Fort Adams: Drawing Parallels, Listening for Echoes

Curatorial statement by Anina Major & Odette Blaisdell

Originally established in 1799 as a U.S. military base, Fort Adams has been in a constant state of change, from its reconstruction in 1824, to its transformation to a State Park in 1955. Guarding the entrance to Narragansett Bay, the Fort served as an example of architectural innovation for its time and housed many generations of soldiers. Today it hosts major public events such as the Newport Jazz and Newport Folk Festivals. Drawing Parallels, Listening for Echoes offers yet another use of the Fort, emphasizing that it was never actually utilized for its intended purpose. This exhibition sings the silent reverberations of cannons never fired.

Our exhibition is collaboration between Fort Adams State Park and a team of interdisciplinary students and professors at Rhode Island School of Design. It is a collection of calls and responses to the physical, psychological and historical characteristics of the Fort. Given this unique opportunity, we researched the history of the site, spent time there, and responded to not just the written “truths” of the Fort, but also its psychic energy, the forgotten lives of some of those who lived there, and the implications of its current role.

Our individual site-specific projects are a series of calls and responses. We draw parallels between the multitudinous history of Fort Adams and contemporary issues, engaging themes such as property ownership, femininity, domesticity, environmental consciousness, violence, military warfare, propaganda and language. Understanding that past, present, and future are closely and tightly bound, we uncover and reimagine some of the untold narratives of Fort Adams.

Like history, our work is not limited to just one reading. You may find joy and humor in brightly colored objects that interrupt the overwhelming military architecture or feel lost in a surreally transformed landscape. We encourage you to be receptive to multiple viewpoints as you contemplate how our work and the Fort’s history resonates with your own personal history. It is our hope that this exhibition will serve as another chapter in the history of Fort Adams and a source for unexpected conversations about our various American histories.


Fort Adams: Drawing Parallels, Listening for Echoes site-specific group exhibition was installed from December 3 – 15, 2016 and supported by the Rhode Island School of Design, Academic Enrichment Fund in cooperation with Fort Adams Trust. 

See You're Welcome for my personal response to the space.
Read more about this project at Listening for Echoes at Fort Adams on RISD's blog.

Anina Major