The John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities & Cultural Heritage

About the gallery

The Center, founded as the John Nicholas Brown Center for the Study of American Civilization in 1979 and part of Brown University since 1995, offers the leading graduate program in public humanities featuring a range of interdisciplinary courses.

We collaborate on cutting edge scholarly, research projects and exhibitions developed with other departments and centers at Brown and with local, national, and international cultural, arts, and educational institutions.

The Center for Public Humanities at Brown defines public humanities through our teaching, our collaborative projects, and our analog and digital publications. The Carriage House Gallery has two exhibition spaces that present art and history exhibitions throughout the year. Recent exhibitions include Unfinished Business on the history of the Civil Rights movement, and Crossing Borders, a group exhibition of contemporary artwork that engages with migration, identity and memory.

John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities & Cultural Heritage

Brown University
357 Benefit Street
Providence, RI 02912

Phone 401-863-1177

M-F 10-4 except holidays

sabina_griffin@brown.edu

Nearest Parking

On-street parking and self-pay visitor lot at 111 Power Street, 1/3 mile from the gallery.

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July Press Release

The Providence Album, Vol 1 explores the life, look and history of Providence in the 1960s through the photography of Carmel Vitullo and Harry Callahan.

Providence in the 1960s appeared to be a city in decline. Many residents were starting to move out of the city and into the surrounding suburbs at a rate faster than any other American city except for Detroit. Downtown hotels, offices and department stores would close in the 60s and 70s, relocating to the suburbs to chase these residents. As the downtown core emptied out, planners became fixated on providing amenities to attract suburban drivers: wider roads, a more efficient way into and out of the city via I-95 (built 1957-65), and many, many parking lots. It was a tremendous amount of change – even trauma – in such a short period of time, and its impacts fell especially acutely on neighborhoods and residents of color.

The Providence Album, Vol 1 revisits Providence in the 1960s through the photographs of Carmel Vitullo and Harry Callahan, whose powerful images capture the city during this time of tremendous change.

Vitullo, who is now 94 and still lives in Providence, documented Federal Hill during this period; her photographs are a love letter to the neighborhood in which she grew up, revealing its vibrant street life and inimitable characters. Callahan moved from Chicago to Providence in 1961 to found RISD’s photography department. Already a well-known experimental photographer then, Callahan would go on to become one of the most significant photographers of the 20th century. While he lived in Providence, he photographed what was close by; his images of downtown are like the stills of a film noir movie, showing dark and deserted streets, surreal window displays, and well-dressed white women in heels who recall the heroines of Alfred Hitchcock movies.

If photographs are a way of telling stories, the stories that Vitullo and Callahan were telling about Providence were very different, with contrasting narratives about modern urban life, the role of advertising in the public space of the street, and postwar female identity.