(Interview transcript with Matt Garza available below)

Artscape Calendar:

Motion State Dance Film Series - Jan. 16

Paula Poundstone at The Vets - Jan. 18

Rise to Black, Sounds of Freedom Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. - Jan. 17 through Jan. 20

Everclear at Greenwich Odeum - Jan. 16

Bob Mould at Narrows Center for the Arts - Jan. 17

Interview transcript:

James Baumgartner: Matt Garza thanks for joining me this morning. 

Matt Garza: Thank you for having me. 

James Baumgartner:  You are one of the artists in residence for the Providence "Parkists" program. Can you tell me what this program is all about?

Matt Garza: Sure. So the Parks Department and the Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism joined forces with the city to create this residency. The way I like to think about it is grappling with complicated history. So the house that I just moved into Is the Esek Hopkins homestead on Admiral street. So Esek Hopkins was a complicated figure, he was foundational to the formation of Rhode Island and was also a key player in the transatlantic slave trade. So with a space like this with so much complicated history, the city decided to open up the space to artists to imagine how can the space hold a different relationship with the community? And how can we openly, safely bravely grapple with this history in a way that feels healing and productive and moving forward. So I'm really grateful and excited to be a part of this and to really think about how to tell this house a story and how to tell my story in relation to the house and my family story in relation to the house. I've only been in the house for a month and I can already tell it's going to be quite a journey.

James Baumgartner: I didn't know that Providence parks had houses in them that could even be lived in. Where did ...Do you know the the origin of the idea of this program?

Matt Garza: I think I don't know the origin. I just I think it's a really innovative idea. And I hope that other cities and other states and other spaces, turn to Providence as an example, because I think, in many ways, I think it's a smart idea to bring artists into complicated spaces that need innovation, you know, an artist's work is to imagine what doesn't exist yet. And so, and I hope to be a model for what it can look like to cleanse and protect a space and to transform a space and to really take these old important houses and and make them more accessible, more inclusive, more empowering for everybody in the community.

James Baumgartner:  Maybe many people have gone by it on Admiral street, and not noticed that there's this house in the park. And what can you tell us about just physically about the house?

Matt Garza: Sure. It was built in 1756. The paint is peeling on the outside badly. So a lot of folks kind of similarly have said like, oh, I've passed by so many times, and I have no idea what is in there. Or folks have been like I know I've passed by on Admiral Street and I don't remember seeing a house. So it's it's obviously an old house, it's been taken care of in many ways. There's actually an entire wing of the house that is yet to be updated. So it's like extra spooky and has like old hand painted wallpaper in it and an original well indoors, which is really cool. And there's on the first floor, there's three parlors, and our intention is to transform that space into the community public space, the glitter goddess galleries, if you will. We're living on the second floor, which has, you know, some bedrooms and a common area, and even a studio space. So it's a big space. It's the biggest space I've ever been able to live in. And then I think what I'm most excited about is that we're living on a park like that's so cool. Even just this weekend, I was looking around, you know, on this gorgeous weekend we have with lots of sun and I see these like massive trees with the thickest trunks I've ever seen in person and just growing freely and it's such a shift from the neighborhood I lived in before where trees are growing out of little concrete squares. So, you know, I think I'm still starting to notice and build more awareness about what it means for me to be living on a park. What it means for my family to be living on a park and I personally have an affinity for a spook. And so I'm really enjoying that piece where there's, you know, little crawl spaces and attics that are definitely on the spookier side.

James Baumgartner: Do you know what the space was used for before you moved in?

Matt Garza: I know that it has been fairly inactive and underutilized in the more recent past. I know that Esek Hopkins family donated it to the parks department as an explicit intention and in support of conserving nature and conserving public space in cities. Since then, I know it was predominantly a museum like a colonial museum, you know, turning butter, making quilts, that kind of thing. So most people when I say we're moving into this house have said, most people who know about the house have said, Isn't that a museum Are you moving into a museum? And in a way it does. It feels like we're moving into a museum. It feels like our life has turned into art to be in the space. So it's pretty trippy. It's a lots of process.

