Once and awhile, I get asked why Friends of Fort Point Channel partners with such a diverse group of organizations and people. Why not just stick with urban placemaking (whatever that is) and being stewards of the Fort Point Channel? Like in the current public discussion of politics and sports, why not just stick to what is perceived as your thing?
For me, it gets down to our mission, “To make the Fort Point Channel a destination for ALL of Boston’s workforce, residents and visitors.” If you think about it, that is a pretty big charge for a little organization. We have to get all people to the Channel and make the Channel a destination. And we take the “all” pretty seriously and work hard to get new audiences, not just those that are lucky enough to already know the Fort Point Channel. For me, the most pertinent current example is our collaboration with Stephen Hamilton, NEFA and Stitched into Memory.
Stephen and I were originally introduced when he was starting an artist leader fellowship with Arts Connect International (ACI). I was asked to speak by ACI about how to get your art into public spaces (short answer: perseverance) and how to collaborate with business (same). Stephen and I stayed in touch while he was on his fellowship in Nigeria. We discussed putting a grant together and how to get people into public spaces that are not made for or welcoming to them. How can you be explicitly welcoming to people from other neighborhoods (in Stephen’s case Roxbury where he grew up) and backgrounds that may not even know that they have rights to access these spaces?
The result of our collaboration is Stitched into Memory. In case you haven’t had a chance to visit, Stitched into Memory is a public art piece featuring traditional West African textiles created by Stephen in collaboration with paid Boston youth artists. Stephen spent four months teaching West African textile dyeing, weaving and embroidery that he learned in Nigeria to the youth artists. The finished product was created onsite by the students at Atlantic Wharf on the Fort Point Channel and is a gorgeous 30′ by 9′ textile mural that celebrates the contemporary African Diaspora communities and the history of textiles as part of the African and African American experience.
The Friends, in collaboration with Stephen, have hosted two amazing events so far and audiences from all over Boston and beyond have been eager to engage with the work and each other. The artwork has inspired in depth and honest conversation about the history of Boston, art, access and racism in a way that I have not experienced at a local art event before. Often the conversations have been as much about who is not in the room as who is in the room, giving a living example of how difficult it can be for people to accept and engage with a piece of art that is not made by or for someone from their community. And how important it is to bring different events, art, and people to work in and around Fort Point Channel (not just better marketing) if you truly want to make a place a destination for all
I hope that you will join us this Saturday for the closing reception where we once again will celebrate Stephen’s and the youth artists’ incredible work that has brought new ideas and conversations to the Fort Point Channel. Just for one day, we will expand the exhibit to feature the work from renowned textile artist, Theresa-India Young along with work by Alexander Sebastianus and Sarah “Emelyne” Peloquin, who are artist scholars that have worked to further her mission of elevating weaving and fiber as art. There will also be a fabric art and craft fair to bring new crafters and artists (including the incredible Fort Point artist Imani McFarlane) and introduce a new audience to the Fort Point Channel. Join us, even if fiber art is not your ‘thing’ and have a conversation about how we can make our public spaces accessible for art and more from all communities in Boston!
See you on Saturday!
PS Thank you again to everyone who has collaborated on this work. A special thank you to Atlantic Wharf, The New England Foundation for the Arts, Arts Connect International, Edmund Barry Gaither, Ife Franklin, Pamela Parnel, Jacqueline McRath and everyone who has engaged with us and the work! Of course a very special thank you to Stephen Hamilton and all the amazing youth artists who created a beautiful and conversation-provoking piece of art, I look forward to following your art careers and hope you know that you are always welcome in the Fort Point Channel area!