Explore the ideas, initiatives, brainstorms... wild notions!... in the workshop notes below:


Notes From Workshop #29: Facing History: Enriching Boston's Historic Places Through Art

november 30, 2016


CATALYSTS FOR CREATING NEW – AND STRENGTHENING EXISTING -- SOCIAL NETWORKS: Arts in public places as tools for individual and community healing

  •  How – and at what scale – can art in public places heal communities?
  •  What – and where – are the opportunities for implementing such art?
  •  What are some of necessary characteristics of “collection points” -- that bring together the arts and the public?
  • How can such initiatives be sustained?

These questions, and others, were the focus of this workshop, taking place during a period in which healing is critical. We examined this subject from multiple perspectives and contexts, with opening input from the worlds of music, light art and technology, and public health.

Helping to establish this framework were: Courtney Grey, Founder, Kilombo Novo Indigenous Healing Arts; Rebecca Strauss, Music Director, Riverview Chamber Players (http://www.riverviewchamberplayers.com; Bevan Weissman, Co-Founder, New American Public Art (http://www.newamericanpublicart.com).

Participants brainstormed new initiatives in the arena of arts in public spaces, with some leading questions:

  •  How would you -- informed by your environment, profession, community, personal perspective – apply them to create your own “catalysts?”
  • What are your definitions or illustrations of “healing” – at whatever scale?
  •  Where can those definitions or illustrations take places?
  •  Who participates?

From the workshop:

Thanks to Darrell Ann Gane-McCalla, Jackie Gonzales, Max Stearns, Marina Sutton


Opening remarks:

Rebecca Strauss

  • Harmony & Hope: 5/13/16 “Responding to Violence with Music”
    • concert for victims of homicide - mostly youth and children!
    • this concert brought people to Arlington Street Church that never go to that part of town
    • concert bridged gap in demographics and race
    • wants to create summer concerts in the Roxbury community
    • future concert at First Church of Roxbury
    • trying to help people claim public space, lot of people in various demographics afraid to cross
  • Certain neighborhood divides
    • healing by bringing people together!
    • art-making as an act of healing!
    • creating resilience for people!
    • “third space” a sociological term! !

Courtney Gray

  • In Boston, Clara Wainwright: communal quilt-making while talking about community issues!
  • In Philadelphia: making mosaics on walls of empty lots; using the rubble to beautify
  • Unsightly local space; community working together and taking possession of the space

Bevan Weissman

  • Our Self project in Camden, NJ: using digital media; soundbite stories collected in community
  • Giving the digital media a physical presence in the public realm by building a moveable sculptural object that can be engaged with by viewers/listeners!
  • No one vandalized the piece; shows a respect for the art and the stories

General discussion

  • How do you qualify and quantify the impact of public art?
  • How do you fund public art? How do you argue spending all that money when there are many more practical things that need to be funded?
  • Art as a “catalyst,” as a point of departure: don’t have to solve all the problems
  • People leave their mark on a space or an art piece
  • What kinds of initiatives can generate healing at whatever level?
    • Intertwined healing of individuals, families, neighborhood, community: all need to be healthy
    • In what ways are the words “resilience” and “healing” parallel? In what ways are they different?
    • Challenge: how to demonstrate value to the community, financially and every other way
  • Consider the healing impact of the space itself in which an event (e.g., Riverview Chamber Players’ “Harmony and Hope”) or other initiative (e.g., New American Public Art’s “Our Self”) is taking place or is installed  
    • Arts can blur demographic lines
    • Art (visual, performance) should be everwhere, part of daily life
    • Mainstream Boston vs. “mini-Bostons”: latter unable to reclaim space in former
    • Art should not be tailored to certain type of healing
  • Reclaim/reimagine spaces – third spaces – that can create healing while also creating new or strengthening existing social networks
    • Art can allow people to feel ownership over their space
  • Partnerships/collaborations critical in conceiving of/designing healing initiatives
    • Incorporate the community: “My voice is there; I’m part of what’s been created.”
    • For true community engagement, relinquish control, give ownership to community players
    • Lots of different players need to be involved to create healing spaces
    • “Our Self,” project from New American Public Art: “the voices protected it: the community kept it safe.”
    • The artist creates context – space, structure – for contributions by/from the community
  • Building a portal to an oasis
    • People crossing boundaries, going to places they wouldn’t normally go

    • Kinds of oases? Gardens?

  • Follow-up workshop: Designing the “oasis”: process...product...results, including longer-term impact

Notes From Workshop #28: Civic Innovation, Digital Media, And Arts In Public Places

October 4, 2016


  •  What, and where, are the possibilities for a collaborative interplay among these three?
  • How can each take advantage of the other two in order to co-invent and sustain an expanded practice of civic engagement, a deeper definition of community, and overall a newly-enriched civic life?
  • How can – or should -- such collaboration account for the particulars of the places and the publics within which and for whom such initiatives might be designed and implemented?
  •  And what are some possible outcomes?

These questions, and others, were the focus of this workshop -- itself a collaboration involving not only BostonAPP/Lab but the Engagement Lab at Emerson College and the Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. Participants were given the opportunity to brainstorm approaches to this co-invention — as artist, as programmer, as community leader, as citizen — and to begin outlining an action agenda by which to bring these emerging ideas to fruition.

A recent quote from an unknown source: “Collaboration is not about gluing together existing egos. It’s about the ideas that never existed until after everyone entered the room.”

Which pretty much describes what happened.

[Many thanks to Christina Wilson, E-Lab, and participants Candy Yang and Jackie Gonzalez]

Legacy Lives On - community org

·      Mothers of children who were killed by gun violence (Roxbury / Dorchester)

·      Violence up in the summer, loss of access to safe outdoor public spaces

·      Can we use music/dance/performance to activate safe spaces in these neighborhoods

·      Create opportunity of members of the community to express themselves and perform, as well as bring artists / dancers / musicians


·      Creating a space for recognition of diverse expertise across divides is critical (youth/seniors, racial, economic, drivers/cyclists, etc.)

o   Essential to have that mutual acknowledgement of what different stakeholder groups bring to the table

·      Short-term effect → trust, civic relations

·      Long term effects → traces of the project in the community (material or social capital)

Case Studies

1.     National Alliance for Media, Arts and Culture (http://www.namac.org)

·      50 States at a party (dinner party hosted by community artists / activists → bring their own vision, food, perspectives): http://www.namac.org/youth-media-collective-action-dinner-future/

o   Provides a toolkit for how to host the dinner party and build on outcomes from the party

2.     Project in China

·      Children kidnapped and forced to perform as beggars

·      Community activated on social media creating a Twitter campaign

·      Low barrier to participation - snap a photo, note time and location, tweet with hashtag

·      Police using the incoming data to follow-up officially and locate children

3.     Bamboo Bicycle Project (also in China): http://bit.ly/2dVT0od

·      Building new mobility culture through people crafting their own bamboo bicycles

·      Link to similar project in Boston: http://www.bamboobicyclesboston.org/

4.     Experimental Project

·      “Traveling in Your Own Room” project: http://www.yanqingyang.com/voyage-around-my-room

·      Exploring private spaces as a way of de-isolating people, creating community, becoming more intimate

·      Digitally curated online exhibition

·      Building on that, perhaps we could use Twitter to make community reps more approachableà question that could prompt city councilors to share details about their personal space, be more open with the public

·      Based on Key/Story Museum

o   Artist asked people to send key intended to be thrown away, and a story to accompany it

o   Artist/history/community à build collective memory

o   Ritual provides an important way to make sense of (hi)story in community

5.     Museum of Broken Relationships (Croatia)

·      Responding to the break-up of Yugoslavia

·      People prompted to send in items that were meaningful to them and sharing a story about the object

·      What would it mean to have a conversation or share a story (or history) across a (cultural) divide in the City of Boston?

What is meant by “activating civic engagement”?

·      Metaphor, at all scales (and as exemplified in the case studies), as a power tool for civic engagement

·      Building social networks / trust

·      Wanting to be part of positive change

·      Moving from tool to facilitation/process

·      What is the skill, the resume that is built? → Civic capacities (trust / empathy)

·      Moving from attentiveness to caring

·      Nurture caring

·      Sometimes caring means taking action, but it can also mean NOT doing something (not breaking/ destroying a thing in public space)

·      Triangulation between expression / witness / civic caring

·      Need a prompt that focuses the attention on something beyond a person’s job, but rather a way to get at identity mediated through the aura of an object or a story

 Further post-workshop thoughts on engagement (from artist/workshop participant Candy Yang)

1.     Why engagement:

·      to raise the awareness (eyes open)

·      to be empathetic and caring (hearts open)

·      to activate action (body participation)

2.     Who to engage:

·      focus on collaboration rather than individuals -- governments, different community groups, academics, professional individuals – to create a group effect

3.     What to engage (or what value can we provide to participants through their engagement with our projects)

·      a new/fun experience

·      building a collective memory through sharing and making sense of personal stories

·      allowing my words/world to be seen (such as this public art project on which participants can place their promises on a big billboard: http://www.nowandthere.org/publictrust/)

·      building connection through deeper understanding

·      healing current tensions

4.     How to scale up the engagement

·      media consumption and meaning making: everyday we spend so much time on consumption of digital media: how to let participants feel that they are creating something meaningful through engagement. 

