‘Slatersville’ project on track thanks to grant from R.I. Foundation

‘Slatersville’ project on track thanks to grant from R.I. Foundation

Town Administrator Paulette Hamilton and Director Christian de Rezendes accepted a $15,000 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation to help with completion of a documentary on Slatersville.
Organization will also fund light spheres at River Island Park

PROVIDENCE – Helping a filmmaker near completion on a documentary on America’s first mill village, and adding some artwork to a park at the center of a city, the Rhode Island Foundation included projects from two of the state’s northernmost municipalities among some $500,000 in grants given out in celebration of their 100th anniversary this month.

The organization awarded $15,000 for the production of “Slatersville: America’s First Mill Village,” a two-part documentary directed by Christian de Rezendes of Breaking Branches Pictures. The award was the largest amount offered through the group’s Centennial Community Grant Program.

“Slatersville” has been in production on and off since 2012, and documents the 200-year history of the first industrialized mill village in the United States. To date interviews with 72 individuals have been filmed, eight of whom have passed away, and over 6,000 images have been donated and scanned from a wide variety of sources that tell the story of America’s first planned mill village in a personal, in-depth way. De Rezendes filmed key events back in 2005, where the film was first attempted and later shelved. Hours of 8mm and 16mm film footage from as far back as the 1930s have also been transferred and utilized creatively, and personal letters from as early as 1808, and from as many as a dozen archive sources throughout the country will be voiced to tell the story.

“Community means engaging, entertaining and educating citizens of all ages about the ‘origins of place,’” de Rezendes explained on the application for the grant. “The film will not only work to educate people about the evolution of mill village life in a way not done previously, but it will bring communities together in enlightening and enriching ways.”

It was in December that de Rezendes announced that he had so much material for the historical project, that the documentary would become two films, each telling the story of one century of Slatersville history.

With proper funding, the director expects to have the film completed in less than two years, and additional support has been received from as far away as Melbourne, Australia, where Slater descendant Sharon Fox-Slater and husband-to-be Alan Bishop reside. Fox-Slater discovered the film’s website in 2014, and both she and Bishop have made considerable donations.

Over 150 people have made personal donations on the film’s GoFundMe page, and the film has garnered the support of the R.I. State Council for the Arts, the R.I. Council for the Humanities, and the Blackstone Heritage Corridor, along with variety of companies, museums and archive houses.

“Thanks to the R.I. Foundation grant, donations from Australia and regionally, we will be able to get a lot done this year,” said de Rezendes. “We can get a number of important things filmed that we’ve been putting off, and we can get a lot of editing done.”

De Rezendes said he plans to put some of the funding toward much needed filming in South Carolina and the Norwich/Jewett City, Connecticut area, as well as continued filming of remaining interviews throughout Southern New England, scanning, obtaining of rarely seen images and the like. However, the majority of time over the remainder of 2016 will be on the much-needed editing of the film.

Still, the director said he will likely need at least one more fundraising drive to get to the finish line.

“Right now we are heavily focused on the work ahead for the remainder of 2016,” he said.

The project was among 43 submissions chosen by the R.I. Foundation out of some 200 applications. Also included in the grants were two projects based in neighboring Woonsocket.

The city received $8,500 to install a series of 10 spherical steel wire sculptures along the edge of the park near the Blackstone River, and along the various walking paths. Several spheres will be surface-mounted, while others will be mounted at eye-level to highlight prominent areas of historical significance within the park.

River Island Art Park, identified on the National Register of Historic Places, is a man-made island that began with the creation of a sluice that supplied former textile mills with water power.

The park is considered a landmark for adapted reuse.

“What once was a gathering place within the former mills, now can be a gathering place for local residents to enjoy, as well as an educational tool by linking the present to the past,” explained the application to RIF. “This project in particular promises to highlight the historic and artistic character of this community with steel spherical streetscape structures in River Island Art Park – abstract sculptures that pay homage to Woonsocket’s textile manufacturing past while also transforming the industrial setting into a modern, creative environment for individuals and families to share.”

Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt pointed to the city’s growing commitment to the arts and development of Woonsocket’s arts community.

“The precise location of the Artistic Gardens and wire sculptures continues the tradition of creative expression in Woonsocket: from the St. Ann’s Arts & Cultural Center, to the Stadium Theatre, Beacon Charter School for the Arts, and the Museum of Work and Culture,” she said. “The installation of these proposed streetscape structures in River Island Art Park will tap into the creative vision of our extraordinary community – inspiring those who have big ideas – and transform this park into an inviting place for activities and events, that will encourage residents to become more engaged with their city.”

Support was also granted to The Boys & Girls Club of Woonsocket in the form of an $8,000 grant to restore a basketball court located behind the club on land it recently purchased from the city. As part of the purchase agreement, the club is responsible for updating and renovating the area and providing access to the surrounding community. The grant will provide funding for new bleachers, benches and hoops.

“The renovated and updated complex will fill a void in the community by providing Woonsocket youth with a safe outdoor space in which to play and exercise – a place where a community can strengthen their bond and purpose,” said Daniel Grabowski, CEO and founder of the Boys & Girls Club of Woonsocket.

All the work funded by RIF grants is expected to be completed before the end of the year.

For updates and questions about “Slatersville: America’s First Mill Village,” contact Christian de Rezendes at www.breakingbranchespictures.com .