Rebel HQ in the East Side Monthly magazine in October. By Mark Binder.

They gather at an undisclosed location
on the East Side. One by one, in pairs and clans, young and old, insured and un, they come to this house near the peak of College Hill, sometimes carrying musical instruments, always bringing good will and bearing gifts of food and wine. They call themselves “Rebels” and this is their headquarters.
For just over a year, Rich and Dorota
Streitfeld and Wayne Bridge have been hosting an art party dubbed “Rebel Headquarters” at their house on the East Side. Sometimes they have a featured artist; sometimes it’s a group show. In September, the art was a collection of elegant bonsais that turned the nooks of this large New England house into a sparse miniature thicket.
The walls of their home are thick with hanging paintings; tables become pedestals
for sculptures and every so often a poet breaks into verse or a belly dancer begins to shimmy. While the grownups talk, there is a second party that consists solely of children, even teenagers, hanging
out with their friends without the grownups in another part of the house.
“We started Rebel in May of 2008,” Dorota explains to me a few days after the September event. Originally from Poland, Dorota came to Rhode Island to visit the Providence Zen Center, met Rich, and has never left. Her European-accented English produces a rushing torrent
of words. “We were part of the Art Motivation meet-up group, started by Stephanie Shechter and realized we had a lot of friends who are artists but who barely ever show their work. We are creative, out of the box thinkers. We also have all these walls so we figured we could hang art on them and invite people over.”
Wrapped in a pink blanket and trying to ward off the first cold of the season, Wayne nods. “There are a lot more artists
than galleries around Providence.”
Wayne and Dorota cleared the walls themselves, painted them in vibrant colors, banged nails, made postcards, and began inviting people. Rich, the third ringmaster, fortunately happens to be a passionate networker, taking special pleasure in meeting people and helping them make connections.
“For me,” Rich says, “Rebel has deepened my appreciation
of art, and helped me to make deeper connections
with people I already knew but hadn’t had a chance to develop a friendship with. Our back door neighbor, Eric? We never saw him, but now we’re buddies. I’m always surprised at the people who come. People who I think might be too busy or too important,
they come, find it unique and just want it to continue.”
While one of the driving missions of the Rebel Headquarters is to display the art, clearly just as important is to present it in a living and breathing environment. “We are committed to equating art with a pleasurable experience, which is not something you always get when you go to a gallery,” Bridge explains. “[We like to think we’re] changing the way people view and respond to art. [Even if that’s all] we can do, I think we’ll have achieved our goal.”
What makes the process so fascinating is that every show at Rebel is unique. One evening there were fire performers
spitting and dancing with real fire. Another month there were photographs by Fredrika Sumelius of gypsy refugees in Macedonia. Last November saw a “Post Thanksgiving” show with works by David Tobin. In January, Jim Barfoot brought in constructions of wood and industrial mind teasing puzzles. One night, Cory Clinton’s chicken wire sculpture of a shark, it’s maw open, floated from the ceiling of the front porch.
The group at Rebel doesn’t play it safe either. Dorota described Deenie Pacik’s work as “very strongly set in gay activism,”
while Eva Stosik-Moers and Kerry Smith’s nudes made some of the adults uncomfortable given the presence of children running underfoot.
“It can be sometimes shocking,” Dorota
admits with a shrug, “especially in a house where everything’s really close. In a gallery, you can [achieve some] distance, but here, it’s right in front of you.”
For her show this past summer, Heather Adels filled most of the walls with paintings of man, beast and flowers, and then went on to create a new body of work that she called, “Fifty-Eight Paintings/
Sixty-One Days.”
“We had to create new ‘walls’ for the 58 by hanging burlap from the ceiling,”
Adels explained. “The living space, eclectic in its own right, is a wealth of color and texture and so it took easily to the accommodations we had to make.” As a result of the Rebel event, Adels sold some of her pieces, secured several other private showings and a show at the 5 Traverse Gallery.
Adels’ experience aside, Rebel is not something
that’s easy to monetize. While sales and shows are desirable, the impetus and driving force behind the art parties is to inspire and collect the people who will meet, blend and then spawn new combinations.
For the first year, the gatherings happened
every month, but after a while the burden simply got to be too great. Cleanup was a chore and one month, Dorota was so exhausted she actually fell asleep in her bedroom and missed the whole gathering. So now, the Rebels gather a bit less frequently, though they remain committed to filling their walls and the tables with art and their home with new visitors and viewers.
“People bring their most rebellious and change-oriented selves to our events and make things happen,” Wayne points out. “The number of connections that occur here is pretty phenomenal – every kind of connection, creative artistic, work. People meet lovers here. That kind of thing just keeps happening. That’s the best part of it, I think.”
The Next Rebel Headquarters will feature
work by Kelly McCullough on Saturday,
November 28 from 6pm until late. We won’t tell you where, because getting there is half the fun. If you go, don’t arrive empty handed. Be courteous because it is a private home. Bring food and drink – enough to share. More info is available at or
Mark Binder is an author, storyteller and nice guy. He lives on the East Side and writes a semi-regular column for this paper.

One thought on “Rebel HQ in the East Side Monthly magazine in October. By Mark Binder.

  1. Ellen Whitfield

    sounds magnifique! i finally understand what all these facebook invitations are about.
    if you want to have a West Coast version, just lemme know…


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