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Newport, RI —In the Waves, a site-specific, contemporary outdoor artwork by renowned artist Melissa McGill will be installed on the lawn of Newport Restoration Foundation’s Rough Point Museum in the summer of 2021. The public exhibition of McGill’s installation is organized by Art&Newport in collaboration with Newport Restoration Foundation, and it furthers NRF’s efforts to raise awareness of the threat posed by sea level rise to cultural heritage. The artist hopes that her vision will ignite a conversation about the issues of sea level rise and climate change within the Newport community and beyond.
“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to work with an artist of Melissa McGill’s caliber,” said Mark Thompson, NRF’s Executive Director, “and we acknowledge the very generous support of Art&Newport, which has made this collaboration possible. For some time, we had hoped to work with an artist who could help us explicate the issues encompassed by our Keeping History Above Water initiative. Through the work of Melissa McGill and with the assistance of Art&Newport, this aspiration is becoming a reality.”
Melissa McGill is an interdisciplinary artist who creates large-scale, site-specific art projects and works in a variety of media, including photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, sound, light and immersive installation. A graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, she is most recently known for her work, Red Regatta. The public art project debuted in Venice, Italy in May 2019, and filled the city’s waterways with 52 traditional vela al terzo sailboats, hoisted with hand-painted red sails. According to McGill, the project “celebrate[d] the city’s maritime history and calls attention to the forces of climate change and mass tourism that threaten its future.”
McGill’s next project, In the Waves is a developing proposal for a public art installation at Rough Point in Newport, Rhode Island. It is sited specifically for the large open landscape between the ocean and the built environment, as we imagine the rising sea connecting the two. The project will evoke this urgency due to the rapidly changing climate.
“My most ambitious large scale public projects, Constellation and Red Regatta, speak of our relationship to the sea, as will In The Waves in Newport,” said McGill. “In The Waves encourages us to consider Rough Point as the seas rise. I watch and listen to the waves and they seem to deliver messages of past, present and future in their ebb and flow. I was born in Rhode Island, and returned for my college years at Rhode Island School of Design. The sea here stirs my memories and also my concern that much of Newport will be under water in the not too distant future.”
Melissa McGill is currently visiting Newport to further study the sea and its shore and make studies and art works as she develops In The Waves, including a series of gestural wave drawings that almost appear as poems on the page. These drawings are “written” with rocks specifically found at Rough Point and will be drawn on site. McGill is staying at Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown, RI through their artist-in-residence program.
Programs and public discussions at Rough Point will be part of the In The Waves project, with the artist, the community, and experts in the field.
Rough Point Museum is located at 680 Bellevue Avenue in Newport, Rhode Island. Rough Point was originally purchased by Fredrick W. Vanderbilt and built in 1891 by architects Peabody & Sterns. It is most well known as the Newport home of heiress Doris Duke. Residing on nearly 11 acres of oceanfront property, the 38,000 square foot mansion houses an extensive collection of fine and decorative arts. Doris Duke bequeathed the home to the Newport Restoration Foundation upon her death, and Rough Point has been open to the public as a museum for 20 years.
A preservation organization at its core, Newport Restoration Foundation also developed the climate change initiative Keeping History Above Water® to address the challenges posed to historic buildings and neighborhoods from sea level rise and increasing storm activity. The first Keeping History Above Water® conference was organized and hosted by NRF in Newport, Rhode Island in April 2016. Inspired by the success of this inaugural initiative, NRF has sponsored and participated in Keeping History Above Water® conferences, workshops, and programs in Annapolis (conference, 2017), Palo Alto (workshop, 2018), Des Moines (program, 2018), St. Augustine (conference, 2019), and Nantucket (conference, 2019). The sixth iteration of the conference is scheduled to be held in Charleston, South Carolina on March 14 -16, 2021.
About the Newport Restoration Foundation
The Newport Restoration Foundation (NRF) is a non-profit organization established by philanthropist Doris Duke in 1968 to preserve the architectural and cultural heritage of 18th and 19th century Newport. NRF promotes economic and community restoration through historic preservation initiatives like Keeping History Above Water, which addresses the impact of sea-level rise on the built environment in the wake of climate change, and the Historic Trades Initiative, which harnesses the knowledge of local specialists to train the next generation of preservation craftspeople. In addition to a collection of more than 70 colonial houses, now rented to tenant stewards, NRF operates properties that are open to the public —including Rough Point, the Newport home of Doris Duke, and The Vernon House, a site of expansive storytelling, contemporary dialogue, and preservation trades skill-building.
NRF is on Facebook /NPTRestoration and Instagram @NPTRestoration. Visit newportrestoration.org for more information.