Photography by Lee Hopkins

Today our piece ‘Together’ was officially accepted into the collection of the City of Boston.
This project was unique. It’s taken us some time to process and fully and articulate the experience. For the team and me, it was a practice of radical empathy, love, boundaries, and the balance between. We are in it, but not of it.

The Engagement Center is located in an area of Boston referred to as methadone mile. The sidewalks are home to many. Tents fill the sidewalks, bleed out to the streets and little orange caps are everywhere…so many little orange caps. We were advised to be mindful of touching anything because it may have fentanyl on it. There is a homeless shelter on one end of the block, the engagement tent behind the shelter, and a police department one block over. Most major US cities have areas like this because addiction is real, capitalism and lack of affordable housing is real and our society struggles with meeting people where they are at.

The Engagement Center has a new building, and we were asked to put some magic on the exterior. When we were initially awarded the project, the one thing we noted early on was the manner in which folks described the area and constantly gauged our comfort level with creating and engaging with the community…we just don’t have language that fully acknowledges and dignifies people that suffer from addiction and homelessness…so we hear the apologetic tone in which we (ourselves included) describe the community….one that we are inherently connected to.

Here’s the long and short, people are people…all people. Folks go through stuff, some get luck, and various privileges that afford them a ‘good look’ but at the end of the day none of that matters cuz if one suffers we all will suffer.

Folks are out here doing the work tho. We met poets, witnessed bonds, dedicated outreach, and love…all in what has a surface appearance of chaos.

We were honored and humbled to be able to use art to be in service. Mario, Sabrina, Natalie, and the whole Engagement Center staff are modeling what it is like to just show up for folks…over and over again. We got a chance to chat with folks, experience some real rachet shit, and also be held and have our intentions of focusing on connected supported community mirrored.

We decided to do something a bit different to make the piece more accessible. As much as we love celebrating figurative narratives, we felt that it was better suited to go with a slightly abstracted text-driven theme. Our thinking was that, If all you got from the art was color therapy and a sense of play, then it still hit. We know what it’s like to not be seen and just want to let the staff and guests of the engagement center know that they are seen.

Please love up on yer folks. We gotta do it together and get it together.

We’d like to acknowledge and extend gratitude to the City of Boston’s Transformative Public Art Program and the Mayor’s Office of Art and Culture for supporting and generously funding this project. We would also like to thank Street Theory Gallery for helping us all Get it Together!

Much gratitude and love…it’s a journey ya’ll.