City of Asylum collaborates to create ‘River of Words’


Photo courtesy of City of Asylum
Photo from the 2006 Jazz Poetry Concert

By Abbey Reighard

A river is forming on the Northside – but this is no ordinary waterway.

The opening reception for River of Words, which is being hosted by City of Asylum, will be held on July 25, from 6 to 8 p.m.

The River of Words is part of the Garden-to-Garden Artway Series, which is a series of art projects happening this summer that will connect the City of Asylum Alphabet Reading Garden to the new Alphabet City Literary Center currently being constructed at the Garden Theater building.

The River of Words will be a temporary piece made from acrylic words and chalk drawings. The finished project will last as long as the weather permits, according to Henry Resse, cofounder of City of Asylum.

Reese said most of the River of Words will be located along the Garden-to-Garden Artway, but Reese added that some locals who live outside of the designated area selected words, so the project will extend outside of the Artway in some locations.

“We were trying to get everyone involved who wanted to be involved with the project,” Reese said.

Reese said about 50 people are participating in the River of Words, and about 80 words have been chosen by participants.

“Some people picked more than one word,” Reese said.

Participants chose their words and learned about the project at two open houses held on June 12 and June 15 at the Alphabet City Tent. The participants will then decorate their words and hang them on their houses, fences or other outdoor locations where the words can be seen from the street.

“It was really interesting to be in the tent during the open houses,” Reese said. “People told me stories about why they picked the words they picked.”

Reese said the idea for River of Words was proposed to a panel of 10 Northside locals. Over 40 proposals were submitted by artists who wanted to be involved in the Garden-to-Garden Artway Series.

After reviewing the proposals, the panel decided on the River of Words, proposed by three artists from Venzuela who will work together on the project– Israel Centeno, Carolina Arnal and Gisela Romero.

The three artists will add their own work to the River of Words during the final two weeks of the installment, leading up to the open house.

Reese said the rest of the projects that will be included in the Garden-to-Garden Artway series have not been announced yet because they are still in the process of being selected by the council of Northsiders.

Reese said he is excited to see the impact River of Words will have on the community.

“This project allows people to reflect on the word they’re picking and the words their neighbors are picking too,” Reese said. “As people walk though [the River of Words] I hope they’ll get a sense that everyone is sharing in this project. It will bring people together.”

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