The vision is simple: to restore the heart and soul of the City of Newport by transforming it back into a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly community, an invaluable investment in the quality of life for both its residents and the tourists who come to visit too.

And the easiest way to start is to turn the eastern half of America’s Cup Avenue, from Long Wharf to Thames Street into America’s Cup Park, with a bicycle path and grass running the whole length. Benches and bikes will invite everyone to slow down, and enjoy the beauty that is our unique and special city. The eastern half of America’s Cup Avenue will become a two-way street, not the unappealing 4-lane “stroad” that it is now, dividing and dangerous.

Queen Anne Square can be very easily extended across Thames Street to become a pedestrian walkway, and for a gazebo to be built, much like the one in King Park, which will become the center of the city’s activities, a “common,” the literal grandstand for our collective and important voices. Parades can finish here; Memorial Day speeches given, band concerts enjoyed, art exhibits and dance and theatrical performances welcomed.

 

The rest of the transformation of Newport from touristy and traffic to citizens and community will follow along naturally. The farmer’s market will enliven America’s Cup Park every weekend. Scheduled music at the gazebo will entertain and enrich. Visitors walking and biking around town will be not only accommodated, but encouraged. Residents will be inspired to shop locally, gathering together in the evening to people and sunset watch in the park(s), and everyone happily connecting instead of complaining about cars and always hopping in their own to come or go anywhere.

Phase two: extend the bike path north all the way to the roundabout along the railway, with a “Park and Cycle” for out of towners coming to visit. Free shuttle-bus (or let's bring back the old-school tram!) service. And then south along Memorial Boulevard to First Beach, with special bike parking areas located throughout the city.

In short, exactly the family-oriented and green environment, with the hometown convenience, ease, and pride Newport used to have a hundred years ago.

   

 

We're planting our flag here. 

Cities have a fantastic opportunity to encourage civic pride by turning their citizens into literal flag wavers, but the sad truth is most municipal banners are known as SOBs (Seals on a Bedsheet). Even though Newport’s flag is historically significant, it probably won’t delight any of the residents or tourists who don’t know its importance:

 

 

With that in mind, we thought we’d re-design the Newport flag to capture the inspired and inspiring spirit of the City by the Sea.

According to the Vexillological Society, there are a few rules for designing an authentic and memorable flag, and we thought we’d lay them out here as guidelines for everyone to understand, and judge by. First, a flag’s design must be simple–a six year old should be able to draw it from memory. Second, it should have meaning and appropriateness. Third, two ­or three colors, max. Fourth, no text or writing. Fifth, it should be original, and/or related to other flags or symbols associated with the city.

 

We thought a modified swallowtail burgee would be exactly right even though most flags are rectangular–since this distinguishing shape is associated with boating in general and yacht clubs in particular – perfect for Newport given its maritime heritage and exciting sailing culture. We chose navy blue for trust and truth (and the ocean) and white for light and purity–the same color scheme as the Rhode Island state flag. 

The 5-pointed star is a nod to the Navy, a welcome long-time resident and partner in Newport’s growth and reputation, going all the way back to the Revolutionary War.

The smaller, superscript star multiplies the first star’s power exponentially, and visualizes perfectly the multitude of wonders and events that can be found in Newport. It's also a hat tip to the North Star, used by explorers for centuries to navigate, and the mariner at sea’s best friend.

We suggest a contest for a Newport flag redesign, and let the people decide.

 

I He(art)... Newport

Art has the power to transcend the everyday, and to universalize the fun and the happiness that we might be feeling, as well as help all of us to overcome together the pain and suffering that’s in our lives. Unfortunately, most public art is decorative and static–which is a shame, because we think art, especially dynamic installations, are the perfect way to engage and empower people–and there’s almost no place to do that anymore in the real world.

We have one whole wall in our kitchen painted like a chalkboard, which we call “The Wall of Knowledge,” and everyone who comes into our home is eager and welcome to write something on it. And they do: some draw incredible art, others sign their names and when they visited; others make lists of movies or write down recipes. We’d prefer actual knowledge, but some geniuses just want to draw smiley faces. Seriously, it’s the center of our family gatherings and is a great reminder of the fun we’ve had long after the holiday/party’s over. Every so often we’ll wipe it off, and then start with a clean slate, so-to-speak.

 

 

Our idea is for a public art installation that replicates this tactile and personal focus on family, community and sharing, but on a larger scale. This time, we’d like to call it “I HE(ART)...” and in this case it would be “NEWPORT.” This simple slab of “chalkboard” concrete would be approximately 6’ high and 24’ long, and about 6” thick. We think Queen Anne Square would be the perfect place for it, since this beautiful public space is the spiritual center of Newport, visible and welcoming to everyone. We would have a chalk dispenser on site, and for $1 anyone can get a piece of chalk and leave their mark, literally, on the world. 

The best part about this art piece is that it’s self-renewing, and evergreen: every time it rains the wall’ll be washed clean and the people, tourists and residents alike, can bring out the collective, inspired art in themselves once again.

The Zip Bicycle Rack.

We'e already talked about our plan to turn Newport into a bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly city, and we can see these bike racks sprinkled around town, promoting Newport's commitment to easy (and cheap!) transportation, healthy living, and an overall cleaner environment as a great first step. Newport has the potential to be such a bike-friendly city, and since almost everybody already has one, it's a win-win all around.

Sponsored by local businesses and private citizens who want to make a positive contribution to our seaside haven, these "Zip Racks" are the perfect fundraising opportunity, with all proceeds going to support our various community needs.