·      consider participation scenario: allow participation at anytime/anywhere through digital media; or design the engagement based on different life contexts and scenarios

Notes from Workshop #27: Facing History: Enriching Boston's Historic Places Through Art

July 27, 2016


For the last 50+ years, Historic Boston, Inc., has been devoted to restoring and repositioning much of the historic fabric of Boston’s neighborhoods. Overseeing a remarkable portfolio of sites ranging from the Eliot Burying Ground in Roxbury to the Everett Square Theatre, the organization’s mission goes far beyond one of maintenance to one of activation and enlivening the urban environment.

Working with BostonAPP/Lab, HBI is now eager to engage artists in opening up new perspectives on some of the elements of this fabric:

  • How might public artists respond to one or another of the places and spaces within this portfolio?
  • Through deployment of whatever technologies or disciplines are deemed appropriate, how might artists open up new perspectives on Boston’s history and on the physical – and the related social -- components of that history? 
  • How might artists provoke a kind of “reimagining” of one of Boston’s historic sites?
  • How, in fact, does activation through art contribute to a broader and deeper definition of preservation?
  • How, and with what resources, can the ideas emerging from the workshop begin to be implemented?

This workshop first introduced participants to the shape and scope of Historic Boston, with a more in-depth examination of several specific sites. For the major part of the workshop, participants were given the opportunity to brainstorm responses to these sites – via the questions posed above as well as questions that haven’t yet been asked! Leading the discussion was Kathy Kottaridis, executive director of HBI.

Kathy began with an overview of Historic Boston’s portfolio, underscoring the organization’s role as a developer while promoting vibrancy in its preservation of historic places.  HBI will, for example, renovate a place and then sell it to investors, with stipulations.

Part of that vibrancy comes about through telling the story behind the place while saving it. Why was it brought back? And in bringing it back, what does it mean to “work with art” in the context of historic structures/places? What role can art plan in “extruding” history from a place?

 With participants divided into three groups, much of the workshop focused on generating responses to these questions. The results follow. We will be digging into this list, hoping to identify short-, medium-, and long-term possibilities as well as sources of support. 

We invite readers to respond to this list with comments, additional ideas, recommendations for specific sites, etc. Drop a line to info@bostonapp.org, with “Historic Boston” in the subject line; you’ll hear from us soon enough!

Table 1

  • Artists engaging with spaces
    • Call to artists within community to provide something temporary to evoke/engage with identify/history of spaces
    • Art scavenger hunt, a la Pokemon Go (virtual/dynamic media; augmented reality
  • Some sort of digital platform based on personal interests/place/location
  • Co-working maker spaces as way to repurpose spaces
  • Interactive exhibits that engage people
    • Film viewer, a la ”ViewMaster,” to include historic images
    • All installations should be accessible to all
  • Temporary vs. permanent
  • Call to artists inspired by some aspect of a place’s history
  • Permanent art that stays relevant, that doesn’t blend into the background
  • Digital art that isn’t broken after a while
  • Develop Boston historic app that lets you overlay information

Table 2

  •  “Enriching”: who is enriched, and how?
    • Homesteading
    •  Transitional artists’ residences
    •  Programming: live events
    • Augmented reality; overlay; non-hardscape
    • Curating tenants/businesses – experiences
    • Temporary spaces for tenants; pop-up areas; theatrical installations
    • Family activities
    • Rotating exhibits
    • Spaces for public events: e.g., block party/music festival; family activities
    • Tenants as part of the curatorial process
  • Tithing: % for arts
  • Didactic vs. emotive: not a plaque
  • Access technical resources, e.g., MIT Media Lab
    • Interactive works
    • Cf. NAPA “Culture Tap” in front of BCA: accessing recorded voices of South End residents
    • “Sleep No More”: Theater piece in building under renovation; could be dance, music, etc.
    • Illuminus-type projections, incl. historic photos
    • Projection mapping: life of the building through projection
    • Giant Tetris game on side of building
    • Locative voice system; audio that speaks history
    • Specialized media: music from the period, projections (e.g., porn stories)
    • Augmented reality (Pokemon Go)

Table 3

  • Develop a competition for each property, to be responded to by all sorts of artists/architects/designers
  • Boston Open Space Invitational
  • New app that reveals historic structures (Pokemon Go, but with history instead of critters)
  • Peek into the historic context: leads you to the next space (almost like View Finders, or tromp l’oeil)
  • Community conversation – historic structures tend to get stuck in history; oral history is important and could enrich structure/programs
  • Cf. “Humans of New York” (www.humansofnewyork.com) as model for interviewing/gathering information about buildings, places
    •   Jump to senses immediately, then work back to story/history
      • Attention grabber is important: different senses can be engaged through a scavenger hunt of sorts
      • Cf. “Stolpersteines” in Germany: applying the idea of incorporating some history into “stumbling stones”
      • Odd object out of place causes one to pauseo
    •  Temporary pavilion/new construction
    • Lending library, physical and digital
  • Engage people from the neighborhood
  • Flxed bike that would power the story/project history of the site
  • Re Old Corner Bookstore:
    • Cf. Krzystof Wodiczko’s projections on historic structures: Bunker Hill Monument; statue of John Harvard; Krakow City Hall
    •  Interactive billboard installations
    • Needs to be multi-faceted to get as many people involves as possible
    • Smells: cf. London’s spice district; molasses flood in North End; etc.
  • Different senses applied to history: kinetic motion related to farm, e.g.
  • Using actions of the past to enliven the present


Notes from Workshop #26: From Apps to Arts in Public Places: Code for Boston, Creative Technology, and the Creative Spirit

May 5, 2016


Some of the most extraordinary technology-related work underway in the Boston region continues to emerge from Code for Boston, part of the Code for America “Brigade” network. CfB describes itself as a “group of developers, designers, data geeks, and citizen activists” using creative technology to solve civic and social challenges through new apps that reflect and respond to community needs. One need only participate with – or simply observe – the geeks and hackers at work every Tuesday evening at the Cambridge Innovation Center to witness an in-depth, disciplined approach to civic engagement and to the kinds of positive outcomes resulting from that engagement.

The question: is there a way – or even a reason – to expand from this strong, community-driven approach to “app-making” to a comparable approach to “art-making” in/for public places?

The issue is not only that of integrating technology generally into art in public places, but of adapting CfB’s discipline as a development model – a discipline that, as stated by one of CfB’s regulars, encompasses a workflow of “collaboration, iteration, and experimentation.” What are the lessons to be learned from CfB about new ways of working productively with government and community partners?  What do they suggest not only for new aspects of the creative process but for new kinds of work emerging from that process? 

The May 5 exploratory workshop/brainstorming session focused on the principles underlining CfB’s take on civic engagement, how these play out within CfB’s universe, how the fundamental logic can – and does – work in the environment of art in public places -- and how you might respond to that logic with your own ideas, projects, and initiatives.

Leading the workshop was: Harlan Weber, founder and leader of Code for Boston and Director of Design and Service Innovation at MassIT, the state IT agency; Isaac Chansky, co-organizer at Code for Boston and Front End developer at BEAM Interactive; Emily Royall, analyst and technologist at Massachusetts Data Office as MassIT, and Curator for Cultural Computation at MIT; Matt Rouser, Chief Technology Officer, Department of Neighborhood Development, Boston.


NOTE: The comments and questions recorded below are more suggestive than they are detailed, particularly given the rich and active discussions they prompted throughout the workshop. Our hope is that they in turn propel further inquiry and, as a result, further collaboration.

  • From Harlan Weber: leveraging technology and design for use in the public sphere
    • The imperative to frame one’s work with a government agency as a partnership, with the agency serving as both friend and educator
    • How to get the problem/challenge “right-sized”
    • Continuous use of GitHub to keep documentation up to date
    • Constantly employ the discipline and elements of collaboration
  • From Emily Royall: working at the intersection of computation and culture, imagining and reshaping relationships between people, cities, and technology
    • What is public space?
    • How are artists who are working with technology transforming our notion of public space?
    • From Marina Abramovic: art = context + intent
    • What is public space? Where is it going? Is there an intersection between physical and virtual spaces?
  • From Matt Rouser: integrating creative technology and urban strategy to make cities better for the people living in them
    • Notion/practice of “radical transparency”
    • What kind of role can this transparency play in the creation of art?
  • From Isaac Chansky: applying technology to public art, within a framework of collaboration, iteration, experimentation – and anything else that makes sense contextually
    • How to create a more interactive experience for people?
    • Why should technology be involved in arts in public places?
    • Sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic
    • Adding technology: still doesn’t solve how you work with people
    • Add: “technology” to art, public, place!
    • Constant iteration by everyone working on the project


  • From workshop participants – questions, ideas, both large- and small-scale: 
    • Equity and ethics: how are they made – and kept – part of this world?
    • Screens on MBTA could provide digital info
    • Open source map of arts in Boston: identify places where are is/should be
    • Neighborhoods as cultural districts: e.g., Roxbury?
    • Calling out arts districts
    • Implications of infusing places with art, and what happens
    • ArtsCommons: to help grown/bind the community
    • How to visualize the stories of the people who’ll be part of the ArtsCommons
      • Possibly a new app via Code for Boston?
      • How technology has a power to provide a unique perspective
      • Journey/narrative, created by input from population
      • Get community involved in building art together


Notes from Workshop #25: BostonAPP/Lab Goes to Boston Arts Academy’s STEAM Lab

February 23, 2016

From the workshop announcement:

A recent quote from an unknown source: “Collaboration is not about gluing together existing egos. It’s about the ideas that never existed until after everyone entered the room.” 

