In 2019, I received funding from the National Parks Service and the Boston Foundation to activate urban national parks through site-specific investigation with my non-profit organization, The Reciprocity Collaborative. We were invited to focus on significant urban sites in Boston, including Old North Church, Old South Meeting House, and the Boston Harbor Islands.
Inspired by history and informed by the way visitors move through and experience historic sites, The Reciprocity Collaborative team, including Sue Murad, Kristin Barendregt, Harrison Burke, Caca Yvaire, Jessi Stegall, and Jenna Pollack, designed guiding questions to link artist and site through creative inquiry, driven by observation and engagement with everyday rhythms and civic themes. By creating site-responsive, immersive work in non-traditional settings, the team engaged in practice-based research on creative placemaking. We asked: what is the image we have of public space? How do we relate to public places? How are civic practices of reciprocity, responsibility, and care performed there? Rather than produce answers, our work was to make the inquiry itself visible through devised art-making.
The Harboring Project sought to re-introduce sacred practice on the Boston Harbor Islands as an outlet for the creative expression of eco-grief. We designed and implemented a sensory-oriented investigation of the islands’ diverse narratives, fostering individual artistic practices in articulation of engagement with the land. Centering on the concept of eco-grief, we connected inspired intuition with rigorous arts-practice to engage in the work of healing.
The project was led by core team members including poet and interaction designer Çaca Yvaire, creative facilitator Jessi Stegall, and social practice artist Kristin Barendregt-Ludwig. As lead artist, Çaca designed and built "Imaginal Portals", social engagement sculptures composed of biomaterials that were stood for a year on Peddocks and Spectacle Islands. We held an Open Expedition event on August 18th, 2019 on Spectacle Island, inviting the public to join us for a day of facilitated art-making, reflecting, and remembering.
Çaca Yvaire, Spectacle Island Sculpture 2019
The Old North Church Project, led by interdisciplinary artists Sue Murad and Jenna Pollack began by investigating the physicality of the historic architecture and its embedded impulses, negotiating between the public and the private, personal and communal. As part of our process, we held our first Open Investigation on May 21st, 2019. We formally invited dialogue with the public through guiding questions related to community, ritual, and cultural rhythms.
Prompts focused on formal architectural elements, as well as the visible and invisible conventions, social interactions, and expectations of the site itself. These slight alterations of actions, practices, and behaviors traditionally embedded in the space gave us a chance to experience group choreography after so many months of working as a small team. Afterwards, visitors were invited into structured reflection and conversation about their experience.
The Old South Meeting House Project invited youth artists in the Writing Film, Media, Arts Department at The Walnut Hill School to investigate and respond to the historic architecture. Similarly to the Old North project, youth artists considered the embedded impulses and negotiated between the public and the private, personal and communal, the visible and the invisible.
Students produced short films that engaged concepts of accessibility, visibility, and community, which were screened at Old South in June 2019. The video on the right shows an in-depth look into the process with myself and the youth artists.