WBUR Presents: The Makers | WBUR News

Why Baldwin? Morson-Matra factors to the author’s personal seek for refuge, which in 1948 led him to flee the racism of New York for the freer, extra bohemian Paris.

“Having to depart the place you might be, , the place that you have beloved, Harlem, and go to Europe, is one thing that has felt actually near me,” says Morson-Matra, who was lately priced out of her condo in Roxbury.

Anita Morson-Matra holds a portrait of James Baldwin. Morson-Matra is a creative entrepreneur, urban planner and founder of Baldwin in the Park and Nubian Nights. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Anita Morson-Matra holds a portrait of James Baldwin. Morson-Matra is a inventive entrepreneur, city planner and founding father of “Baldwin within the Park” and Nubian Nights. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

On a latest go to to the Rose Kennedy Greenway in downtown Boston, Morson-Matra gestures to the park’s immaculate garden and plush shrubbery. “Even with all the background sounds that you simply usually discover in main cities, it’s a place of refuge and therapeutic,” she says. However, she provides, not everybody feels that these public areas are actually for them.

“If somebody was to return out on any normal day, they’d suppose that this may increasingly simply be for vacationers or this may increasingly simply be for a sure inhabitants of individuals,” Morson-Matra says. “Nevertheless it’s not. It is for everybody.”

On Oct. 22, Morson-Matra will current a type of preview of her “Baldwin within the Park” collection on the Greenway, known as “Baldwin within the Park: Collective Therapeutic By Motion & Which means,” with the choreographer Jean Appolon. She says the interactive occasion will use dance and motion to assist individuals “join with out of doors areas wherever they discover themselves.”

Morson-Matra plans to current this system at a big spot on the Greenway: the location the place a Seventeenth-century girl named Zipporah Potter Atkins as soon as owned a house. Potter Atkins is believed to be the primary African-American to buy property within the metropolis — no small feat, particularly contemplating that enslaved folks had been imported and offered in Massachusetts on the time.

“[It] is the proper place to current and supply ‘Baldwin within the Park: Collective Therapeutic By Motion & Which means,’ as a approach not solely to honor the legacy of difficult and painful histories that Black and brown folks have had all through town of Boston, but in addition to search out methods to make the most of this area to heal,” Morson-Matra says. “To grasp that we’re welcome in all areas and that we’ve a possibility to convene and meet and dance and transfer and produce forth pleasure.”

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Christa Brown

Arts administrator Christa Brown at the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Arts administrator Christa Brown on the Lowell Nationwide Historic Park Customer Middle. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

As the pinnacle of the Free Soil Arts Collective, the one Black-owned arts group within the Merrimack Valley, Christa Brown companions with the neighborhood to uncover misplaced histories and make alternatives for actors and educating artists. In 2021, they participated of their first Juneteenth celebration. Actors performed the roles of historic Black figures chatting with strolling excursions across the metropolis.

“We took of us to 6 totally different spots which can be tied to Black historical past,” she remembers. “There are 34 spots on the Underground Railroad in Lowell that aren’t marked. There isn’t any signage. You would not know.”

They advised the story of Lowell Excessive Faculty, the oldest desegregated public highschool in the US. They advised the story of Birdie Malbory, the primary Black individual to run for metropolis council who had rocks thrown at her workplace and set ablaze. Individuals who modified the face of town however stay unacknowledged.

“It’s magical, however should you stroll the streets, you haven’t any thought,” she says. “So we had been type of enthusiastic about how we will make clear that utilizing the humanities.”

Her collective’s title has a lineage. It hails again to the Free Soil Occasion which wished the top of slavery.

“Their motto was, ‘Free soil. Free labor. Free males.’ So we wished to type of adapt that to artmaking and say we would like the artists that we work with to have that freedom,” she says. “Simply because the soil is free, the air is free, the land is free… no matter tales it’s important to say, we’re not going to filter you. We’re not going to make you palatable for a white viewers. You are free.”

Christa Brown standing in front of the
Christa Brown standing in entrance of the “Hidden in Plain Sight” exhibit on the Lowell Nationwide Historic Park Customer Middle. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The 32-year-old stated a number of artists they’ve labored with haven’t been in an atmosphere the place that creativity has been fostered, the place they’ve been allowed to take up that a lot area.

Their work may be seen across the metropolis. Working alongside one other native group known as The Kindred Undertaking, Brown and her collaborator Masada Jones carried out 27 interviews with longtime Black residents. These oral histories turned the cornerstone of an exhibit now on show on the Lowell Nationwide Historic Park Customer Middle. They’re additionally included in a e book they revealed known as “Hidden in Plain Sight: Tales of Black Lowell.”

The group was born of Brown’s need to behave in her neighborhood, to inform tales the place she’s rooted and to make use of theater to seed a liberation she discovered as a toddler. She remembers throughout a interval of homelessness as a toddler stumbling upon a touring theater troupe.

“I used to be like, ‘What is that this?’ I used to be sitting down and so they wished artists to return on stage. And I raised my hand,” she stated. “I acquired up there, I had one line and I simply felt like electrical. What I’d equate now to love falling in love or like having Cheesecake Manufacturing facility for the primary time…”

After all, I requested her what that one line was.

