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Explore your origins at MassQ Ball 2022

Summer event will celebrate arts, culture, community

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Explore your origins at MassQ Ball 2022
Participants in a previous MassQing workshop held at the Arnold Arboretum, supported by the “Transformative Public Art” program of the City of Boston’s Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DANIEL CALLAHAN

In an exciting collaboration of artistic forces, Castle of our Skins, The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University and visual artist Daniel Callahan of Create & Record are presenting the MassQ Ball 2022: Origin. This large-scale cultural event, taking place July 9, will celebrate the cross-cultural artistic expressions and roots of Boston’s communities of color.

The MassQ Ball comes to fruition at an already exciting time, as Castle of our Skins celebrates its 10th anniversary and The Arnold Arboretum celebrates its 150th. Though the ball itself is held in July, there are a number of precursor events in April, May, and June leading up to that evening.

Dr. Liseli A. Fitzpatrick will lecture on African folklore, and Marlanda Dekine, poet and Shirley Graham Du Bois Creative in Residence at Castle of our Skins, will lead a workshop on using writing and meditation to connect with ancestry. Callahan himself will lead a workshop on MassQing, the art of expressing ones interior self on the canvas of the face.

“Very much central to our work is the idea of celebration, being proud of where we come from, being proud of who we are, and being proud of the collective energy and excellence that we, as people of color have,” says violist Ashleigh Gordon, executive and artistic director of Castle of our Skins.

The events will explore cultural origins, myths and creative processes in a safe and explorative space. They are meant to inspire attendees to think about how they might shape their own creation story. The participating organizations are raising funds to make the full extent of the MassQ celebration possible, and donations can be made on the MassQ Ball website.

“For 150 years, the Arnold Arboretum landscape has provided a free and open environment to connect the diverse people of Boston to the wonders and restorative power of nature,” said Arboretum Director William Friedman. “We are thrilled to collaborate with Castle of our Skins and remarkable artists like Daniel Callahan.”

Setting the MassQ Ball in the Arboretum brings community members close to nature and to physical roots while they explore their cultural roots. That connection with the natural world has been crucial to ancestral ways of life and is an integral part of the origin stories the ball and its surrounding events will reflect on. Hosting the event in the Arboretum, one of the natural hearts of Boston, also claims space here in the city for communities of color.

The series of events will be about coming together and exploring the art of community connection. Rather than observing artworks hung on a wall or placed behind velvet ropes, the MassQ art experience is meant to be about connecting with the natural world and each other. “The MassQ Ball,” Gordon says, “is a showcase of all sorts of artistic disciplines from different communities of color that collaboratively work together to create something new.”