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Ten art projects for Roxbury receive funding from Transformative Public Art Program

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Ten art projects for Roxbury receive funding from Transformative Public Art Program
The 2020 installation by Roxbury Electric Illumination Company at Highland Park. PHOTO: COURTESY OF MARK SCHAFER

As part of the Transformative Public Art Program run by the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, 10 murals and 27 short-term projects and art activations have been funded around Boston, many in the Roxbury neighborhood. The initiative aims to bring public art projects into the neighborhoods where residents spend their time, to bring accessibility and joy to each enclave.

Past Transformative Public Art projects include a mural by art collective Mz. Icar. COURTESY PHOTO

“The Transformative Public Art Program allows us to invest in individual artists who continue to need increased support due to the impacts of COVID-19, while bringing cultural gatherings and activations of space to communities across the City,” says Kara Elliott-Ortega, chief of Arts and Culture for the City of Boston.

Of the 10 projects being funded in Roxbury, one is a light installation run by the Roxbury Electric Illumination Company in Highland Park. Organized by artistic duo Mark Schafer and Yvon Augustin, the project will expand on an installation they put up last winter. Eight trees in a park were wrapped with white Christmas lights. “They were all connected to this circuit board … that regulated the current and so the lights got brighter and darker as if the trees were each breathing,” says Schafer.

With the funding from the Transformative Public Art Program, Schafer and Augustin will be able to bring youth from the neighborhood into the project. Instructors from the Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn program at the South End Technology Center will instruct the young people and the artists on how to program circuit boards and microcontrollers to make the lights operate in different ways. The extra funding will also allow the artists to use more energy efficient and dynamic LED lights.

The installation will launch in December and may include a community involvement aspect where visitors can use a knob to change the speed or style of the lights. “It’s a whole other level, both in the technology, in the community involvement and hopefully on the impact,” says Schafer. “Every aspect is improved.”

A previous Transformative Public Art project by artist Rixy.

Other projects receiving funding in Roxbury include three murals at the Engagement Center in Newmarket Square by artists Rixy Fernandez, Alex Cook and art collective Mz. Icar, Black Market Nubian’s NUBIANA place making initiative, Me2/Orchestra’s community conductor experience in Ramsay Park and many others.

With the culture sector still in COVID-19 limbo, the goal of the program and the funding is to bring the art to the people in a way that it can be enjoyed safely and easily. Elliott-Ortega  says, “I hope it provides a moment of joy for people and maybe even a moment of hope or reflection to see that there are people in our community who want to make these amazing artworks happen.”