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Last updated: 9/22/06

What’s New:
Library Gallery Exhibit — October 2-26, 2006
Orchards in the Ocean State by Alexander Caserta and Michael E. Bell

The October exhibit in the University of Rhode Island Library Gallery is Orchards in the Ocean State. The photographs in the exhibit were taken by Alexander Caserta, with accompanying text by Michael E. Bell, PhD.

This project was funded through a grant from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independent state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was sponsored by the Cranston Public Library and the Rhode Island Historical Society.

Allan Hill of Hill Orchards, Johnston, pruning an apple tree.
Allan Hill of Hill Orchards, Johnston, pruning an apple tree.

Artists’ Statement

When you bite into an apple, do you think about the processes and people that have sustained such delectable moments since William Blackstone planted Rhode Island’s first orchard in 1635? Orchards in the Ocean State is a window into the taken-for-granted world of apple growing families and orchard workers; a behind-the-scenes view of fruit stands, farmers’ markets, and pick-your-own; of apples from the ‘Yellow Sweeting’ to the ‘Honeycrisp’ and activities from cider-making to pie-baking; of the yearly cycle of planting, pruning, spraying, thinning, harvesting, and marketing. But above all, the central story of Rhode Island’s apple orchards is how growers have balanced the traditional approaches that were handed down to them by their parents and grandparents with changing technology and markets so that they can continue to succeed in a business that is fraught with economic uncertainty. The story of fruit orchards in Rhode Island is, in many respects, a microcosm of small-scale, family-based farming throughout the country.

Chris Jaswell of Jaswells Farm, Smithfield, making cider.

About the Artists

Michael E. Bell has a Ph.D. in Folklore from Indiana University, Bloomington; his dissertation topic was African-American voodoo beliefs and practices. He has an M.A. in Folklore and Mythology from the University of California at Los Angeles, and a B.A. in Anthropology/Archaeology, with  M.A. level course work completed in Archaeology, from the University of Arizona, Tucson. Since 1980, Bell has been an independent public-sector scholar and a Consulting Folklorist at the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, Providence, Rhode Island. He has also taught in Departments of Folklore, English, American Studies, and Anthropology at colleges and universities. He has served as a scholar or consultant on numerous projects, which have taken a variety of forms, including primary research, exhibits, publications, school curricula, workshops and lectures, festivals, performances, and media productions. In addition to many state and local grants, project funding sources have included the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Institution. Bell has a variety of publications and media productions on topics ranging from belief to the occupational folklife of shellfishing on Narragansett Bay. His book, Food for the Dead: On the Trail of New England's Vampires (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2001), was a BookSense 76 Pick and winner of the Lord Ruthven Assembly Award for Best Nonfiction Book on Vampires. Recent projects include Creating Postcards from the Past, Sending Postcards into the Future (the Pawtuxet Village Freedom Project) and Pawtuxet Village: One Space, Many Places. The latter was presented by Voices and Visions of Village Life, the 2005 Rhode Island Preservation Education Award recipient. Dr. Bell is a Commissioner, and former Chair, of the Cranston Historic District Commission.

Alexander Caserta earned a CAGS in Educational Administration from Rhode Island College, a MAT in Art Education from the Rhode Island School of Design, and a BFA from the University of Rhode Island. Caserta is a full‑time instructor of the visual arts and has received two prior grants from the Connecticut Humanities Commission and numerous grants from other funding agencies.  He was an intern with the National Endowment for the Arts and has experience in the development and implementation of proposals in the arts and humanities on the state and local government levels and with educational institutions.  His work has been exhibited in several states through galleries and a traveling show.  He has also been included in the Arts in the Embassies Program with the State Department in Washington, D.C., exhibiting in other countries. Caserta and Bell have collaborated to produce two photographic exhibits (funded by RICH) entitled A Living Museum: History, Oral History and Folklife of the Looff Carousel at Crescent Park and From Bullrakes to Clambakes: The Occupational Folklife of the Narragansett Bay Shellfishing Industry.

Pippin Orchard, Cranston, in the winter.

Special Thanks to the following:

  • Heather Faubert — Entomologist, Plant Sciences, University of Rhode Island

  • The University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension

  • The Rhode Island Fruit Growers Association

The Library Gallery is located on the main floor of the University Library, 15 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 02881. October Library hours are:

Monday-Thursday 8:00 am - midnight
Friday  8:00 am - 8:00 pm
Saturday 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
Sunday 1:00 pm - midnight

For more information, please contact Karen Ramsay at 401-874-4625 or

University of Rhode Island Libraries

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