Roxbury Memory/History Trail

Boston, MA

Contact Name
Patricia S. Loheed
Project Dates
Phase One (Two Markers) 2014 to end of 2015
The Roxbury Memory/History Trail, located in Roxbury/Dorchester seeks to link 125 cultural history sites related to the area including Native American, Colonial, Agricultural, Victorian, Political History, Civil Rights, and Institutional history of the area. The project concept dates back 20 years and currently has funding for Phase One pacemaker markers by artist Tristan Govignon and NEFA funding for photographers to document the potential sites, archives, community meeting project review, and fund an exhibit of twenty photos. Additional funding is being sought from the Henderson Fund and NEA. The Earthos Institute-Grove Hall NDC partnership has been a dynamic and productive joint effort to date. There are spin off projects such as a proposed STEAM school in a vacant Motor Mart.
Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
The trail goals are multiple: one is to provide a vehicle for exploring, appreciating, and sharing with the neighborhood and the broader community the rich cultural heritage of Roxbury/Dorchester. Second is to provide a lively, flexible curation of the diverse resources allowing visitors to generate a "filtered" trail offering for specific interests or focus such as " historic architecture", "civil rights", "young school children", or "agricultural history or colonial history". Third, the planners who are mostly "elders" see the trail and its pacemaker artworks as a vehicle for building positive self actualization of young users through career discovery and artwork making observations, potential uploading of short videos showing experiential use of the trail onto the proposed interactive phone app.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
This complex project with as many as 125 potential sites was first conceived 20 years ago with Robert Hector, a local history buff, and the Greater Grove Hall Main Streets program. A $200,000 Browne Fund grant was earmarked for the project, but after two false starts with two differing artists that moved away from Boston, this new collaboration with a broader base of networked support is achieving lift off. Importantly, the planning team recognizes the need for an ongoing planning and maintenance effort for the trail as wells a business plan to support the proposed phone app and its technical maintenance as programs and platforms change over time. Hence we are also seeking corporate in kind or ongoing financial support for that technology. The small NEFA Photography grant is one of our first successful steps in supporting that approach.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
Sr. Virginia Morrison is the Ex. Director of the Grove Hall NDC and is the Chair of the Trail Team
Robert Hector, of the Greater Grove Hall Main Streets is our history buff and historic memory who first conceived of the trail.
Ed Gaskin is the Ex. Director of the Greater Grove Hall Main Streets
Joyce Stanley is the Ex. Director of the Dudley Sq. Main Streets
Barry Gaither is the Ex. Director of Museum of the National Center of Afro American Artists
Pat Loheed, FASLA, Phil Loheed, AIA, and Sarah Howard, LEED, Earthos Institute are pro bono support to the Trail Project as Land. Arch., Urban Designer, and Planner respectively.
Tristan Govignon is Sculptor/Artist for Phase One pacemaker markers for fall 2015 completion.
How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
The trail project leverages potential future projects and improvements including a potential STEAM school on Cheney Street across the street from the Grove Hall NDC offices, the potential DPW City improvements for design and handicapped access for the public parking lot adjacent, the completed this fall, sidewalk and street tree replacement improvements on Blue Hill Avenue and Washington St. Three additional markers are planned for Phase Two in Grove Hall. Phases Three through Five will include additional markers in the Dudley Square area, prioritized markers in the trail loops, including Franklin Park and the Zoo. An over arching priority will be the business and marketing plan and the development of the trail phone app. We have made friends with visual and video artists at Emerson College who have developed an interactive phone app for use with Boston's Urban Wilds, portions of that may be a model for our work and a potential collaboration may develop for this trail effort.
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
We are looking at the "Starry Night bike trail "Inspired by the famed Dutch painter's "Starry Night" work, artist Daan Roosegaarde teamed up with Heijmans Infrastructure to create the 1-kilometer-long Van Gogh-Roosegaarde cycle path, which opened inthe city of Eindhoven on November 13. The path is illuminated by thousands of twinkling stones that feature
glow-in-the-dark technology and solar-powered LED lights." We are investigating this technology for illumination of the ground plane near markers as well as LED solar lighting and bollards. The Emerson College interactive phone app creative process has also inspired us as well and the economic success of the Arlington, MA Minuteman Bike Trail which is familiar to us because of our work with the Arlington on the Town Hall Gardens 1.4 million dollar phased restoration and work on feasibility studies for their Spy Pond park which is adjacent to the bikeway. Last during an arts residency at the Catwalk Art Institute in Catskill NY we became familiar with the Hudson River Painters Trail. We have been invited back for an April 2015 ten day arts residency to study and develop a comparison of that trail, the Roxbury Trail and one or two other precedents, by Purcell Palmer, founder of the Catwalk Art Institute. Additionally, Phil Loheed and Sarah Howard are working with a paid team of Boston Architectural College Gateway interns and the property owners of the Motor Mart to develop a feasibility study for a Steam School at that site. If plans come to fruition, this educational center would have physical making and creative jobs exploration facilities and classes that would feed into the full build out of the trail concept. Last, we hope to secure City of Boston Youth Fund internships for five to six creative Boston High School Students to explore creative design careers, using the trail markers, fabrication, and installation for 25 hr. a week for six weeks in July and August 2015. Pat Loheed was successfully able to do this for two summers through the Boston Architectural College and we hope to reprise this project through the Grove Hall CDC using college mentors to lead the effort.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