Collaboration drives what BostonAPP/Lab does and what it seeks. 

Collaboration is also, virtually by definition, what defines the Boston Arts Academy’s STEAM Lab – where experimentation and exploration are constants as participants seek ways to integrate the arts into a curriculum of science, technology, mathematics, and engineering. Boston Arts Academy is the city’s only public high school for the visual and performing arts and recently was one of eight schools recognized nationally by the Ovation Foundation and President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities for its STEAM initiative.  

The goals in proposing a meeting of the Labs can be summarized as follows: (1) How does this program work in concept, in practice, in results? (2) How can this approach inform the ways in which artists might work in public places? (3) How can artists working in the public sphere in turn inform the work of the Lab?

STEAM lab is a place to play, think, create across disciplinary boundaries while keeping art central to learning: what possibilities does this kind of collaboration suggest? 


STEAM Lab director Dr. Nettrice Gaskins began by narrating the Lab’s work -- its approach, its achievements, its relationship to the Boston Arts Academy as a whole, and ways in which the Lab’s multidisciplinary approach can be and has been embedded in arts in public places. Her PowerPoint presentation was further enriched by the description by one of her students, Nate Whitaker, of his own explorations around the notion of “virtual space.”

As can be seen in the admittedly fractured nature of the notes below, the general Q&A and the subsequent small-group discussions were more evocative than conclusive, generating some basic questions (schools as public space), topics for deeper exploration (weighing the A in STEAM), pondering next steps (how do we share expertise).

We hope readers will weigh in with their own questions – and even answers – regarding this kind of collaboration, and what it may mean for schools, for art, and for the interrelationships between the two. How can schools, in fact, be – or are they already? – public spaces?


  • Culture: how it operates in the country

  • What we do daily that produces energy output

  • How to tap into cultural knowledge

    • Path through ArtsCommons

    • Cultures interact and inform most about their culture:

      • Later collect and identify strengths and ways to improve...or identify needs

  • Other schools that do not have ability and resources to bring STEAM lessons into their classes: how do we share expertise?

  • What can I take away that I can do right now?

    • Portable STEAM lab?

  • Weighing the “A” in STEAM

  • Making STEAM look like a lot of things

  • How do we make STEAM accessible?

  • Finding motivation in the art: enough to explore/learn

  • Capacity for time/level of involvement

  • Understanding the “Why” (this is cool, but how does it work?)

  • Augmented realities: how it changes the typical classroom

    • Eliminate infrastructure of projectors, marker boards, smart boards, tv’s

    • Eliminate computer labs, and dedicated technology space

    • New spaces all have technology and art capabilities

      • “tinkering spaces”

  • Art and food

  • Educations sites and land as public art space

  • Schools as public space: outward, not inward

  • Intergenerational, intercultural, interdisciplinary art: 

    • Critique: subjugated knowledges

    • Art for the “defined” people?

    • Technology of the self (Foucault), not just “technological devices”

    • “Dynamize” gaps, negative spaces/places

    • Multiple feeds into central spaces:

      • Alumni, creative core, neighborhoods, cultures, populations, group

Notes from Workshop #24: Food and Arts: A Marriage in the Public Market

January 26, 2016

From the Workshop Announcement:

What kinds of installations, performances, and interactive engagement will work in the Boston Public Market/The KITCHEN?

What does, or could, a marriage between food and art look like?

Are there ways to incorporate into this new generation of activation other elements within the Trustees’ portfolio -- which now includes The KITCHEN -- of community gardens and open space?

Helping to frame up this brainstorming workshop were: John Vasconcellos, Formerly Senior Regional Director, Boston and the Southeast, for The Trustees; Cheryl Cronin, CEO of The Boston Public Market; and Mackenzie Sehlke, Assistant Market Manager, Programming. 


Workshop participant responses/recommendations, by category:

1. Illumination

  • Outside: projections/light shows/lasers/lighted sculptures

  • Signature art piece: cf. BSA Green Staircase

  • Simple, but fun, signage

2. Marketing/communications

  • Need to communicate experience to those who may be interested (both in- and out-of-town)

  • Consider building’s visibility

  • Generate attention/curiosity via building mapping, projections, art 

  • Lighting: opportunity for contemporary projection on exterior

3. Vendor engagement

  • Programming: vendors bring live music from their area/farm/town

  • Local music/local food

  • Screens in market with recipe ideas, based on specific ingredients from vendors

  • Branded bags with spaces for vendor-specific info stickers

4. Civic engagement

  • Outside “directional” interventions/art that lead people to the BPM/KITCHEN

  • Live streaming video of kitchen activities, visible in the market and/or on the street

  • Create a “community table,” instead of a buffet experience: people talk about their food experiences/share recipes/knowledge

  • Field trips: from schools to market, AND from market to schools, via truck/bus

  • Students study grocery/market layout, food production, entrepreneurship, design

  • Traveling empty school bus w/pop-up kitchen

  • Farm visits: sign up at Market

  • Culinary competitions: different age groups

  • Interview people: experience in the market; sound bites for media

Develop a BPM/Kitchen app, to include:

Storytelling (about vendors, farms)

Pop-up BPM/Kitchen-branded stall(s) to be placed in different communities

Community Garden “State Fair” – e.g., which garden has the best tomato?

Connect Market to:

Local gardens

Economic diversity

Cultural diversity

5. Partnerships: “home-made food,” “home-made art”

Bring artists/artisans into Kitchen to demonstrate

  • Metal fabrication

  • Woodworking

  • Letterpress printing

Find out what surrounding groups/businesses/organizations do/need, and find a connection via the content of the Market/Kitchen.

Promote homesteading programming:

  • Canning, cheese-making, kombucha-making, candle-making, etc.

  • Give space over to craft market once/month or so, focused on food-farm-related items

  • Work with region-wide waterfront fish businesses, including fishermen/women

6. Food-as-art

  • Vegetable art

  • Latte art

  • Competitions for all ages to make food art

7. Venue

  • Extend market and kitchen images/atmosphere/character into (throughout) other parts of the building

  • Kitchen doesn’t look inviting from street; looks like private space: make it look exciting

  • Both BPM and Kitchen need to be or feel “messier”

  • Make the street entrance the primary entrance

Activate the public/private perimeter – i.e., the outside edges around the building

  • Flowers, stands with produce, street performers, painted murals on sidewalks

Add art in hallway + lighting +vendor programming and art in hallway: call it Nourish

  • Art installation in hallway, changeable, a la Dewey Square

  • Overall, plan for/implement ongoing series of temporary installations throughout the two spaces


Notes from Workshop #23: ArtsCommons on the Ground

December 15, 2015


The many participants in the Lab’s November 24 workshop – where we began to bring the ArtsCommons to life ­­-- created a rich set of both general and specific responses to the ArtsCommons’ core questions:

  • Location: where can/should the ArtsCommons best be sited?
  • Users: who will/can/should be engaging with these spaces?
  • Curation: what topics/ideas issues can the ArtsCommons’ programming address?
  • Criteria: how do we set priorities - and who is “we?”
  • Infrastructure: what are the essential mechanical, electrical, environmental, safety requirements for the ArtsCommons?

One of November’s participants wrote later that the ArtsCommons’ “openness is its generosity once the artists and community get their minds and hands on it, it will go beyond anything we come up with in a workshop.”

The challenge, then: identify the specific steps required to create a successful launch ­­ and ensure a residual impact ­­ of the ArtsCommons. For example:

  • What are the most critical ingredients for structuring an effective ArtsCommons partnership?
  • Given the flexibility built into the ArtsCommons’ initial design, what are the most efficient/effective approaches to siting, configuration, use of materials, etc.?
  • What kinds of “prompts” will activate what kinds of activities or uses over the course of a two­ week ­long residency at a single site?
  • What are the definitions of success – immediate as well as on­going ­­ for the ArtsCommons?

The ideas summarized in the notes below from this follow-up workshop suggest the multiple strategies by which participants saw the ArtsCommons coming to life.


Brainstorming kinds/examples of potential partnerships:

● Community Investors: (Ideas are money, time is money)

● Town Hall meetings to provide the community a voice in what happens in their space, as well as a way to find out what we should/can be leaving behind

● Space is money. What is a surplus in the community that needs to be shared?

● “Life Is Good”

● Studio Fresh

● Loft F Gallery, Design Museum Boston, Industrial Designers Society of Boston, Energy companies – solar, batteries etc.

