Now + There Accelerator

Lost House: Lessons in Serving the Neighborhood

Lost House: Lessons in Serving the Neighborhood

2018 N+T Accelerator Artist Cynthia Gunadi and her partner Joel Lamere opened their Accelerator Project Lost House to the public on Sunday October 28, 2018. Read how, in Cynthia’s words, their community outreach, which began as due diligence, ended up being an honor to take part in.

Art as Experience

Art as Experience

N+T Critic-in-Residence, Leah Tripplett Harrington dives into the 2018 N+T Public Art Accelerator projects, exploring how they use social exchange as their main medium and participation as their most critical material.

A creative elixir! Reflecting on HD•BPM

The following post was written and contributed to our blog by artist Ryan Edwards, reflecting on the execution of his Public Art Accelerator project, HD•BPM, which had its debut at the shipyard in East Boston on August 30th and 31st. To read his reflection on the creation of his piece, click here.

A report back from the field on the debut of HD•BPM - as with most creative-tech-based artworks, the first thing we like to share when the piece wraps is: “It worked!” The software ran smoothly, the video feed to projector stayed solid, the drum pads performed beautifully and the LEDs lit with every drum stroke of the public. The few technical bumps we did have were minor and circumvented with quick reboots or a jiggle of a wire harness. 

The presentation partners that were involved with the piece all came through - even though there were some scary moments in the week leading up to the events - but what would a public presentation be without a few scary moments in show week!? Kudos to Dan at Coastal Marine Management, Matt at the HarborArts Shipyard Gallery and Max at Downeast Cider. We also had awesome sponsors come through from Boston Harbor Now, the ICA, Zumix, East Boston Main Streets, State Rep Adrian Madoro and KO Pies. 

 Photo by Aram Boghosian.

Photo by Aram Boghosian.

We chose two big nights to present and the vibe each night was high. The first night coincided with the Boston Harbor fireworks and tons of people were out and about for that. There was about 30 minutes where the fireworks were blasting, our piece was up, the ICA was open, Downeast Cider was poppin’ - it just felt like a wonderful nucleus of creativity, color, openness and inclusivity happening. One of my proudest moments to be an artist here in Boston, truly. The end of that night there were still many people participating, while a group of 15 or so tourists from France danced to the music being made, off to one side. I believe they came to the pier to see the fireworks, and afterwards stumbled on the piece, and had their own dance party, just in front of the ICA. It warms my heart to think they head back to France and share about that night, and summarize the wild, playful, colorful, public energy of our city to their family and friends. 

The piece itself was fun and it seemed to be a real creative elixir for many. I ended up making DJ-style beats to provide a backdrop for the playfulness of the public’s drumming on the pads. I created sound banks that ranged from synthesizer chords echoing to big hip-hop bass drum sounds, to long reverberant chimes all triggered by the public. Every painting being revealed was like a song, with its own preset beat and sound banks. Through a few unique preparations, I was able to create musical scenarios that were success oriented for the public and still retained expressive agency for each drummer. We had many people walk away celebrating themselves and their friends for their new found musical skills… sharing how they drummed so much their shoulders were tired, or that they always wanted to drum and this was the first chance they had ever had! We had one man come up just as the fireworks started who laid into the drums, clearly having played his whole life. Suddenly this lone elder had an audience and a spotlight - every drum stroke the drum lit him up. 

 Photo by Aram Boghosian.

Photo by Aram Boghosian.

Personally I was excited to see that the public did not need my or my team’s advocacy to play, nor to keep playing. It turns out drums, as I suspected, are a big welcome hello, an invitation in a circular form, a party waiting to happen. As well, I was stoked to observe the many artists whose work was included in the event attend and observe their pieces being projected at a massive scale. One highlight was Cyrille Conan and his daughter Coco playing together, while his piece “Diwezhat Goañv” was drummed into existence. Another was my son and his high school buddies attending and playing for a while, taking turns showing off and alternately being cool and goofy. 

Please enjoy the photos and short video, viewable both here on the Now + There site as well as at my studio website Big thanks to Aram Boghosian for the photos (one of his photos was featured in the piece as well! “Swimmer” - the guy jumping into the Charles River) and Ernesto Galan for the video work. 

Video by Ernesto Galan.

Ryan Edwards of Masary Studios developed HD•BPM as a fellow of the Now + There Public Art Accelerator. Masary works to awaken the built environment through musical performance, projected video and interactive installations. Ryan is trained as a drummer, holds a degree from Berklee College of Music and spent much of his 20’s playing djembe in West Africa. He has written extensively for dance and is interested in the intersection of sound and physical forms. Ryan is a father and lives with his son in Watertown, MA.

"Golden Home" and the power of community storytelling

The following post was written and contributed to our blog by artist Lina Maria Giraldo, reflecting on her Accelerator project Golden Home.

When you are an immigrant home becomes an abstract concept. What does it really mean to have a home? A place where your cultural roots are? A place where you identify with others? A place where a community supports each other? Or a place where you feel safe, loved and respected? Since I moved to Boston, and still 18 years later, the question of what home is is persistent. Every time I moved, I created new connections, found different ways to build together, and I created new memories. Sadly, those memories were threatened every time I moved again. My story is just one the thousands of immigrant stories in Boston and around other cities in the USA.

