Can you go home again?

I was born at Saint Anne's Hospital in Fall River in 1961 (the upside down year) and first moved to Newport on May 19th, 1980–the day after I resigned my commission in the U.S. Army–a fatuous, undisciplined twerp with giant ignorance. And giant passion. After living and working in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris and New York, and a tumbling, humbling 21-year stint as a stay-at-home dad, I've just moved back. I'm wondering if there's going to be any noticeable difference either in Newport or myself all these years and miles later.

Doubtful.

Seriously, I'd like to bring as much purpose and meaning as I can back to my adopted city, to help build a better-educated and more courageous, upstanding, cohesive, and wicked cool community. Let's have some fun, too!

Here are some of my ideas:

 

We're planting our flag in Newport. 

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.

Wuhchew think?
 

I He(art)...

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.

 

Want to park your bicycle with some zip and class?

As designers we believe we have a responsibility to create objects and products that, no matter how trivial or seemingly mundane, are meaningful, unique, and fun. With that in mind, we were inspired to make the zip code bike rack–it's practical, beautiful, encourages healthy living, and shouts out our civic pride loud and clear. 

We see them sprinkled around town, promoting Newport's commitment to healthy living and a cleaner environment, and sponsored by local businesses and private citizens who want to make a positive contribution to our seaside haven. They are the perfect fundraising opportunity, with all proceeds going to support local charities.

Blue is the new green!

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