● Blockchain (bitcoin) companies – enabling people to prove concepts ● Incentivizing partnerships via potential profitable scalability

● Organizations already established in communities and can foster activity. Places may not have the kind of venue like the Children’s’ Museum; however, they do have organizations like the Boys and Girls Club where children can create a sense of community and are encouraged to express themselves through art. Thus maybe a “leave­behind” or performance is not a physical mark on the location, but enhancing these established communities.

● Community organizations

● Micro communities

● Boston Redevelopment Authority


Brainstorming kinds/examples of ctivities:

● Collaborative/Diverse performances based on communities (anniversaries, memorable dates)

● Themes for local civic engagement; dialogues and themes via installation(s) that would address social issues, and travel from one site to the next

● Incubator for social groups

● Physical platform that can engage and enable communities to evolve/continue ● Create frameworks of time

● Location, Location, Location: The “black box” as a means of creating a place of activity? To draw, engage and connect people – perhaps in a place with little/no pre­-established social engagement.

● Visual, lecture, performing ­ one of each.

● Theme for X amount of time.

● Social media ­ pulling attention, keeping focus ­ creative direction

● Food and gardening ­ seasonal

● Campfires


Brainstorming kinds of/criteria for uccess:

● Knowledge: Consistency, Accessibility (social media), Word of mouth, visibility – posters/structures

● Create/sustain dialogue with the community to see what the ArtsCommons means to them

● Pre­-work with and preparing the community for the ArtsCommons as crucial component of what happens on/in/around the ArtsCommons

● Regularity: Reliable

● Variety of audiences at one time (trick them, be vague enough to appeal to everyone) ● Cross­-seasonal unit that can scale and be simple/pure/’magical’/intuitive

● Timeline enabling community to engage and adapt to it before taking it away

● Physical “list” that can be passed on

● Growth of community in platforms, groups, friendships

● Educational components such as people learning about local activities or just generally learning from one another

● Cross-fertilization of cultures

● Drop Box – Social Media hype before it gets there “Drop the Box”

● Equal Opportunity: “Natural Selection” shouldn’t rely on funding – kit of parts should enable any idea to be seen through and given the chance to “prove itself.”

● Spatial/ Physical hype: what happens in the space before the physical structure gets there? Excitement, Questions, Mystery, Imagination

● Ideological Hype/Community Influence: community brainstorms for topic/themes Understanding community needs. Who knows best? Insider or outsider?

● Constructive community input – ideals, not problems. Fill the space with good, not remove the negative.

● Involvement – core community vs. outside community

● Incubator for movement: urban gardens, uplift what exists, reality that needs healing

● Creating community: social media … network > physical space … destination

● Sponsor a cube ­ network Kickstarter

● Must haves: power, wifi, security

● Performance: intimate, secured, stage, collecting something – filled with stuff

● Barber shop; mani­-pedi

● Transparent walls

● Open studios/Open streets

Notes from Workshop #22: ArtsCommons in the Community

November 24, 2015

from the workshop announcement: 

Beginning last November, and over the course of three Lab workshops (and beyond), several of the Lab’s “scientists” (aka designers...) and others have been focusing on giving shape to an idea called the ArtsCommons.

What’s the big idea? In brief...
•    an outdoor, portable, flexible, free-standing, and multipurpose “(art)maker’s space” designed to support performances, installations, and exhibits, and to catalyze community interaction.

What are the results so far? 
•    a total re-imagining and repurposing of 20’ steel shipping containers, aimed at generating new opportunities/new possibilities for artists to create new works and for communities to engage with those works. 

Building off these physical designs, the focus moved to programming and partnerships and the curating of both: 
•    What – and who – can/should/might be served by the ArtsCommons?
•    Which art(s? What kinds of engagement? 

With this workshop, we offered artists, community leaders, organizations, and institutions the opportunity to speculate on...
•    What sorts of art initiatives – whether individual or multi-disciplinary – are prompted by the ArtsCommons’ physical characteristics/configuration? 
•    In what ways can civic engagement be made part of the ArtsCommons’ art equation?
•    In what ways can the ArtsCommons’ physical space serve as a social space?

A summary of these speculations follows below.

Note: Major thanks to Ben Bruce and Greg MacGlashing for the ArtsCommons' physical concepts and design, and to Eagle Leasing for its enormously generous offer to provide steel containers that will constitute the ArtsCommons, and to the many individuals and organizations, including the Rose Kennedy Greenway, who have been collaborating with us on this project. And, finally, to the enormous, extraordinary group of workshop participants who continue to help us answer the Who/What/Where/How of the ArtsCommons!


•    Strong local partner/sponsor – “AC seen as a gift, rather than an intrusion”
o    Issue RFPs
o    Provide credibility
o    Prepare the way
•    Initial “catalyst” “embedded” in AC: necessary?
•    Specific time-line, leading up to and going beyond siting, incl. periods during which AC is fully active
•    Specify most efficient/effective design for AC containers:
o    Which sides are open?
o    Exterior materials, incl. canopy, flooring
o    How does configuration respond to/activate site?
•    Infrastructure requirements
•    Build in ability to link backwards and forwards to/”communicate with” other neighborhoods
General Notes
•    Art as entry point into neighborhoods (Rashmi)
•    Travel/create links to other neighborhoods
o    What does ArtsCommons “pick up” along the way?
•    Deposit untransformed container in a neighborhood; make sure it doesn’t give the impression of having just arrived from Mars.
o    Need local partner to give it credibility/prepare the way
o    How to get community to generate its own priorities for programming?
o    Should the ArtsCommons provide a “catalyst” for the community to generate its own programming? What would that look like?
•    What does the ArtsCommons provide that open space doesn’t?
•    AC seen as gift rather than intrusion
•    Tie in with parklets [engage NUM, BTD?]
•    Multiple suggestions re programming:
o    Recreation
o    Facilitation
o    Rehearsal space
o    Free co-working space
o    Community sing-alongs
o    Exhibitions
o    Exhibitions from community workshops
o    Graffiti walls
•    Use detachable panes to create chronology of graffiti
•    Rotate panels from one neighborhood to serve as a gallery
o    “Safe space”
o    Makers’ spaces
o    Classes:
•    Yoga
•    Art
•    Lectures
o    Public chalkboards
o    Community meetings
o    Games (e.g., ping pong)
o    Movies
o    Close up at night; turn into coffee shop/bar
o    Crafts
o    African dance (cf. Dance Complex Cambridge)


Notes from Workshop #21: Let's Face the Music

October 27, 2015


For the sake of argument let’s assume the following: When many (most?) of us talk about or envision a new work of art in a public place, most likely the focus is on some kind of visual expression.

  1. Is music as public art different from music as performance? If so, how? If not, why not?

  2. If there are differences, what are the ways in which -- to pick up how Robert Irwin frames art in a public place -- "you can take [musical] art out into the world?"

  3. Given #2, what are, or what could be, the complementary roles or skills sets of, e.g., a musician, a composer, a community leader, a municipal agency, a producer, etc.?

  4. Ultimately, what -- if anything -- needs to happen to ensure that music is incorporated more explicitly in the common understanding of"public art"/"art in a public place?"

Helping to lead the band was: Mike Avitabile, arts administrator/director of Hub New Music; Maria Finkelmeier, composer and founder/director of Kadence Arts; Mike Hardin, percussionist; Erik Holmgren, Mass Cultural Council’s program manager for Creative Youth; Jon Sakata, concert pianist, installation artist, and instructor at Phillips Exeter Academy.


Lillian Hsu, Cambridge Arts Council, opened the meeting with a question: “What is the monetization of disembodied art?” In other words, how are not-for-sale, specifically uncommercial arts being monetized in our society?

Ben Bruce, who, with his colleague Greg MacGlashing, has been designing the ArtsCommons (the subject of November’s workshop, was quick to remind us of art’s inherent capacity for collaboration across mediums and disciplines. Dan Beyer similar emphasized the need for busking-specific infrastructure in Boston.

Some characteristics of music as public art:
•    Free
•    Easily engaged with
o    If it is public, people need to feel that there are no boundaries and they have the ability to walk up and interact (participatory vs. non-participatory performance/public art
•    No set time during which the engagement is scheduled
•    Has to happen in space: public space needs to be there to accommodate musical public art
Not long after preliminary discussion got underway Jon Sakata (installation/music artist and teacher) asked us to interrogate terms like “public,” “music,” and said a personal goal was to investigate alternatives. Rob Trumbour (Khoura Public Art) spoke, too, about otherness and the public, asking us “Who are we excluding by talking amongst ourselves?”

Erik Holmgren of the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s YouthReach initiative sharpened our focus, stressing the (less obvious) need to “speak the language” of Greater Boston’s heads of government and policy makers; these are, after all, people who typically place taxation and corporate welfare over the public’s less easily perceived needs—access to arts!

Ken Field, from the Honk! Festival, cut to the chase, asking: “What is the problem we’re trying to solve?”

Some questions to be resolved
•    Artists’ intentions and interaction with all other elements
•    What is specifically social about music?
•    What in the arts appeals to policy makers?
•    Releasing the barrier of the financial requirement to perform the art.
•    Accessibility
•    Familiarity
•    “But what if I don’t want to listen?!?!” (vs. visual art, where there’s an option not to look at it!)
o    Speakers (Bluetooth)
o    It does end
•    Everyone seemed to agree Public Art requires: free admission and variable length of participation. Jon said public art resembles the museum, in that people come and go according to their degree of interest, as they do looking at a painting.