We started a year ago rekindling the Browne Fund funding with the promise of $16,000 in November 2014, then securing the support of the Roxbury Cultural Network's 16 entity members in February 2014. We successfully hired artist Tristan Govignon for the Trail Phase One markers, successfully secured a NEFA grant for two photographers. We have applied for NEA and Henderson Fund grants for additional planning and construction funding and are awaiting notice from those entities. We have met with the Browne Fund and updated our budget planning for Phases One and Two and received an informal indication that an additional $50,000 of marker funding will be entertained by them in March 2015. We are seeking additional community and foundation funding meanwhile.
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
Our Phase One construction has shifted from spring 2015 to fall 2015 because of funding availability. This has the benefit of having our community reviews (3) of the Phase One effort better in sync with the NEFA photographers hiring, giving them a higher stipend over a shorter period of time. This spring rather than fall design period also gives us the better availability of Barry Gaither of the Museum of Afro-American Artists, because the major fall and Black Nativity fund raising events will be completed for the year. We have made use of technology based drop box, email, and conference call methods for sharing visual and schedule info for our busy team members on our third Thursday of the month meetings.
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
We have confidence that adequate funding for the first five years/potential twenty five placemaker markers can be secured as long as we have the proper supporting materials and and the appropriate artistic sophistication. We have found it more difficult to pitch the trail phone app that we envision, not so much that people don't understand its benefit, but rather that there are concerns that a given platform or content needs to be morphed into more modern technology every two to three years to be kept current. Thus we are seeking a corporate or academic sponsor or partner who keeps abreast of these changes as an ongoing means of support. Friends at the LEF Foundation have been helpful in our thinking and contacts on this topic. We also have three family members in film, tv and phone app technology so we are confident that the needed resources can be located within our geographic area. A second issue, we recognize the need to grew young, emerging professionals' and youth interest in the trail for it to have the leadership necessary for the next twenty years in the life of the trail, its maintenance, care and full fruition of Robert Hector's vision. Our youth involvement in the artwork making operations this spring and the planned BYF grant interns this summer are a first step in building a younger pool of leaders to shepherd the trail and assure completion success for its broader goals.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
Our trail team is a powerful, skilled group of community leaders. The involvement of Earthos, with student interns have helped them tap into resources and move agendas along a little faster, making all of us not spread "too thin". Sometimes "phone help" re: technical issues on a last minute DPW offer of sidewalk repairs is all the Main Streets Ex. Director needs or knowing who the Boston Parks Tree Warden is to request street tree replacements and Earthos could provide this. Meanwhile Robert Hector can retrieve his historic archive research materials from 15-20 years ago to share with the NEFA photographers and the Browne Fund placemaker artist or Sr. Virginia of the Grove Hall NDC can arrange for community meetings at the Grove Hall Library and advertise the meeting broadly.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
Build a level of trust and friendship with the planning/core stakeholder team.
Develop active listening skills that are reciprocal.
Identify what the unsatisfied needs are of this group, since these are motivating factors for performance and success both in communiations and in follow through: in addition to the project, artwork, or series of core events and outcomes, pay attention to the tangental, ripple effect secondary outcomes since they may be more strategic long term. Example: at 25 years the Minuteman Bike Trail had the heaviest use in the country. Restaurants, shops, and services in Arlington, MA CBD greatly benefited from the money spent by users of the trail, as indicated by Alan McClennen, Jr. former Planning Director of Arlington, MA.
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
Our project is just starting implementation, but we are highly optimistic and having great idea generating meetings and synergy so far.
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
We are feeling great, that we were able to retrieve a great idea from twenty years ago, inject new life and funding and build the prospect of an updated implementation that seems to be achieving traction. We see the movement on the parallel STEAM School study as further evidence of this movement.
How did you measure this success or progress?
We will measure success with the successful implementation of Phase One, marker construction by fall 2015. Plus the NEFA photo exhibit in June 2015 in Grove Hall, then its subsequent rehanging for more extended periods in two public buildings in Dudley Square will reiterate and promote the trail to the broader community and to City employees and officials. We will also achieve success by diversifying and enhancing the careers of the artists and photographers that contribute their artistic skills. Our trail planning team is already increased our artistic understanding just by going through the process of the Browne Fund artist RFP and the NEFA photographer RFP. It helped us refine, orchestrate and prioritize our thoughts on what the trail should be and achieve.
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
Our planning has all become "more future oriented". We realize that we need to envision the trail for future users and the neighborhood context. Maybe we have always been concerned with the future, but now are better at articulating the practical outcomes in both literal and abstract concepts. Barry Gaither, yesterday, in talking about the iconography for the bronze top the Mother Caroline place marker talked about finding patterns that have a universal concept, just as the obelisk and pyramid shapes do. Tristan Govignon, our artist talked about key words that might convey the sentiments of the Welfare Mothers' Civil Rights protest being commemorated at that place.

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