Ten art projects for Roxbury receive funding from the Transformative Public Art Program

The 2020 Roxbury Electric Illumination Company installation in Highland Park. PHOTO: COURTESY OF MARK SCHAFER

As part of the transformative public art program run by the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, 10 murals and 27 short-term art projects and activations have been funded around Boston, many in the Roxbury neighborhood. The initiative aims to bring public art projects to the neighborhoods where residents spend their time, to bring accessibility and joy to each enclave.

Past projects of transformative public art include a mural by the art collective Mz. Icar. COURTESY PHOTO

“The Transformative Public Art Program allows us to invest in individual artists who continue to need increased support due to the impacts of COVID-19, while also bringing cultural gatherings and space activations to communities across the city, ”said Kara Elliott-Ortega, head of arts and culture for the city of Boston.

Of the 10 projects funded at Roxbury, one is a light installation operated by the Roxbury Electric Illumination Company in Highland Park. Organized by the artistic duo Mark Schafer and Yvon Augustin, the project extends an installation they put together last winter. Eight trees in a park were surrounded by white Christmas lights. “They were all connected to this circuit board… which regulated the current and so the lights got brighter and darker as if the trees were each breathing,” says Schafer.

Thanks to funding from the Transformative Public Art Program, Schafer and Augustin will be able to involve young people from the neighborhood in the project. South End Technology Center’s Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn instructors will teach kids and artists how to program circuit boards and microcontrollers to operate lights in different ways. The additional funding will also allow artists to use more energy efficient and dynamic LED lights.

The installation will launch in December and may include a community engagement aspect where visitors can use a button to change the speed or style of the lights. “It’s a whole new level, both in technology, in community involvement and hopefully impact,” Schafer explains. “Every aspect is improved.

A previous transformative public art project by artist Rixy.

Other projects funded at Roxbury include three murals at the Newmarket Square Engagement Center by artists Rixy Fernandez, Alex Cook and the Mz art collective. Icar, Black Market Nubian’s NUBIANA Place Creation Initiative, Me2 / Orchestra’s Community Conductor Experience at Ramsay Park and many more.

With the culture sector still in limbo from COVID-19, the goal of the program and funding is to introduce the public to art in a way that can be enjoyed safely and easily. Elliott-Ortega said, “I hope it will give people a moment of joy and maybe even a moment of hope or reflection to see that there are people in our community who want to do these amazing works of art are happening.

Kayleen C. Rice

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