Maria Finkelmeier of Kadence Arts championed both participatory and non-participatory performance art, and stressed the ubiquity of music in everyday life. Exposure to the various arts throughout one’s upbringing, Maria suggested, naturally leads one to expect it for future generations, particularly with regard to the public school system.

What is the value of the “art” to the public, to the artists and to the politicians?
•    What are the common languages?
o    Speak the language that resonates, when talking about, e.g., funding
o    Need to be able to articulate the value of art to the people with whom we’d like to work
o    Possible issues for policy-makers:
•    College readiness
•    Truancy
•    Crime rates
•    Economic Development
Lillian and Jon continued to remind us of the perceived need for “authenticity” in the arts. How is it conveyed, and is it necessary? How does a venue (e.g. ticketing, membership) affect public art? Everyone was asked: consider the difference between open and curated public art.

Looking for public spaces
o    Dedicated Space pros and cons
o    DCR
•    Re Zakim Bridge: Understand infrastructure capabilities/limitations (there, and elsewhere!)
o    Greenway Conservancy
Models that may/or may not work:
•    Montreal 2 -3 MM has invested in public art : http://www.btmm.qc.ca/en/news/art-public-montreal/
•    From the Honk! Festival
o    No vendors, which helps local businesses
•    El Sistema: https://www.lsa.umich.edu/UMICH/orgstudies/Home/Current%20Students/OS%20Honors/Past%20OS%20Honors%20Theses/FINALJonathan%20Hulting-Cohen%20Thesis.pdf
•    NYC Jazz in Colors
•    Vinyl in London
•    Water Fire in Providence
•    Group Muse
o    Pros: Spontaneity
o    Cons: Only reaches a certain demographic
Take-aways/challenges/next steps
•    BostonAPP/Labs Band: The Boston APPtet
•    Directory: how to set that up and keep it live
•    Call Renata von Tscharner, Charles River Conservancy, for links to DCR in order to take advantage of/access the Zakim; contact new Director of External Affairs at DCR
•    What is the Brand…?

Notes from Workshop #20: The City as Art

June 23, 2015


What kinds of urban spaces provoke what kinds of responses from artists, architects, and designers? And how can those spaces be re-imagined as “urban catalysts,” enabling social and well as physical re-invigoration of a specific site with its own specific conditions? To what extent does this “call-and-response” approach represent new opportunities or new frameworks for creating art in public places?

Recent work by graduate architecture students at the Wentworth Institute of Technology (WIT) have incorporated this notion of art as an urban catalyst – of art that provides an opportunity for agency – by proposing interventions that, as described by the current BSA show, are “bigger than a breadbox and smaller than a building.”  Homing in on a specific, and very much related, challenge, how can such an approach enhance a city’s overall strategy for a more vibrant, supportive, and invigorating public realm that overall is also a vehicle for agency? Presentation, discussion, and brainstorming were led by Rob Trumbour, from Wentworth Institute of Technology and Artforming, and Chris Osgood, who recently left the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics to become Boston’s Chief of Streets. 


1. Approaches to civic innovation: Rob Trumbour, with participation by James Jarzyniecki, Mandy Johnson, Andrew LaFosse, Samantha Partington, and Liem Than
•    Students from Trumbour’s studio offered their respective thesis projects and the underlying principles in support of civic innovation
o    Trumbour set the stage for the presentations by discussing the visits he makes with his students to, e.g., New York, Big Bend National Park, and Marfa, TX, to visit the works of Donald Judd. 
o    How space helps create the constructed object. [Note from Ron Mallis: a New Yorker profile of Robert Irwin – “In a desert of pure feeling” – speaks directly to this subject: “how you can take art out into the world.”]
o    Designing space(s) that offer opportunities for two kinds of “performance”: (1) pragmatic and (2) abstract

Liem Than and Samantha Partington, “Mapping Big Bend”
Master’s student translations of what happened in places visited
Final image summarizes what they took back. Emerging and remote, scalelessness and edgelessness. 
Thesis explores how you can get lost in a landscape
Concept was translating the scale of perception and how it is lost in larger landscapes. How do we organize a space when a space is a perceptual field? 
Build out of modules. To create triangular structure
Creating different areas and boundaries

Andrew LaFosse, “Building for the Revival of Urban Art in Boston”
Thesis related to graffiti art is the true embodiment of a culture
Choose building with high visibility in East Boston

James Jarzyniecki, “Two Connections”
Two Connections The city to the waterfront and the person to the location that they are in.
Language of how people relate to the environment around them. Provide a map at the start of the project.
Emerald necklace linkage. Providing small pavilions for events or discussion. Pavilions create their own sound. Identical pavilions.

Mandy Johnson, “Spatial Performance: A Place to Dance”
Art and function in architecture
Site creates it's own rooms. Space begins to be made by the existing conditions. Abstract site mappings. Created a series of interventions that the site already began to form itself. Pragmatic elements abound for performances.
Interventions take on the look of pavilions. 
She has designed performance spaces. Spaces like this allow for improvisation or abstract performance. Breaking up the uniformity of the underpass. 

2. Democratizing the city and spaces within it: Chris Osgood
•    Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics (www.newurbanmechanics.org) focuses on innovation around engagement, economic development, the streetscape, and education. 
•    NUM runs experimental projects inside and outside of City Hall designed to
o    engage and empower residents
o    improve the experience of the city
•    Focus on innovation to provide better services to citizens
•    Funding: Direct City funding, capital budget, grant funding, partner organizations interesting in trying new things.
•    Examples:
o    Citizens Connect app: empowers citizens to contribute to maintenance of their own neighborhoods; now accounts for 28% of all service requests
o    Participatory Budgeting: 12-24 year olds get to vote on where $1 million in City capital funds go, led by the City’s Office of Youth Engagement & Empowerment
o    HubHacks permitting challenge, led by the City’s Department of Innovation & Technology: resolve permitting issues
o    Where’s my school bus?: track location of school buses via mobile app
o    Public Space Invitational: requested proposals/new ideas in three categories: public realm, City Hall itself, and “Random, Awesome Design,” or RAD.
•    City Hall has become a more inviting place: “percent of ‘fabulousness’ has increased because of artful interventions” (including Liz LaManche’s “Stairways of Fabulousness” in the building’s atrium)
o    Technology for Autism Now (TAN), a local startup: provides a range of mobile applications to support the education of youth on the autism spectrum
o    Streetscape: a range of innovations, including:
•    Parklets
•    Outfitting trucks with vehicular side guards for bike safety
•    In general, “making streets more delightful”

3. What are the big ideas/questions/challenges that came out of this APP Lab?
•    How does the work – and the approaches – represented by the Wentworth projects respond to/fit with NUM’s agenda?
•    Design interventions that generate “agency” among users:
o    E.g., the “conversation” pavilions proposed near the Charles, or the stand-alone platforms under an overpass, providing a kind of stage for however anyone wants to use it
•    What are the possibilities for a “Street Art festival?” 
•    Can artists request a space to create art from the city?

4. Ideas to build on from tonight’s secession:
•    Contact the Community Liaison. An amazing resource for each neighborhood.
•    “Bright Side of the Road,” by Michael Moss and Claudia Ravaschiere: an installation in Ft. Point: “creating usable area through an act of guerilla urban gardening.” Can we install more of these?
•    More parklets in Boston. 
•    City to help create stages for temporary installations. 
•    How to get an "Art Permit" from a city or town? Neighborhood reps are first contacts. 
•    Different strategies for street art. Sometimes just do it guerrilla style.
•    How to figure out the stages. Things are not impossible. Let's break it down into manageable steps and get it done.
•    Explore opportunities for collaboration with/among NUM, Office of Arts and Culture, Greenway Conservancy, etc.

Notes from Workshop #19: Designing in Collaboration

May 13, 2015


One of the most productive and exciting models for advancing design excellence and community engagement has been forged by the Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship (www.enterprisecommunity.com), which partners emerging architects with local community development organizations.  In addition to working on large built projects, Fellows work at a grassroots level to creatively engage residents through collaborative action, in activities ranging from arts and cultural events to comprehensive community planning strategies. By focusing on this collaborative process, it is possible to set in place a foundation for meaningful actions that can be simple in scope and scale but have a large ripple effect.  

The Fellows’ approach is one that not only encompasses grassroots organizing on behalf of an intervention or initiative, but identifies strategies by which to navigate the economic and political universe within which those interventions inevitably exist.

This workshop examined how the principles that have emerged from the Fellows’ experiences could be applied to activating a public and a place in support of art: What other opportunities suggest themselves through this approach to design, architecture, and planning?  Leading the workshop were: Mike Chavez, a current Rose Fellow working with the Fairmount/Indigo Line Community Development Corporation Collaborative (www.fairmountcollaborative.org); Mark Matel, formerly a real estate development project manager with Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation, Roxbury (www.nuestracdc.org), where he was a Rose Fellow from 2012-2014; and Nella Young, Director for the Rose Fellowship at Enterprise Community Partners. 


