A smiling person with short hair and chunky earrings
Program Officer, Public Art

In partnership with the Design Studio for Social Intervention and Downtown Boston BID, NEFA’s Public Art team co-hosted inPUBLIC 2021 at DTX.  With our intentions to center BIPOC-led creativity, expression, and simply being in public space in the heart of Boston, inPUBLIC 2021 focused on how we are tending to each other in this prolonged and evolving pandemic moment (first with the Delta variant, and as this is being written, the Omicron variant is now on the horizon).

Dzidzor Azaglo, Event Producer and Boston-based artist, reflected on the experience of how Downtown Crossing was transformed. “inPUBLIC 2021 was a delightful disruption! By Sunday afternoon, I could see the faces of folks walking by—people laughing, dancing—and recognizing all the colors here! We saw a lot of BIPOC being centered and that alone is a disruption to white supremacy! I found myself gravitating to the circles of folks moving and instinctively felt, ‘Why am I not dancing with y’all?’... I think that’s what [spatial justice] can feel like—being a disruption towards connection, life and spirit in public, in a way that truly centers folks pushed to the margins. I think a lot of people think about protest and rage—which is also an important means of disruption for systems that don’t center equality for all. I see our disruption as being focused on welcoming folks to be a part of seeing, experiencing, and being involved spontaneously to shape their environments,” shared Dzidzor.

Tables with art on top of them and a sign that asks "What Are You Tending To?"

DS4SI put out an open call to artists to collectively transform the Downtown Crossing’s DTX into an installation that expressed the vision and values of collective healing and answering the question, “What are you tending to?” They were thrilled to have over 60 artists answer the call, contributing 2D, 3D, audio, and video pieces that would be a part of the final installation. In addition, they invited UnBound Bodies Collective (UBB), a QTBIPOC experimental artist collective, to open inPUBLIC 2021 with an immersive installation that invited participants to gather for communing, rest, and relaxation. Over the next two days, DTX at Downtown Crossing Plaza transformed into a stunning open-air gallery with various stations where the public could rest and add their own commitments to tending, take a free seedling to tend, be immersed in a sound installation, and much more. Artists contributed live spoken word performances and DJ Bruno closed out the gathering giving us the opportunity to move our bodies in public together at safe distances. 

This was an opportunity for BIPOC artists to collectively reclaim public space and reimagine what collective care and safety might look, feel, and sound like for BIPOC folx in downtown Boston. As artist Lani Asuncion shared, “It just dawned on me that this was the first time I have ever performed publicly in Boston... There were artists that I knew and didn’t know—there was the space for feeling connected with others again as artists, as people, and the general Boston community. It was about the art, and the art of creating together—that is beautiful and special—and something I have been missing.” 

Singer Song-Writer Anita Maldonado (aka Evelyn Blush) also shared how this invitation was a necessary opening for her and her work, “I’ve been in Boston for about 10 years now...I wrote a song that was heavy on my heart to hold. It was a conversation between me and our missing Queer and Trans loved ones and their communities—who are sacred to me—and to continue to show up for them, to love on them, to help them heal. I have a lot of gratitude to be a part of this and it was perfect timing being there. There is a strong desire to be a part of conversations that are healing and connected to what we are going through—not retraumatize us.”

inPUBLIC 2021 was an experiment in embodying spatial justice in both process and installation. “As the planner for the Downtown Boston BID, the magic of inPUBLIC 2021 was the total transformation of the space,” said Anita Lauricella, Senior Planner for the Downtown BID. She continued, “I was awed that the spaces I see every day were infused by artists with new meanings, interpretations, and welcoming.” By centering BIPOC artists in the process of dreaming up and into this multi-day installation in downtown Boston, inPUBLIC 2021 participants were able to collectively experience the heart of the city in a new way. 

As co-curator Crystal Bi of DS4SI shared, “inPUBLIC really inspired me—it made me believe in the possibility that all these disparate artists coming together was the definition of abundance, and that it was truly beautiful.” As a partner in this collaboration, I witnessed the joy and abundance that can come from centering and celebrating BIPOC-led creativity, expression and collective care for both artists and community. Led by activating the space through spatial justice frameworks, we were able to ask and experience one of many possibilities for what public making can be. And how we can take up space with the intention of collective creation towards interaction and belonging—in the face of so much isolation—and create opportunities for laughter, dialogue, learning, and surprise. How can art and artists participate in spatial transformations to possibly give us glimpses of more just futures? And how does embodying those possibilities impact our present reality? inPUBLIC 2021 opened up curators, artists, and participants to partake in this experiment.

At night, some folks sit by tables with art on them, in front of steps decorated with artwork.

inPUBLIC 2021 Participating Artists: 

2D Artists

3D/Installation 

Audio

Video

inPUBLIC 2021 Curation Team: 

Some rocks and a small tree sit next to a small painting of a person in winter gear.
A Black woman holds a bouquet in front of steps with art work on it.
A young Asian boy stands next to a tree-like sculpture with paper sticking out of it.
Young, Black women play hopscotch in the middle of a city center, with tall buildings behind them.
A Black woman, in brown winter gear, poses in front fo stairs with artwork on it.
Some rocks and a small tree sit next to a small painting of a person in winter gear.

All images taken by Tyara Angus, AfroCentered Media

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