Rhode Island’s signature arts and culture festival, PVDFest, which celebrates the city’s vibrant creative sector, is returning to Providence this weekend, bringing with it hundreds of artists and visitors to the city.
Located this year at 195 District Park, the free outdoor festival begins on Friday, Sept. 8, and runs through Sunday, Sept. 10. This marks the first year the festival is happening under Mayor Brett Smiley’s administration, which introduced changes to the beloved festival that first hit the scene in 2015.
While there are some changes — no open containers are allowed this year — revelers can expect another schedule packed with music, art, events, and food for all ages.
Here’s a guide to this year’s PVDFest, including tips about what to do and expect each day. (You can view the full schedule of events on the PVDFest website.)
Day 1: Friday, Sept. 8
The festival kicks off on Friday at 5 p.m., and attendees can either start their evening with eats from one of the 20 vendors at the Food Truck Village on South Water Street, or check out interactive art installations from Pneauhaus at District Park. The two installations, “The Grove” and “Street Seats,” will be on view until 8 p.m.
“The Grove” is an inflatable spectrum of glowing lights meant to look like the mycorrhizal — or “root” — network, said Matt Muller, one of the four artists who created the exhibit. “Street Seats” is a colorful display of inflated tubes people can sit on, he said. The exhibits are open for people to touch, bounce on, and interact with, and will also be displayed on Saturday from noon to 7 p.m., and on Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
At 5:10 p.m., musician EhShawnee will bring her soulful salsa to the main stage at District Park. She will perform with her 12-piece band, and bring an “energy you won’t want to miss,” Providence’s Department of Art, Culture, and Tourism said on Facebook.
At 6:30 p.m., Chachi Carvalho and the International Players bring their blended hip-hop to the main stage. “These artists have established the reputation of bringing the party to every stage,” the PVDFest website said. The performance is scheduled to wrap at 8 p.m.
A ticketed PVDFest Opening Night Party starts at 7 p.m. at CIC on 225 Dyer St. Hosted by Barbara Morse Silva and Mario Hilario of WJAR NBC 10, the party will overlook District Park and provide views of the new PVDFest footprint. The party will feature Empress, a singer, songwriter, and performer based in Rhode Island. Tickets to the event are between $35 and $100.
Day 2: Saturday, Sept. 8
Among the dozens of events on tap for the second day of PVDFest, there a few that stand out.
Day two of programming begins at noon, but guests that want to get an early start can choose from two walking tours that begin an hour earlier. Gallery Night Providence, a local art organization, will take attendees on a tour of Providence’s art scene, starting with the University of Rhode Island campus.
The Bannister Art Community Project — a committee dedicated to celebrating Edward Mitchell Bannister, a prominent 19th century Black artist and founder of the Providence Art Club — will also host walking tours of the city, with a focus on the history of “Christiana and Edward Bannister’s Providence.” The tour starts at 10 Westminster St., and happens again on Sunday at the same time and place.
From noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday (and Sunday), guests can check out the PVDFest artisans market, located along South Water Street, which will showcase some of the region’s best artisans and makers.
A number of musicians will also perform throughout the day, including local singer-songwriter Alyssa Borrelli, who will perform at the PVDFest Lounge from noon to 12:30 p.m., and The Callouts, a Providence-based pop band, who will perform on the Point Street stage from 12:45 to 1:15 p.m.
Grammy award-winning artist Mavis Staples is the Saturday headliner, and will take the District Park main stage from 6 to 7:15 p.m.
PVDFest boasts six stages in all, which offer “dynamic concert experiences,” according to organizers.
The second day ends with a full WaterFire lighting that will illuminate the Providence River starting at 7:05 p.m. The installation features 85 fire braziers floating on the river, which are lit at dusk and will burn until midnight. The spectacle will be accompanied by music and other performances.
Day 3: Sunday, Sept. 10
Early birds can head to South Water Street next to the Pedestrian Bridge starting at 9 a.m. for the PVDFest flea market, which will showcase works from local artists and makers until 3 p.m.
From noon to 6 p.m., an indigenous art market, hosted by Tomaquag Museum’s Indigenous Empowerment Center, will be open for guests at Memorial Park.
The annual PVDFest parade begins at 12:30 p.m., stepping off at the 195 District Park in front of the CIC building, and ending at Memorial Park about an hour later. The signature event will honor Bannister, a leader in the history of American landscape painting.
Mayor Smiley named Helen Baskerville-Dukes and Gonzalo Cuervo as this year’s Grand Marshal honorees, according to the event website.
The parade will bring festival goers through Innovation Park, over the Providence River via the Michael Van Leesten Pedestrian Bridge, and concludes at Market Square. At 1:30 p.m., a new sculpture of Bannister will be unveiled, and Smiley will officially declare Sept. 10 “Edward Mitchell Bannister Day.”
“This is the very first sculpture of a person of color in the city, and the first public art memorial to be installed in many years,” a spokesperson for the Bannister Art Community Project said via email.
Jake Hunsinger and The Rock Bottom Band, a local Americana powerhouse, will conclude the festival with a performance at the Memorial Park Stage from 5:30 to 6 p.m.
Parking and transportation
Several downtown streets will be closed throughout the festival weekend, and event organizers are encouraging the public to bike, rideshare, or take public transportation. Folks driving can park at the South Street Landing Garage, according to the event website. See the festival’s street closure map for details.
Attendees should check the PVDFest website for more updates as additional vendors and artists join this year’s the festival.