, and other stakeholders to share their ideas for the space. “The project got people engaged. They began talking and thinking about what might happen here,” Manuel recalls.

Living Edge

Working closely with Providence Planning and Providence Parks, they invited local artists and designers to submit proposals for a design installation that would explore themes of community resilience, climate change, and place-based history. “We wanted the project to explore the links and tensions between the natural and built environments, and to educate and inspire residents to discover ways to bring these systems into balance,” Adrienne explains.

The CityWorks Collective’s “Imagine Us Here” request for proposals resulted in 13 proposals; “Living Edge” by Adam E. Anderson of Design Under Sky was selected as the winning proposal. In his application, Adam shared his vision for the landscape installation: “What was once an energy intensive and eroded lawn becomes an occupiable wildlife habitat capable of withstanding the increased coastal forces of climate change. This project demonstrates the necessity of a coexistence of natural and cultural systems within our city, and the importance of landscape as a critical component of our urban infrastructure.”

“Adding one tree to an open pasture can increase its bird diversity from almost zero species to as high as 80.”

- Message on one of the fallen-log benches

“Adam’s design reinforces a sense of space. It recreates a space where people can gather,” Bryce shares, noting that indigenous people gathered on this land long ago.

Living Edge

Adrienne estimates that more than 300 people have been involved in the project since its inception, including more than 100 volunteers who helped with the actual installation of Living Edge. “The public had a lot to say about what this space should look like,” she states, with Manuel adding, “People wanted to get involved.”

“”The Foundation’s Community Grant was absolutely instrumental in making this project happen. It covered the material costs of the trees and meadow, and we were able to leverage it to secure other funding. And as long as the site is maintained and continues to thrive, the strategies used to create it can be used elsewhere. This can serve as a model for other projects,” Adrienne believes.