This workshop began with an overview of some of the current work sponsored by the Enterprise Rose Architecture Fellowship. Nella Young, Director of the Fellowship, set the stage by first describing Enterprise Community Partners, the parent organization, as an intermediary in the community development field, with over 500 people nationwide bringing tools, grants, and network-building skills to creating affordable housing that links design with community-building. Within that framework, the highly selective Fellowship program offers opportunities for trained architects to bring a design perspective to the community development process.

Nella offered a quick tour of some examples of Fellows’ work around the country, including: 
•    Yakima, WA: an “Idea Jam” to facilitate discussion about what community members wanted, which led to a “tour de farce” bike race design competition for new bike racks.
•    Asheville, NC: asking the question “what do you guys wish could happen but doesn’t seem to get done,” and generating a community response that led to mobile food trucks, programming for healthy food, and education for community members.
•    Detroit, MI: an invitation to artists to propose murals for three sites, with community members selecting the muralists.
•    Santo Domingo, NM: a “community heritage path” linking the town’s two hubs by collecting the histories of peoples’ families and using community input to develop a public art plan along the path.

A major take-away from these, and other, examples: collaborative action builds trust, which in turn builds, or strengthens, community in ways that are sustainable because they derive from the community itself.

2. Case studies: collaboratively re-imagining places
Mike Chavez, Rose Fellow, Fairmount-Indigo Line Community Development Corporation
•    Focus on housing, commercial, and greenspace development
•    “Goatscaping”
o    Target of opportunity: West Street “urban wild” (e.g., proliferation of poison ivy): goats as landscapers?
o    Kids brought the idea, including a budget, examples from other places, etc., to the Mayor, and gained approval.
o    Beyond the obvious spectacle of ivy-eating goats, the effort strengthened neighborhood bonds and contributed to building a kind of infrastructure for ongoing, and expanded, community efforts.
•    Green-roofed bus shelters
o    With donated materials, Mike and his community colleagues “greened” bus shelters along the corridor.
o    Ran workshops on this project with students at New Mission High School
o    The MBTA is currently looking to expand the program to other sites.

Mark Matel, Rose Fellow 2012-2014
•    Within the overall frame of detailing how a real-estate development process and economic pro-forma can involve artists, Mark focused on Bartlett Place – originally, an 8.5-acre MBTA bus yard – and the goal of a “creative village.” 
•    Nuestra bought the site in 2010.
•    Goal: to provide not only housing but neighborhood amenities – public park, art in public places – while establishing strategies to counter the effects of gentrification.
•    Financial model included apportioning a percentage of the rental revenue on an ongoing basis to support art.
•    Engaged the community in determining the kinds – and placement – of public amenities. Original scheme: a single plaza. Revised scheme: three plazas.
•    Plan now includes an arts magnet school as well as a grocery store.
•    Challenge: how to build places, not just buildings.

3. Key principles reflected in the work of the Fellowship
•    Social and community context can and should shape design.
•    Ask the community to help generate ideas.
•    Listen and bring ideas from the community to life.
•    Creating feedback loops helps cultivate love and forgiveness.
•    Action builds trust.
•    Build history and community identify into the future of a project. 

4. Miscellaneous
•    CDCs have ownership power with which to begin and complete development projects: where are the mutual benefits in further collaboration with, e.g., planning directors, city policy makers, etc.?
•    How to expose what the CDCs are doing to a larger audience.
•    Lead artists to engage in small-scale projects that are built on community engagement and whose results strengthen the community.
•    Increase opportunities for people in the neighborhoods to be part of what happens around them.
•    The Figment project as an example of creating space for people to collaborate and, in the process, bring something to give to others.

Notes from Workshop #17: Art as Play

March 26, 2015


Open-ended play is essential for human development throughout life. It is also part of the creative process, whether one is an artist or a scientist or mathematician. Yet if the built environment tells us what a culture values, the built environment in cities around the country tells us that play is something that only young children do within playgrounds and park fences. We live in a time when more and more people are moving to urban centers.  We also live in a time when there is a named disorder for lack of play – play deficit disorder. 

So the question arises: How can we make the public realm more playful for all generations in daily life?  

What is play? Who plays? Where do we play?  
•    Assertion 1: Play is player-defined and directed.
•    Assertion 2: Everyone needs to play.
•    Assertion 3: So that play becomes a part of everyday life, opportunities for play should occur throughout civic space, for all ages, in places minute and large.

Moving beyond the idea that play needs equipment and structures, play also occurs when people encounter surprise, wonder, or humor in a daily moment, on their way to work or school.  Art can bring play into public places. The beauty of civic space is that spontaneous play can occur socially, when a creative intervention prompts us to play, sometimes anonymously, sometimes indirectly, with someone we do not know. 


Led by Lillian Hsu (Cambridge Arts Council), David Robert (Center for Speculative Children’s Design), and Sarah Carrier (landscape designer), workshop participants began with a group brainstorm and then were given materials to create one example of a playful activity that each could take home and multiply in her or his neighborhood or city, the next day or any day.

Before getting into the workshop’s major activities, Lillian opened by introducing participants to the concept of "Art for Play," or, as she put it, “ways to prompt spontaneous play in public space.” In that light, some of her recent work with the Cambridge Arts Council has included the development of new kinds of “play grounds,” aiming to overcome what could be called a “play deficit disorder.”

In responding to a question from one of the participants -- “What problem are we solving?” – Lillian made the following point: 
Play is what we hope kids do because we know it’s important. At the same time we know there’s a society-wide problem of play deficit as a consequence of environments and opportunities for free play being severely reduced over several decades. Play is also important throughout life and our cities ought to be more playful for all generations. 

With this as a frame, and mc’d by David, participants proceeded to brainstorm examples of “art for play,” jotting down their ideas on Post-It notes and then pasting them on a large piece of butcher paper tacked to the wall. (Among the photos taken that evening are several showing the proliferation of ideas and the more than 125 examples that came to mind.)

While the brainstorming and posting of ideas was going on, David started to look for patterns and categories among ideas as varied as:

•    “Giving Tree” - hanging notes on trees
•    “Cove of silence” - entering a quiet space in public
•    “Flashlight Tours”
•    “Joke Machine” - a vending machine that serves jokes
•    “Hop-Scotch Crosswalks”
•    “Picto-Message” - confirming deliveries by completing pictures
•    “Adult Sprinkler Time” 
Participants contributed to the task of naming and filling categories with the Post-It notes, allowing David to create a spreadsheet as a common-on-line resource to be used and added to by everyone. The spreadsheet could also be used by anyone wanting to seek collaborators to implement any of the interventions. (Click this link to get to, check out, or add to the roster.)

The final categories included: 
•    Social games
•    Found games using urban infrastructure
•    Theater/dance/performance games
•    Contemplative play
•    Events
•    Nature play
•    Light play
•    Movement play
•    Sound play
•    Word play
•    Visual art
•    Tech play

The final activity gave participants the opportunity to create their own “Play Signs” (with #playsigns as the tag…) on primed pieces of wood, using paint markers and plastic ties with which to attach them to convenient light or parking poles. Participants were encouraged to take home extra panels and share with friends. Some examples of their work show up in the photos, as examples, again, of how to prompt play in a public space. 

Notes from Workshop #16: "ArtsCommons" 3.0: Physical structure, programming, partnerships

February 18, 2015

from the workshop announcement:

Last December, the second “ArtsCommons” workshop generated a set of core principles to shape the physical and programmatic components of a shared approach to art in public places – with the Rose Kennedy Greenway’s Dewey Square Park as the site.

Lab participants have been examining ways in which these principles can be brought to life. What if we used large steel containers in a variety of configurations? What if we could turn those containers into stages, sculptures, theaters, galleries, and more? What sorts of opportunities would they provide for new, more expansive collaborations? How do we make those collaborations happen?

Helping to facilitate the workshop was Sebastian Mariscal and Brian Militana of Sebastian Mariscal Studio, design concepts; Dan Sternof Beyer New American Public Art, infrastructure; Maria Finkelmeyer of Kadence Arts and Cedric Douglas, Cedric Douglas Design.


The February 18 workshop continued to explore both the physical and programmatic features, characteristics, and requirements of the ArtsCommons, homing in both on a pilot – for which we are continuing to plan a launch sometime this summer on the Greenway – and on a longer-range plan that will feature the temporary installation of steel containers in various neighborhoods around the Boston area, creating a kind of co-located “ArtsCommons,” that would serve as portable “makers’ spaces” or participatory museums for the work originating in these neighborhoods.

The session began with the presentation, by Brian Militana, from the Sebastian Mariscal Studio, of possible configurations of one or more 8’ x 20’ steel containers. Dan Sternof Beyer, using Sketch-Up, showed some of these same configurations in scale.

Maria Finklemeier, Cedric Douglas, and Alexander Castillo-Nuñez (HOME Assoc.) followed up with program ideas one of whose key ingredients would be ongoing community engagement, whether the ArtsCommons is situated on the Greenway and/or co-located in multiple neighborhoods. One expressed vision was to bring together on the Greenway, in a kind of festival, the individual neighborhood containers, or “makers’ spaces,” providing a multi-dimensional collage of Boston, its neighborhoods, and its art – whether dance, theater, music, or visual.