James Baumgartner: Eventually, what do you see people being able to view and experience when they come to the park, either outside in the park or in the house.

Matt Garza: The way we've been thinking about this residency so far, is in two parts. First, is the glitter goddess galleries, which would be the community space on the first floor. We hope to share our personal work as a collective of three and individual work as well. Anthony and I also as a couple create work together. So we're hoping for that to be a space for us to share our work. [We'll have] living room concerts, POC (People Of Color), centered living room concerts, queer centered living room, concerts, gallery shows as well with openings, especially leading into installation, protest art, performance art, elevating the voices in our community and creating space for people in the community to share their truth and to relate to this complicated history directly. That's one piece. And then the other piece would be the house of glitter Dance Company, the house of glitter performance lab and that is really our laboratory to think as independent artists and as a collective and to create our own voice in this in this new reality, if you will, of being on this homestead. I'm living in a house with this crazy history and and that I that I'm excited every day I'm unearthing new things about the home and its story and the history of the trees and who's passed through. I think I'll continue to just unearth and learn more and connect with local researchers and historians around what is relevant and meaningful to the story that needs to be told. So this homestead also feels like a space for the glitter goddess collective and for the house of glitter dance company to bring our work. So some pieces that we've been working on: first is a piece called unraveled. It's essentially 33,000 feet of yarn. And the idea with unraveled is the importance of unraveling and kind of de-mechanizing our body and de-mechanizing our mind, you know "falling out of the matrix" and and letting things get messy and and allowing yourself to break some of the social norms that you might not question in your day to day life. So what that looks like is a big tangled ball of yarn. And then the other piece that unraveled is also about, you know, organizing that mess and cleaning that up and so unraveled is a participatory piece. That's really fun. We had it in our old space before moving into the homestead, it'll be a place for people to come play. Our work is very much centered around play and the healing properties of play. But it's making a big mess rolling around in so much yarn.

James Baumgartner: You have a day job as well which is...

Matt Garza: Yeah, I do.

James Baumgartner:  ...which is working at TAPA, can you tell me a little bit about that?

Matt Garza: I am so grateful to call TAPA my home. This is my fifth year working there. I'm the dance artist in residence, the creative director of the TAPA Dance Company. TAPA - Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts - is a public Performing Arts charter school here in downtown Providence. You know, I have students that live around the neighborhood, you know, in Chad Brown and across the street so I'm really pumped. Even just having my students kind of help move in in December with was really powerful and for them to see, wow, this is something that is really going to change, like our experience over the next two years, and we have new space to rehearse and to create a new space to feel safe. We have permission to make art about racism and white supremacy and sexism and the patriarchy. And those are things that we often feel like we're pushing against, and now we have permission and space and funding and support. And that's a really good feeling. So I'm excited to see what that freedom and support turns into over the next two years. I want to say that I'm extremely honored and I take this responsibility really seriously. You know, I one of my roles at TAPA is as the Dean of diversity, equity & inclusion and in addition to running the dance department and so I see this as equal parts are making an equal parts community organizing and social justice work and political activism work. You know, as an art collective Trent, Anthony and myself are occupying this space. We have permission And we're going to make art on our terms and the negotiation that will happen with the city. And, you know, even though this is a supportive experience, you know, white supremacy is still a part of the structure that exists in our government. And so we're prepared to, like, have those negotiations and have those peaceful, warm loving conversations with our government, and make sure that there's justice being done to us in the space and to our people in the space. And so I welcome that work and the activism work and that relational work that's to be done. I take it super seriously. And I'm just so passionate this is this is what I live and breathe. So I'm feeling grateful. I'm feeling excited. I'm feeling open and so if anyone listening is excited to share their ideas or has opinions, you know, we want to bring those to the table and we want to work with them. We want to bring all that messy yarn to the table and create something beautiful.

James Baumgartner: That's great. Garza thanks so much for talking with me today.

Matt Garza: Thanks for having me.