We’re a small group at the DPPC. Luckily, our staff, and in particular Executive Director Cliff Wood, have resources and skills inspired by vibrant creative lives.
As a jazz and experimental musician, Cliff relies on improvisation to connect to audiences. This carries over to his work at the DPPC and the creation of a flexible, resourceful environment (not to mention, some help with fantastic music programming at Greater Kennedy Plaza!)
So what do you do at the DPPC?
I keep the organization focused on our mission to preserve and revitalize Providence’s historic downtown core by transforming it into a lively, cohesive, and prosperous economic and cultural center. This is done through the development and management of exceptional public spaces, such as Kennedy Plaza and Burnside Park. I also advocate for positions and projects that support that cause. With staff and partners, I create programs that support that goal.
What does your creative life consist of?
I’m a musician. I have projects and studies that I do on my own and I play with others and in their bands. Most recently, I’ve joined Afrimanding, a project led by Malian drummer Sidy Maiga and inspired by the musical traditions and styles coming from West Africa.
I started playing with Caitlin Strokosch (ED of Alliance of Artist Communities) when a mutual friend, Shura Baryshnikov invited me to participate in a movement class at the Brown/Trinity Consortium called contact improvisation. It helps actors, dancers and athletes get squared in their bodies and understand flow. We decided to see how improvised music would marry with improvised dance. It worked and since then Shura has been adding music to some of her classes.
I make it up! We work with the people who are moving. It’s neat! One time I had Caitlin come with me, she plays cello. It was fun to play together so we decided to do a rehearsal in the Aurora space, and they liked it. So we were invited to play the first Burnside Inside event at Aurora on January 7th. It’ll be called “Apropro of Nothing.”
“Improvisation is a function of us liking that style, but it also takes less rehearsal time. It’s great for us–Caitlyn is always traveling and it works. I try to take every experience I can playing music. I’ve failed, but again, it’s about showing up and taking those risks.”
How does this relate to your work with the DPPC?
As the Executive Director, I am ultimately responsible for public programming in our park spaces. Sometimes I play with performers in these spaces, which I admit to liking a whole lot.
When I have an opportunity to do music through work, I’ve been able to do it a way that maintains the integrity of the music. It’s a joy to play in our spaces. The arts that happen in our spaces are central to what we are accomplishing. Being a part of that feels like a natural thing.
What’s the best lesson you learned from being creative that you can apply to work–and vice versa?
Being a creative person helps always, but especially in work like ours at the DPPC. This project is covering new ground in Providence, and we are not as well-resourced as most of our colleagues across the country. Creativity, resourcefulness, building new relationships are all critical to our success. They will likely always be.
Your task at hand in both music and place-making is to create a structure–it’s about creating a workplace or environment that best fits people’s abilities.
“I imagine I always liked music . . . we have an interest in music before we’re conscious of it. I started playing in the 4th grade when someone walked into the classroom and asked if anyone wanted to play an instrument. I raised my hand.”
If you want to make progress the most important thing you need to do is keep showing up. When you are a creative person, you just keep showing up–and you can see a quicker return on your procedures and plans. You have to keep creating on a regular basis.
Did You Know…
The DPPC will team up with our partners at Aurora to create an afterwork music series this January called “Burnside Inside”?
Kicking off with “Apropos of Nothing” – the musical project of DPPC Executive Director Cliff Wood, and Alliance for Artist Communities Executive Director, Caitlin Strokosh – this collaboration will be a short winter session of the summer Burnside Music Series.
On Thursdays in January, 4:30-7pm join us at Aurora on Westminster Street! Live music, free admission, beer on tap and a full bar! Check out the facebook event for more info and sign up for our e-newsletter to get updates!
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