During the Lab’s open forum, participants raised a number of questions and offered an equal number of suggestions, regarding physical and programming issues around design, transportation, liability, and costs, leading to a more defined focus on what is feasible at least for the pilot phase.

The discussion was both free-wheeling and energetic, and broke into several categories:

·      Portability

o   Somehow show evidence of the ArtsCommons idea even while the containers are being delivered or situated

o   Construction sponsor for craning to stand crates on end, if necessary

o   What finally are the physical parameters?

·      Purpose

o   What? Why? Who cares?

o   Bring together multidisciplinary talents throughout the city

·      Ideas/actions

o   Possible launch/pilot: two weeks, six artists.

o   Art as experience.

o   For roll-out: artists engage with communities

§  Neighborhoods curate shows

§  Respect the people

§  Flexibility, setting the stage

§  Courtesy to neighbors.

§  Outreach with artists/organizations

§  Schedule

·      Physical parameters

o   Movable performance

o   Open access

o   Event layout. Interaction, visual/performance

·      Getting started

o   Continue engagement with the Greenway

o   Planning grant application submitted to the New England Foundation for the Arts

o   Design charrette scheduled to determine optimal configuration/ programming approach for pilot

o   Currently underway: initial steps toward creating 5 working groups

§  Publicity/advertising

§  Structure/layout

§  Artist installations

§  Community partners

§  Funding

Notes from Workshop #15: "ArtsCommons" 2.0

December 10, 2014

Participants in the previous workshop – 'Arts Commons: Sharing Resources, Linking Disciplines, to Create Art in Public Places' – brainstormed a wide range of responses to the question of what could happen in and on the Rose Kennedy Greenway’s Dewey Square Park when resources are shared and disciplines linked to create art in public places – an “arts commons,” in other words.

The all-star set of “commoners” included Charlie McCabe, Director of Public Programs, Rose Kennedy Greenway; Jamie Gahlon, Associate Director of HowlRound: A Center for Theater Commons; Alexander Castillo-Nunez, Jessie Tolbert, and Kadahj Bennett, founders of the Home Association theater collective working in a variety of media including video, poetry, live performance, and design; Maria Finkelmeier, percussionist/composer and head of Kadence Arts; Cedric Douglas, named Upham’s Corner’s Public Artist; and Brian Militana, project manager with the architecture/design firm of Sebastian Mariscal Studio, whose principal, Sebastian Mariscal, will join the team.

Notes from Workshop #14: “Arts Commons” 1.0

November 12, 2014

With the Lab’s focus on “incubating new collaborations” this workshop drilled down into what that means in practice, bringing together artists from many disciplines (music, theater, design, visual arts) to set out their points of view on what this kind of collaboration – or “arts commons” – looks like. For the major part of the workshop, participants working in small groups had the opportunity to brainstorm, and figure out implementation strategies for, their own cross-disciplinary ideas focused on art in public places.

The roster of all-stars helping to facilitate the workshop were Charlie McCabe, Director of Public Programs, Rose Kennedy Greenway; Jamie Gahlon, Associate Director of HowlRound: A Center for Theater Commons; Alexander Castillo-Nunez, Jessie Tolbert, and Kadahj Bennett, founders of the Home Association theater collective working in a variety of media including video, poetry, live performance, and design; Maria Finkelmeier, percussionist/composer and head of Kadence Arts; Cedric Douglas, named Upham’s Corner’s Public Artist; and Brian Militana, project manager with the architecture/design firm of Sebastian Mariscal Studio.

Notes from Workshop #13: Open Web, Art, and the Civic Realm

september 30, 2014

The open web offers opportunities for enriching experiences at the intersection of art, public, and place.  For civic technologists, art in public places is an untapped avenue for impactful citizen engagement. What collaborative possibilities can be unlocked by bringing together the arts and civic web communities to weave a richer social fabric?

The chief “incubators” were Kawandeep Virdee, co-founder and open web technologist at New American Public Art, and Lyre Calliope, Community Lead, Code for Boston.

Notes from Workshop #12: Catalyst Conversations

june 10, 2014

The lab was clear in the importance of public art that the public can engage in. If there is an art piece that people have the opportunity to put in their own creativity into it, they too may understand that the art is also theirs. It builds a strength in people and creates a sense of unity. Thousands of thoughts, one language: Art.

Leading the charge was Pedro Alonzo, independent curator; Camilø Alvårez, owner, director, and preparator at Samsøñ; Dan Sternof Beyer, co-founder, New American Public Art; Matthew Blumberg, founder and executive director, GridRepublic; George Fifield, founding director, Boston Cyberarts Inc.; and Primavera De Fillipi researcher, CERSA / CNRS / Université Paris II and research fellow, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University

Notes from Workshop #11: More than Pipes

april 30, 2014

The recent, and important, Public Space Invitational announced by Kris Carter and Michael Evans of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics is a major contribution to a more robust and inclusive civic environment, with proposals that fulfill NUM’s request for initiatives that are “simple, intuitive, and literally awesome.” This is significant. But what’s next?

What/where/how are the new ways in which multiple stakeholders – artists, communities, agencies, hackers – can come together to increase the limits of what’s doable in cultivating public spaces? What technologies and resources can be brought to bear that expand and sustain participation in these efforts? How can we weave together physical, organizational, and community-based infrastructure from the outset? How can these kinds of efforts reflect a multi-faceted understanding of urban equity?

“Creators” included Nigel Jacob, co-chair, Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics; Dan Sternof Beyer, co-founder, New American Public Art; Chrislene DeJean and Terry Marshall, co-founders, Intelligent Mischief; Lyre Calliope, Community Lead, Code for Boston; and Nate Smith, artist. We particularly want your participation and your ideas, leading to outcomes that will serve all stakeholders.

Notes from Workshop #10: Art and Design as Practical Social Action

march 25, 2014

How does, and how can, art serve as a partner within the Boston region’s continuing drive toward greater technological and entrepreneurial invention and innovation? More broadly, what is its role in community-building, in fulfilling the artist Joseph Beuys’ notion of art’s potential for “practical social action?”  What are the opportunities for and challenges to building community through new kinds of collaborations and enterprises? South Boston-based Artists for Humanity has provided a model for the kind of integration that incorporates art, design, innovation, and entrepreneurship, leading ultimately to revitalized communities.

The “action figures” included Jason Talbot, Co-Founder and Special Projects Director for AFH, and John Cannistraro, Jr., President of Watertown-based Cannistraro Plumbing and an AFH corporate partner. We’ll speculate on future outcomes for AFH while opening up the discussion to see where, how, and under what circumstances this kind of integration can take place.

Notes from Workshop #9: Beyond the One-Shot Deal

February 25, 2014

What are the opportunities for art in new development beyond the "statue in the lobby?" How can those opportunities be realized -- and how are they being realized? Are there economic models that, when applied, allow for a long-term relationship between art and creativity on the one hand and real estate development on the other. Can art be integrated into a development's long-term operation -- whether the development is affordable housing, mixed-income housing, or mixed-use?

The lead "explorers" in this workshop included Mark Matel, Rose Architecture Fellow and Project Manager for the Bartlett Yard affordable housing project; Sebastian Mariscal, principal with Sebastian Mariscal Studio and designer/developer of new mixed-income/mixed-use Parker & Terrace Development in Mission Hill; and artist Cedric Douglas, many of whose works appeared this summer at Bartlett Yard and who is a finalist for a permanent installation at Upham's Corner.

Notes from Workshop #9: Lessons from Beach Project

january 28, 2014

A complex initiative, with many parts and many players, is underway at Magazine Beach to restore both the 1818 magazine and the open riverside area that surrounds it. This is a significant case study about aligning the art, the public, and the place on a critical site, with participants ranging from the nearby neighborhood association to state government and agencies and from artists to non-profits.

The “lead provocateurs” were Evan Hines, Director of Development for the State Department of Conservation and Recreation; Rep. Jay Livingstone of the 8th Suffolk District, Massachusetts House; Rob Trumbour, Director at ArtForming; Renata von Tscharner, Founder and President of the Charles River Conservancy; and Cathie Zusy, Chair of the Magazine Beach Committee, Cambridgeport.

Notes from Workshop #8: Tactical Urbanism/Tactical Art

November 6, 2013

A key ingredient in generating a more vibrant and inclusive environment for art in public places comes from tactical urbanism: short-term, small-scale, and high-reward initiatives focused on improving the public life of a neighborhood and a city. This workshop was convened to examine these tactics, and how to inventory what those tactics require for success, and the kinds of spontaneous interventions that make up much of art in public spaces.

The workshop provided examples of how, when, and where these strategies result in partnerships with certain municipal agencies in support of their goals. It's tacticians included Dan Sternof Beyer of New American Public Art; Gary Dunning of Boston Celebrity Series; and Rachel Szakmary of the Boston Transportation Department.