Rapid development in Boston is displacing entire communities and erasing memories. There is not enough affordable housing to keep pace with the huge demand, and the immigrants, minorities, families, small business owners and elders are struggling to keep up with the changes. This is happening too fast and memory, identity, and connections are constantly threatened.

  Lina and the  Golden Home  balloons. Photo credit Lina Maria Giraldo.

Lina and the Golden Home balloons. Photo credit Lina Maria Giraldo.

I’m a witness of these changes. I have seen, and experienced my neighborhood’s history erased because of rapid development. Communities are struggling to keep generations together, families that fought for years to fix their streets and improve their neighborhood are suddenly displaced. I’m compelled to humanize this process, to change the narrative and to put a face to these numbers, to collect a story from a passerby, a business owner, a community leader, or the new generations; to create a public art piece built from the collective memory that highlights 13 community member and an interactive map with the stories

Golden Home started as a personal mission. As an immigrant, mother, and Latina I felt the need to create a public art work based on the collective conversations with the Community in Egleston Square and Hyde-Jackson Square. Both communities have changed drastically in the last 10 years and each of them has embraced and struggled differently. For the last two months and thanks to the help of Luis Cotto from Egleston Main Street and Gerald Robbins from Hyde Jackson Square main street, I had the opportunity to be with the community and collect their stories.

I was there before movie nights, before theater Teatro en el Parque, as well as mornings at the YMCA and Community center. We exchanged stories for balloons, each of them representing a conversation, a dream, a challenge, an idea, or suggestion. The balloons are golden with a logo of a house, and the interchange is documented in text, audio, photo, or video.

I’m humbled by the community members that have sat with me under a tent in the middle of the day, under oppressive heat, to share their most intimate stories of love, memories, frustrations, fear, desperation, and hope. While at Hyde-Jackson Square the conversations focus on how to preserve the cultural roots. At Egleston they have a more of a critical approach and focus on the lack of opportunities for housing opportunities, how the developers and landlords are limiting affordable housing, how women are more vulnerable to losing their home, and how organizations such as Urban Edge are helping.

  Photo credit Lina Maria Giraldo.

Photo credit Lina Maria Giraldo.

One day, a woman who was driving on Washington Street saw the balloons and stopped immediately. She was looking for housing opportunities and she was hoping to find a solution. She was a kind spirit with an optimistic smile and shared with me how she was one step away from being homeless. She shared her challenges, how she is not eligible to receive benefits from a shelter that are available because she is couch surfing and not sleeping on the street. She and her special-needs daughter have been waiting for section 8 housing for 16 years and struggling to find an opportunity as a single mother. Since she must care for her child non-stop, working is almost an impossible task... every night is full of anxiety because she doesn't know where her next bed is going to be.

Another story is from a business owner on Washington St. How he feels the city is turning its back on him. He told me of how the Dominican community has embraced challenges for 20 years. How this area has gone from a dangerous place to a safe family oriented community and now how the same community members are being displaced because they can’t afford to stay or keep the businesses afloat. For 20 years they created history and cultural roots, now these same families are being displaced because developers prefer to rent rooms to students. It’s more profitable. How suddenly Washington Street’s rich community, with their music, their warmth, and their soul is endangered because of a sordid economy. Stories from other business owners are more decisive on how they are embracing change, hiring fluent English speakers so they can accommodate the wealthy community that is moving in, or just closing the store because it’s too expensive and operating online.

Like these, there are many other stories of hope, despair, and displacement, all of them with different perspectives that will be documented on an interactive map.

  Photo credit Lina Maria Giraldo.

Photo credit Lina Maria Giraldo.

During September and thanks to Kevin Brill, I will be working with the High School Students from Greater Egleston High School sharing and recording their stories. The culmination of the project includes 13 portraits of the community accompanied by words installed at the windows on the second floor of the Greater Egleston High School looking out to Washington Street.

I’m thankful for the community from Egleston and Hyde-Jackson Square and others who are sharing so many intimate stories. These are putting a face to the challenges of rapid development, a face of courage, and love.

Lina Maria Giraldo is a Colombian born, Boston-based artist focusing on Interactive Storytelling towards social change. She created Golden Home as a participant in Now + There’s inaugural 2018 Public Art Accelerator.

HD•BPM: Percussion, Preparation, and the Public

The following post was written and contributed to our blog by artist Ryan Edwards, reflecting on the process of creating his Public Art Accelerator project, HD•BPM, which will debut at the shipyard in East Boston on August 30th and 31st.

Public art cannot be finished, it can only be prepared.  

And today, just one week before my piece HD•BPM is set to launch, I am deep in preparations. It is an exciting process, from ideas (plural), to idea, to “really is this a good idea?”, to “how are going to approach making this thing”… to then starting to make it. 


