As part of the Roger Williams Park Conservancy’s “Art for the People’s Park” campaign we were thrilled to work with local artist Brett Day Windham to create the “Coloring the People’s Park” coloring book. “Coloring the People’s Park” is a joyful way for artists of all ages to express their love of the Park, and all of the surprises it offers. Brett took a few minutes to answer some questions about her work, the Park, and her creation of the coloring book.
Brett, you recently returned to Providence after advancing your art career in New York. Why Providence?
“I grew up in Providence, and even got my MFA at RISD. I recently returned here to be closer to my family and to give my son access to all the wonderful things in Rhode Island. I really have traveled all over the place, and Rhode Island still amazes me with all it has to offer, from beaches and parks and farms to food and art and culture.”
You moved to a neighborhood adjacent to Roger Williams Park. Did you do so on purpose?
“Yes! We wanted to be close to the park and the city and an accessible waterfront, so we found a perfect location. Living in New York, park access became a really important part of our life, and we didn’t want to give up the easy peace that walking through the park brings. It’s like an immediate mental reset.”
You have said that color is very important to you in your work. How do you like to think about color in your art?
“Color is a governing force for me, and it dictates the work in so many ways. I think we all have a unique, innate sense of color, and using color in my own really specific way helps me communicate how I want you to look at something, or why I think it’s important.”
You have left the coloring to others in the “Coloring the People’s Park” coloring book you developed. What inspired you in creating this coloring book?
“Well, I loved the idea of taking myself out of the equation, color-wise! It was fun to imagine all the wild color combinations people might come up with from my basic black and white framework. I am interested in collaborative artwork, and this seemed like the ultimate way to collaborate with everybody.
I also thought a lot about what makes coloring books work – do the lines always meet to complete a shape, is there some empty space on the page to facilitate creativity, are there complex and simple images to choose from? I played with scale and types of imagery, and asked myself to draw in a different way than in my normal art practice.
Mostly though, I was inspired by the park itself. I am amazed at the rehabilitation and transformation the Park has had since I was a kid – it looks so beautiful now! It was nice to celebrate it. I have spent so many hours exploring the grounds, and the history of the park is pretty fascinating. I really wanted the book to let kids know that this really is their space too, and for the book to feel inclusive to everybody. There are such diverse cultures and communities living around the park area, and I wanted them to feel represented and included. I also really wanted to represent Native People and their continuing presence on this land, where they have been since long before it was a park.
It’s a lot to hope for from a simple coloring book, and all while trying to keep it fun – but why not?”