Notes from Workshop #7: “An architect, an artist, and a developer walk into a bar…”

september 23, 2013

Questions on the table at this workshop were:

  • Given these three perspectives, what are the overlapping interests that will, or that do, guarantee a workable, sustainable model for collaboration that embeds art into a project’s initial design and development concept? What are the opportunities? The constraints?

  • What would a final “protocol”, or at least an informal, but rigorous, arrangement, look like?

  • What collaborative tools can be developed to support this effort?

Leading the discussion was Tamara Roy, Senior Associate Principal with ADDInc.; Gillian Christy, Sculptor; and Mark McGowan, Manager of Development with Skanska.

Notes from Workshop #6: Making It Happen

June 27, 2013

BostonAPP/Lab is moving toward organizing and bringing more transparency to the complex series of roles and responsibilities underlying its initiatives. The result is a “Knowledge Grid” – or, the BostonAPP GameBoard®. This workshop took aim at refining and strengthening the GameBoard. We want to make sure that we’ve covered all the right bases, that both the “who” and the “what” are fully accounted for and that this can serve as a useful model for initiating and monitoring future projects, whether you’re an artist, a city agency, a donor, or a community organization.

Lillian Hsu, director of the Cambridge Arts Council, and Dan Sternof Beyer, head of New American Public Art, analyzed one of their projects in terms of the GameBoard. We then broke into small groups to examine how the model can be improved and, ultimately, serve as a valuable tool and road map.

Notes from Workshop #5: The Intersection of Arts, Politics, and Economics

April 18, 2013

How can public art transform the ways in which people use and think about public space? What are some of the new models for private sponsorship of public art? How do we foster these new partnerships? This workshop addressed these and other questions surrounding the role of public art in urban design.

The panel, moderated by Ron Mallis, director of BostonAPP/Lab, included Chris Cook, director of the Mayor’s Office of Arts, Culture, and Tourism; Janet Echelman, whose transformative work can be seen in places as varied as Phoenix, the San Francisco Airport, Vancouver, and Porto, Portugal; Marggie Lackner, director of Design and Architecture for the MBTA, whose experience includes the Arts on the Line program; and Rob Trumbour, assistant professor of urban design at Wentworth Institute of Technology and founder of Artforming, a design and research collaborative.

Notes from Workshop #4: Creative Strategies, Practices, and Collaborations

march 26, 2013

This workshop's panelists included Jason Turgeon of FIGMENT Project at Bartlett Yards; Neil Horsky, community artist and educator; and Conrad Crawford of the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Notes from Workshop #3: Lessons from the HONK! Festival

February 26, 2013

This workshop's panel included Ken Field and John Bell of the HONK! Festival; Lillian Hsu of the Cambridge Arts Council; and Annie Houston of the Mass Cultural Council.

Notes from Workshop #2: Building a Network

january 22, 2013

On October 24, 2012, over three dozen participants, representing foundations, artists, NGOs, city and neighborhood agencies, planners, architects, landscape architects, among many others, convened at the Boston Society of Architects for a “brainstorming roundtable” emphasizing challenges, solutions, and action steps aimed at a more robust and vigorous environment for art in Greater Boston’s public places.

From that event there emerged a new working group–BostonAPP/Lab–to sponsor a monthly series of sessions devoted to identifying how, by whom, and by what actions these and other challenges would be met.



Notes from Workshop #31: Making Public Art for Civil Engagement

Workshop #32:

"augmented reality"

  • What new opportunities does AR open up for civic participation?

  • How can AR "democratize" art?





  • How can public art intentionally or otherwise, trigger civil engagement?

  • What forms could such public art take?



Workshop #30: 


  • Art itself helps to craft community

  • What kinds of "rituals" can be generated through art in public places?


Workshop #29: 

"Arts in public places as tools for individual and community healing"

  • Artists can create contexts – space, structure – for contributions by/from the community

  • People crossing boundaries, going to places they normally wouldn’t go


Workshop #28

"Civic Innovation, Digital Media, and Arts in Public Places"

  • Joint effort with Emerson’s Engagement Lab

  • Metaphor, at all scales, as power tool for civic engagement

  • New ways of building social networks, focusing on collaboration

Workshop #27: 

"Facing History: Enriching Boston’s Historic Places Through Art"

  • Role of art in “extruding” history from a place

  • Version of “Pokemon Go” that reveals history instead of creatures

  • “Humans of New York” as model for engaging with places


Workshop #26

"From Apps to Arts in Public Places: Coding for Creative Technologies and spirits"

  • How to expand from CfB’s community-drive approach to app- making to something comparable for art-making in public places

  • Integrate creative technologies and urban strategies to make cities better for people living in the

Workshop #25:

 "BostonAPP/Lab Goes to Boston Arts Academy’s STEAM Lab"

  • What model of collaborative work does the STEAM Lab hold for artists working in public spaces – including schools!?




"Food and Arts: A Marriage in the Public Market"

  • Communicate the Boston Public Market/The Kitchen experience beyond the walls and downtown

  • Create “community table”: Humans of New York → Humans of the Public Market


Workshop #23

"ArtsCommons on the Ground"

  • Create/sustain dialogue with community to find out what the ArtsCommons means to them

  • ArtsCommons/”black box” as means of creating place of activity: to draw, engage, connect people



Workshop #22:

"ArtsCommons in the Community"

  • Travel/create links to other neighborhoods: what does ArtsCommons “pick up” along the way?

  • Tie in with parklet initiatives

  • Detachable panels to serve as canvases for neighborhood graffiti


Workshop #21: 

"Arts in Public Places: Let’s Face the Music"

  • The need for busking-specific infrastructure throughout Boston

  • Separate, or the same, value propositions for public, artists, politicians?



Workshop #20: 

"Creative Community Building: Institutional Collaboration, Local Results"

  • MACDC and Rose Kennedy Greenway at the table

  • Collaboration allows “big vision” to take root

  • How CDCs are weaving arts, culture, creative place-making into their work

Workshop #19

"The City as Art: Urban Design as Catalyst for Art in Public Places"

  • Design spaces/interventions that generate agency among users

  • Some key strategies for street-art – guerrilla-style and otherwise

Workshop #18

"Design in Collaboration: Re-imagining Places Through Art and Community"

  • Rose Architecture Fellowship at the table

  • Collaborative action builds trust/builds of strengthens communities

  • Social and community context can/should shape design

  • Increase opportunities for people in neighborhoods to be part of what happens around them


"Art as Play: What, Where, For Whom?"

  • How to prompt spontaneous play in public spaces

  • From social games to found games using urban infrastructure to sound/work/tech play


Workshop #16:

"ArtsCommons and the Three P’s: Physical Structure, Programming, Partnerships"

  • Curation by neighborhoods, plus outreach to artists/organizations

  • Participatory “museum” for work originating in individual neighborhood


Workshop #15

"Making the ArtsCommons Come Alive: How? For Whom?"

  • Provide ability for artists/works to respond to viewers’ inputs

  • Pop-up shop tactics as model for use/re-use of “armature”


Workshop #14

"ArtsCommons: Sharing Resources, Linking Disciplines to Create Art in Public Places"

  • Public installation with which people can interact

  • Ex.: a sonic playground walk; public chalkboard




"Open Web, Art, and the Civic Realm"

  • Browser as “collaborative canvas”

  • Interrelationships among open web, civic realm, public art?

  • Create an on-line “commons”: cf. dancydots; cellflight; etc.




"Intersection of Technology and Art in Public Places"

  • Collaboration with Catalyst Conversations

  • Strategies for involving – and empowering -- the public as co-creators




"More Than Pipes: Enriching Public Spaces Through Virtual, Social, Physical Infrastructure"

  • Identify public and private physical and social resources not currently being used

  • Art and infrastructure/art as infrastructure


Workshop #10

"Art and Design as Practical Social Action"

  • Allow community to speak to/with itself

  • Art that engenders/propels civic value in communities



Workshop #9:

 "Beyond the One-Shot Deal: Art in Public Places, New Development, and the Long View"

  • Partnerships with developers: art as ingredient for increasing economic value

  • Create culture of saying “yes,” without long planning/permitting process

  • Provide accessible tools: allow people to play with them

Workshop #8

"Lessons from Cambridge’s Magazine Beach"

  • Public spaces as venue for pop-ups

  • Prove viability and develop community around it



Workshop #7

"Tactical Urbanism/Tactical Art"

  • Combine community activity with physical activity




Workshop #6

"An Architect, an Artist, and a Developer Walk Into a Bar..."

  • Create relatable piece of art that are meaningful/connect to place



Workshop #5

"Making It Happen: Who Need to Know What to Bring Art to Greater Boston’s Public Places"

  • Daylighting the process of making art in public places

  • Introducing the BostonAPP Gameboard


Workshop #4

"Public Art Meets Urban Design"

  • Function of public art: transform the way people respond to each other




Workshop #3

"Creative strategies/Practices/ Collaborations"

  • How does a project have the capacity to “build community?”

  • Define “build community”



Workshop #2: 

"Collaboration at Urban/Neighborhood Scale"

  • Somerville Honk! Festival as model

  • Explore opportunities for cross-border festivals/installations


Workshop #1:

"Building a Networking/Communication Strategy and Implementation Plan"

  • From creative financing strategies to informal meet-ups