The Call of Lovecraft

August 13, 2013

Fans leave objects on Lovecraft's gravesite in Swan Point Cemetary, Providence, RI.

My summer practicum has been spent, in part, at WaterFire Providence. A much-beloved Providence institution for nearly 20 years, WaterFire is, "an independent, non-profit arts organization whose mission is to inspire Providence and its visitors by revitalizing the urban experience, fostering community engagement and creatively transforming the city by presenting WaterFire for all to enjoy."

My role at WaterFire falls somewhere between an intern and a short-term Project Manager. I'm there to realize a class project that began in January as a very different beast. In our Methods of Public Humanities class, we were assigned to work with Barnaby Evans, Executive Artistic Director of WaterFire Providence. Originally the project involved replicating the WaterFire model in Washington D.C. This project fell through early on and we were instead inspired by the H.P. Lovecraft convention that will hit town in late August.  

Cthulhu Sketch by LovecraftCthulhu Sketch by LovecraftH.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) is a curious figure, often described as the founder of "weird fiction" and a powerful influence on science fiction and horror writers today. Clive Barker and Stephen King both count him among their influences. Lovecraft was born and spent most of his life in Providence and felt deep connections to this "ancient city." A prolific writer of letters, he once wrote to a friend, "I am Providence." In 1977, this famous line was inscribed on a new gravestone created for him by fans and set near his final resting place in Swan Point Cemetery, Providence. Not a very successful writer in his time, Lovecraft has spawned a faithful and devoted following since his death. A large volume of fiction, art, games, and scholarly study attest to his enduring interest.

After many confusing and often-circular conversations at the beginning of our time together, our class project group eventually landed on the idea that would become our semester-long obsession: a mobile app augmented reality walking tour of Providence based on the life and works of the inimitable Mr. Lovecraft. Research, planning, photographing, and furious scribbling at the whiteboard ensued and eventually a 70-ish page proposal was presented to Barnaby Evans.

Over the course of the class project, it became clear that the project had caught the interest of several partners including the organizers of the Lovecraft convention, NecronomiCon Providence. I approached Barnaby to make the realization of this project my summer practicum and forthwith found myself plunged into a world of Old Ones, Deep Ones, and the unspeakable eldritch horrors that lurk around every ancient Providence corner.

I've become involved in numerous Lovecraftian projects while working at WaterFire: art shows; film screening; public talks; giant puppets; live music and new musical compositions; book publications; and the opening of the first SteamPunk Embassy. It's been a whirlwind of activity and a privilege to watch WaterFire make so much happen in such a short space of time. The teenage boy that still lives in my soul has spent most of the summer in a state of ecstatic joy as I get to talk space monsters, alien artifacts, and German resource management board games as part of my daily professional life.

Through all this, my core project has remained the development of the augmented reality walking tour of Providence. We've brought together academic research, creative placemaking, game making, and developing technologies. No single partner has experience in all these areas so there's been much back and forth and we all try to understand each other's expertise and language. What is emerging is the first iteration of something we hope will continue to grow in the future. The stars are aligning at last as the summer comes to a close. The Old Ones stir as their calls begin to be answered...

The full tour launches on August 24th at a full WaterFire lighting. For more information on WaterFire, visit: http://waterfire.org.  To learn more about the Lovecraft convention, visit: http://necronomicon-providence.com

To download the app and for more information on the project, visit: http://calloflovecraft.com.

***
Guest blogger Paul Margrave is a second-year student in the MA in Public Humanities program, reflecting on his summer practicum-a requirement of the MA program- and the development of a mobile app augmented reality walking tour.

Public Humanities Events

Spotlight