The current project involves putting drum sticks in the hands of the public and inviting them to play electronic drums pads, of which there are 9. Each stroke of a drum pad triggers a musical sound sample, and it also slowly reveals, stroke by stroke, video projected images of artworks on the side of a building in the East Boston Shipyard. Every drum stroke calls up a kind of animated tiled reveal, organized by color, in the projection. After hundreds of drum strokes, the artworks will be revealed in huge form on the side of an industrial building. 

The project addresses my interest in colliding sound with light / images / forms and plays with the idea of a drum stroke = a brush stroke. It also addresses one of my favorite things - putting music-making in the hands of regular people, helping them find their musical voice, and making that happen without the stress and strain of lessons or rehearsals. We can make music right now and it can sound good. 

I am fascinated by the idea that a true public piece of work must leave room for the public - it must be unfinished in someway. Whether that is space left for interaction, for footsteps, for ambient sounds, for data input, for weather, or anything - it is unfinished until it is realized in the wild. This project has certain determined aspects - the artworks that will be revealed through the music (7 pieces from local artists), the sound that will be triggered through the playing, and the software we created to make it run. But if we set this up in the shipyard, and no public hands grabbed sticks, no funky ideas came through, no one was bold enough to step up and play, then this artwork would not only be unfinished, it would not exist. 

The Public Art Accelerator Program was deeply valuable and enriching to me and my practice. My understanding of Boston and our public art history has deepened, and I am more confident to see myself in this city’s shared creative landscape. I will look forward to offering another blog post after my piece has debuted and share what worked, what the surprises were, what I learned, and what new spaces I might want to leave open for next time. 

Ryan Edwards of Masary Studios developed HD•BPM as a fellow of the Now + There Public Art Accelerator. Masary works to awaken the built environment through musical performance, projected video and interactive installations. Ryan is trained as a drummer, holds a degree from Berklee College of Music and spent much of his 20’s playing djembe in West Africa. He has written extensively for dance and is interested in the intersection of sound and physical forms. Ryan is a father and lives with his son in Watertown, MA.

Artist Ekua Holmes wants to plant hope all over Roxbury

We're grateful to The Boston Globe's Cristela Guerra for her lovely feature this week on N+T Accelerator Artist Ekua Holmes and her Accelerator project The Roxbury Sunflowers Project.

On a hot Monday outside the Grove Hall branch of the Boston Public Library, Roxbury artist Ekua Holmes watered a dry garden bed. Inside the planter were seedlings sown in early June. Barely visible, tiny green petals were the beginnings of her public art project.

Her vision is to plant 10,000 sunflowers all over Roxbury, spreading beauty through seeds.

“Artists deal in the currency of hope,” Holmes said. “We deal in the currency of beauty, and our job is to reflect back to society what we see.”

To reach her goal of a massive sunflower harvest in September means daily care, especially on very dry days. It also means helping others in the community imagine the possibilities.

“You’re watering weeds,” a man said with a laugh.

“Some of those are weeds,” Holmes said. “And some of those are beautiful sunflowers and beautiful wildflowers. I say, water everything. It isn’t up to us to decide who is worthy. How many people thought we were weeds?”

A grant from the Now+There six-month public art accelerator program in Boston helped Holmes and five other artists cultivate their ideas. The program provided her with $21,000 in funding for what has became known as the Roxbury Sunflower Project.

So far, Holmes has handed out 15,000 seeds to local businesses, community advocates, and nonprofits since the beginning of June and planted between 500 and 700 sunflowers herself.

Kate Gilbert, executive director at Now+There, called the effort a project of hope. Holmes has also called it a project of self-determination.

“It’s both generous and ephemeral,” Gilbert said. “It creates a sense of urgency in that you really need to be part of it in early June, you need to grab your seeds and get in the ground. It’s asking every one of us to nurture those tiny little seeds.”

Holmes carries sunflower seeds in the back of her car, just in case she needs to give them out. On social media and via e-mail, she gets daily updates on how the flowers are faring.

An estimated 120 individuals have planted seeds across the community, including aspiring farmers with the Urban Farming Institute.

The goal is to hold a mass harvest in September and share sunflowers with community centers and homeless shelters. Holmes plans to create six collages inspired by sunflowers that will be displayed in the windows of the Freedom House, a nonprofit in Roxbury whose mission is to mentor local teens through high school and into college.

“It’s beauty at its finest that grows in our community,” said Lisa Martin, administrative coordinator with the Freedom House. “I think sunflowers bring light, and that’s what to me Freedom House brings to the community, so, anything that draws attention from chaos to beauty.”


Charting the Wild World of Insurance and Budgeting

Charting the Wild World of Insurance and Budgeting

Entering its third month of demystifying the process of creating public art, the N+T Accelerator met last week in a collaboration with the City of Boston’s A.I.R. program and NEFA’s Creative City to chart the wild world of insurance and budgeting. And it wasn't that scary! 

Accelerating. Together.

Accelerating. Together.

Public art demands collaboration. We’re ensuring that the Accelerator is a program that will demystify the process of creating public art—not just for our cohort of artists, but for all of Boston—with workshops codesigned with Boston AIR and NEFA's Creative City.