This post was written by Now + There's Operations & Development Associate, Maddie Doctor.
Here’s to our volunteers! As the volunteer coordinator for Patterned Behavior, I met over thirty hardworking and passionate people whose help was vital in making our project a reality. They painted, primed, greeted, and directed traffic for over two weeks, and everyone who came out brought their own unique perspective and enthusiasm to the site.
I’d like to share the story of one volunteer, a woman whose involvement is emblematic of the amazing connections that these projects can forge and reminds me why I love working in public art.
Lucy* is an artist and a student from Johannesburg, South Africa. She will be spending her time in Boston interning at various arts organizations, but she spent her second-ever day in the United States volunteering for Patterned Behavior.
“Meeting Silvia and the team was such a good way to start off the trip,” she said. “I immediately made friends and I felt part of a sisterhood.”
She learned about Silvia’s mural through social media and jumped at the chance to get involved – practically as soon as she arrived in a new country. Lucy’s help was invaluable as she stayed on site for over a week, lending a steady hand to the painting process.
Lucy knows about the impact of public art, too. Her ongoing project Her Shadow seeks to reclaim urban space for women through a series of guerrilla projections and public performances. It’s a powerful message that resonated with us at Now + There as we continue our Year of the Woman.
“Being in an artist's studio making work is one thing, being out there and experiencing a place and its people is another,” said Lucy. “In fact, it is vital in my opinion if you really want to make work that encourages any kind of change.”
Like Lucy, many of our volunteers were artists. Some were friends of Now + There, and some heard about the mural through The Esplanade Association. But I was surprised by how many of the volunteers were simply passers-by who found themselves entranced by Silvia’s colorful design. As anyone who’s traveled the path by the mural site knows, it’s not always a place that people are inclined to stop.
As the volunteers helped Silvia and our team prep and paint the wall, we loved how many people stopped to thank us for painting the mural. Or told us a story about what the Esplanade meant to them. Or asked us where the next mural would be.
It may not seem like Silvia’s mural has much in common with Lucy’s Her Shadow. But to me, both of these women are creating public art that changes how we navigate our city. It makes us question and expand our conceptions of space and movement. And it sparks new connections – whether it’s from Johannesburg to Boston, or a quick compliment from a passing commuter.
Thank you to all of our Patterned Behavior volunteers!
*Name changed at the request of the artist, who wishes to remain anonymous. The artist believes it is vital that her work does not glorify a single person, but rather allows for unity under the banner of gender equality.