Alums who do cool things: WaterFire founder Barnaby Evans ’75

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WaterFire is often cited as one of Providence’s premier attractions and an event which every Brown student should experience at least once in his or her time here. It’s no coincidence, then, that WaterFire founder and Executive Artistic Director Barnaby Evans ’75 attended Brown, back when the New Curriculum was still new and Providence was an entirely different city. He spoke with us about his influences, his goals, and how WaterFire and the multi-disciplinary, international nature of Providence are influencing projects across the globe.

BlogDH: What drew you to Brown?

Evans: Absolutely the New Curriculum. I was fascinated that a university was going to affirmatively talk about the importance of cross-disciplinary scholarship and engagement, and I think that we’ve made such great advances in many fields… but there’s a tremendous amount to be learned about the dialogue and the areas between fields. And that’s what I liked about Brown; that Brown wasn’t accidentally going to engage that. It was going to go head-on and say ‘this is important.’ You saw that in a lot of different things, like the way the medical program is set up.

BlogDH: Was there anything particularly formative about your time at Brown that you think helped influence your development of WaterFire?

Evans: I think Brown opened a whole series of universes to me in a very graceful way, and caused me to realize the complexity and interdependence of many of these departments, so that I was comfortable engaging in different dialogues of different disciplines in a way that I don’t think I otherwise would have been. And there’s a great balance at Brown, I’ve found, between the dialogue of making a decision, the rigorousness of the scholarship, and also the engagement to make a difference and make a positive change. You’ve got to have all those things balanced together, and I think Brown does that and, more specifically, the student who chooses to come to Brown does that. Of equal importance is what I learned from my fellow students as what I learned from my professors at the institution. There’s a collegiality and a professionalism at all levels that I think exemplifies liberal education, and I think Brown should be very proud of that.

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