Mashapaug Pond Procession – UPP Arts

Mashapaug Pond Procession – UPP Arts (2007-Present)

Mashapaug Pond Procession :: Urban Pond Procession :: UPP Arts

These names reflect the evolution of a project I initiated with artists, two schools and a Buddhist temple in Providence, Rhode Island, in 2007. It began as a one-time project focusing on a single pond, Mashapaug Pond, but turned into annual programming with emphasis on the connectivity of the watershed. The Urban Pond Procession recently became its own nonprofit organization, UPP Arts, with potential to grow into a model for addressing the health of waterbodies near and far.

I have guided this growing group of artists, scientists, historians, educators and concerned citizens as they collaborate to promote the health of our urban ponds. We have engaged local schools, families, youth and the community at large in arts- and humanities-based workshops and events, emphasizing the environmental plight of local waterbodies.

Hundreds of students have been introduced to water quality issues, particularly the impacts of storm water runoff and industrial toxins on Providence’s hidden Mashapaug Pond and the ponds of Roger Williams Park. We helped these youth synthesize related environmental and  history lessons into the production of creative works ranging from a floating sculpture, ceramic mural and stop-motion animations, to an adventure film, informational video and pictorial signs. An annual feature of our work is a multi-neighborhood procession that enables students to educate the public through performance, presentations and artwork.

From 2011 to 2014, our work was deepened by my collaboration with oral historian, Anne Valk, and students at the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage at Brown University. The collaboration bridged disciplines, connected the university with local communities, and built relationships across time and space with the goal of addressing conditions of the ailing pond. A digital archive at Brown University preserves over 50 interviews and 20 research papers by students, as well as a mobile app and two educational websites, featuring an audio tour,, and an exhibit catalogue, .   The archive is a permanent resource for educators and researchers of this previously lightly documented area, which is rich in industrial, activist and social history.

In 2014, we incorporated as UPP Arts and applied for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. As Artistic Director, I continue to guide and facilitate the organization’s artistic vision while enabling more artists to develop a place-based art practice through projects in schools and public spaces that build community stewardship of water and the environment.

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The Procession

Third annual procession startsBowing in reverence after poem is readBoy in fish costume smilesProcession gathers by water in parkUPP works its way though ElmwoodBig Nazo led by Phil EdmondsSigns and costumes created by youth and artists

Working with the Community

Ewald shares information about enviornmental issues with studentsStudnets make flags for processionHighlander students make flagsWorking on flag at HighlanderFlag making on resident's lawnEwald and Allard led art workshopsVisitors at park make flags


The Procession

Puzzle ManProcession progressesGroup at end of processionSave the bay shares information at boating center


The Procession and Completed Signs

Children in costumeResidents see processionWhat Cheer lead processionSign designed by a 6th grade classSign designed by a 6th grade classSign designed by a 6th grade classSign designed by a high school class

Working with the Community

Students collaboratingStudents learn to silkscreenCollage by graphic design studentsBoy explains object's significance at templeCambodian girl working on costumeStudents work on bannerMap of pond