By Thomas E. Mills
One of the areas of life that was impacted during the height of the pandemic was arts and culture. Galleries closed, music venues were unable to host concerts, and artists and those who appreciate the arts suffered. As vaccines become more widely available, and gatherings grow increasingly more common, people are looking for new and exciting ways to engage with their community, and the arts and culture are front of mind for many.
The Harvard Ed Portal has geared up for multiple arts and culture offerings for all ages throughout the summer, including opportunities for summer art activities for youth, concerts at the Brighton Farmers Market, an interactive mural outside the Ed Portal, and a public art exhibits.
"Summer arts programming at the Harvard Ed Portal is a critical part of staying connected with our communities at a time when people of all ages are torn between unwinding for fun versus unpacking the muck of last year," said Eve Alpern, the Assistant Director for Arts Programming at the Harvard Ed Portal. "While the Ed Portal building is closed this summer, the partnerships, resources and offerings are as alive as ever. We’re thrilled to offer a creative range of initiatives for our Allston-Brighton neighbors to engage in art locally and digitally, so everyone can participate in the way that works best for their desires and circumstances"
Local artist Kit Collins put together the Puzzle Me, Allston-Brighton mural currently on display outside of the Ed Portal. The mural is a "Where's Waldo" of places and scenes from across the Allston-Brighton neighborhood that celebrates the diversity and vibrancy of the neighborhood. There are two versions of the mural—the one on display in Allston, and one you can visit online and interact with the elements of. Everyone is encouraged to check out the online version, follow the prompts, and answer the questions. When you happen to be passing by the Ed Portal, stop by the real life mural and see it in person.
"My hope is that [Puzzle Me, Allston-Brighton] will spark conversations about the neighborhood," said Collins. "The special value and power of murals is that they disrupt the everyday visual environment and draw our attention to the things we're used to seeing. A big mural in the middle of the sidewalk will make you stop and redirect your attention. Once that redirect has occurred, it's my hope that people will find things in the mural to celebrate and be proud of—recognize, point out to another person, or go visit a landmark from the mural."
Continuing a long-time partnership with the team at Brighton Main Streets, the Harvard Ed Portal is collaborating with the group on a series of 10 concerts at the Brighton Farmers' Market from June through October. In addition to supporting the performing artists, the Ed Portal team is an active presence at the market to connect with the community about ongoing programs and activities available. Art supplies for young people in the neighborhood are available when the Ed Portal team is at the market—these supplies are like those distributed to participants of the virtual youth Summer Exploration program.
“It’s important for the Ed Portal team to be able to visit the Brighton Farmers' Market in person," said Jason Clark of the Harvard Ed Portal. "After a year of only being able to see people virtually, it is a welcome change to be able to see folks face to face again. The market is very festive and a great place for us to engage with members of the community—we're happy to be there!"
In addition to art kits, the Ed Portal is working with Allston Village Main Streets (AVMS) to distribute postcards from the Postcards from Allston project. The project is a collaboration between AVMS and Edward Boches, a Boston/Cape Cod based photographer, who began the series to document the neighborhood and the people who call it home. The Ed Portal is including postcards in the youth art supply kits being distributed—kids are encouraged to use the postcards to learn about the neighborhood and write letters to their neighbors.
With a keen focus on what makes a community a lively place, the Ed Portal worked with Massachusetts-based artists and curators in development of a public art exhibit titled Monuments Reimagined. Monuments Reimagined features artwork by Katherine Megumi Shozawa and is curated by Art In Between, an artist collaborative co-founded by Kelsey Hammond and Brian Hone, a designer and middle school art teacher in Lowell, and a commissioner on the Boston Arts Commission, respectively. The project invites visitors to the Ed Portal, online, or ideally both, to have a conversation about art in public spaces and asks those viewing the project to reimagine the role art has on our communities. The artist, curators, and Ed Portal are looking to continue this conversation into the fall when they are planning a virtual event to explore what public art means to us and our communities. More details will be announced soon through the Harvard Ed Portal website.
"One of the ways people can engage is by actively interrogating the public art in their communities," said Hammond and Hone. "Public art is by definition, public and therefore belongs to us all. For this project, Art In Between is interested in continuing the conversation about public art, especially in light of the ongoing Takedown Movement. Katherine Megumi Shozawa’s piece, belong, asks us to imagine a future in which public art invites all of us to belong."
As the summer rolls into fall, continue to check the Harvard Ed Portal website for more opportunities, events, and programs in the neighborhood.