The Niche is the new blog for the Narragansett Bay Research Reserve. The purpose of the blog is to provide a venue for us to talk about issues we feel are important to the Reserve as well as the people of RI. We want to provide information on the programs and projects we are working on as well as other timely issues. As I was thinking about this inaugural post, one of the ideas that kept surfacing in my mind was how the Reserve is much more than just a place for research and education. Reserves (like many other protected lands) are also places for recreation, inspiration and contemplation. They can refresh the soul and provide perspective on our lives in ways that only nature can do. People need to spend time with nature to be healthy and thrive, even if it’s in a garden, walking through a park or looking over a salt marsh. While I’m frequently chained to my desk at work, I am extremely fortunate and grateful to work in a place as beautiful and special as the Reserve. However, RI is also blessed with a patchwork of preserved lands all around us and that we may never even know they exist. They may be managed by local land trusts, NGOs, conservation commissions, municipalities or other entities. Often they include parking, trails or other access points.
A recent example of this for me, was the discovery of a small nature preserve not far from my home. I had no idea it was there since it was tucked behind a residential neighborhood. While it was only 28 acres, it was beautiful, and I understood why it had been preserved. When I was there, the wild geraniums were in full bloom and the rich smell of organics permeated the air. It just felt fresh. I only spent a short time walking the trails that day, but I felt recharged. I will be back. Most towns and cities have places like this close by, often found in places you wouldn’t expect. Each is special in its own way, and you can find them if you look. The internet and Google Maps is a good place to start. Give yourself permission to take a break and take advantage of these places, even if for a little while.
This segues into the second part of this blog, and that is to talk about the Reserve’s new Artist in Residence (AIR) program beginning this year. While artists have long flocked to Prudence Island for inspiration, the purpose of the program is to connect artists and people with nature, and to increase appreciation and understanding of the natural world. More info on the AIR program, timelines and other details will be coming to our website soon. This year, Monica Shinn, a Providence artist and long-time member of the RI arts community will be working with us to provide outreach to audiences we typically don’t reach while exploring her art amid the various habitats at the Reserve. Monica is a painter and set designer. Her work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions, museums, journals, public works, private collections, theatre productions and films. She is also a 2018-2019 artist in residence at the Wilbury Theater in Providence. We are thrilled to be working with her this year. As part of that outreach she will provide periodic content for this blog throughout her stay and describe what she’s seeing and feeling and what it means to be at the Reserve. While this will be her personal exploration, we hope her experience will resonate with other people and stimulate them to think about the natural world around them. Look for her upcoming posts here. www.monicashinn.com