“Shrimp,” she stated, laughing. “Okay, okay. We had been the guards of Hades and we would have liked a password and we had been huddled and I used to be like, Can we are saying shrimp? As a result of it is my favourite meals supply? They had been like, okay, certain. And the time got here, we had been like, shrimp. And I used to be in. I used to be hooked on a crustacean.”

Theater gave her a voice. Analyzing characters helped her analyze her personal individual. It modified her life. And she or he is now witnessing firsthand the way it’s altering others.

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Daniel Callahan

Artist Daniel Callahan paints a
Artist Daniel Callahan paints a “MassQ” on WBUR’s Arielle Grey at her studio in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

It’s onerous to explain Boston artist Daniel Callahan’s apply of “MassQing” with out going by the method your self. First, you sit down with Callahan, nose to nose. He pulls out a sketchbook and pencil and asks you a number of questions.

The method appears easy sufficient. However the questions are deeply reflective. As you articulate your emotions out loud, Callahan listens and sketches away, producing the design that he’ll ultimately paint in your face. Your story influences the design, although as Callahan notes, he’s restricted by eight or so hues within the main colour palette of the kids’s face paint he makes use of.

“It’s a bit of more difficult,” he says, dipping a skinny brush within the vivid inexperienced pot. “Nevertheless it forces you to get extra inventive.”

“MassQing” is extra than simply face paint. It’s Callahan’s approach of creating the interior exterior. Although his work has usually centered on others, his first topic was truly himself. Utilizing only a mirror and his paints, Callahan started remodeling his face as a option to grapple along with his despair.

“I turned to MassQing actually as a type of self-therapy,” he says. “And I took a month, and simply daily of that month, I’d MassQ myself. I’d write concerning the expertise and I’d publish movies and footage on-line.” In his self-portraits, Callahan transforms his face into colourful and elemental landscapes that play with mild and shadow. What he discovered was that his painted masks weren’t for hiding or “masking” one thing.

“Normally once we consider a masks, we consider issues that cowl our face or disguise our id,” Callahan factors out. “However I attempt to use paint to disclose issues about folks and kind of flip the notion of what a masks is and what it may well do.”

Left: Daniel Callahan asks questions and studies the face of WBUR's Arielle Gray before starting to paint a
Left: Daniel Callahan asks questions and research the face of WBUR’s Arielle Grey earlier than beginning to paint a “MassQ.” Proper: WBUR’s Arielle Grey appears to be like in a mirror on the “MassQ” Daniel Callahan created. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

All of us put on masks, whether or not it’s once we’re at work or at dwelling or with our family members. For folks of colour, types of masking — like code-switching — spotlight how the concept of masking comes with unfavorable connotations. Typically, for POC, it means adjusting to slot in with the dominant tradition. Callahan desires to show that notion on its head. “Masks work is about bringing what’s inside out and carrying that with satisfaction and to make use of our our bodies as artwork types.”

A pertinent a part of Callahan’s creative apply is neighborhood engagement. This summer season, he wrapped up his second MassQ Ball, an out of doors competition that introduced stay music, ritual, artwork demos and extra to the Arnold Arboretum, co-produced with Fortress of Our Skins. “The theme for this ball was actually about origin. So return to the origin and the place we come from,” Callahan explains. “And the ball in and of itself is only a platform for celebrating the humanities and tradition, particularly of individuals of colour.”

Whereas “MassQing” has change into a big a part of Callahan’s artwork apply, it’s just one a part of his bigger creative ethos. Callahan can also be a musician and is presently the director of the Roxbury Cultural District, which was established in 2017 to protect the previous and current cultural and creative contributions of the neighborhood. “What’s difficult about Boston generally is it is tremendous gentrified, tremendous segregated, tremendous inequitable,” Callahan says. A part of his accountability within the function is to assist foster an atmosphere that permits Roxbury artists, like himself, to thrive. “How can we maintain our artists right here and make them really feel like it is a place the place they’ll take their artistry to the subsequent degree?”

Past his neighborhood work, Callahan is utilizing “MassQing” as a car to discover the darkness of the human thoughts and produce it to mild, notably by movie. His first main mission, “Come On In,” debuted on the 2020 Roxbury Worldwide Movie Pageant. Barely autobiographical and principally a psychological thriller, Callahan stars within the lead function as an artist returning dwelling after burning out in California. Upon arrival in Boston, the artist finds himself drawn right into a journey of self-discovery.

Callahan describes the movie as “a approach for me to once more course of what I have been by.” “Come On In” helped unfurl essential conversations from viewers about psychological well being and extra. For Callahan, it actually encapsulates what his artwork is all about. “I believe that’s the energy of artwork, that it is like an alchemy,” he explains. “You possibly can take even your struggles and you’ll convert it into one thing stunning that different folks can expertise and be fulfilled by.”

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Harley Takagi Kaner

Harley Takagi Kaner working on the Penumbra podcast in a studio at The Bridge Sound and Stage in Cambridge. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Harley Takagi Kaner engaged on the Penumbra podcast in a studio at The Bridge Sound and Stage in Cambridge. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

“What number of male bisexual leads are you able to consider in media?”

That’s the query that despatched Harley Tagaki Kaner, 32, down an odyssey they didn’t anticipate to embark on. One podcast, two wildly totally different nonfiction storylines and over 8 million downloads, all spurred by Takagi Kaner’s need to have illustration — of themself.

They determined that one of many lead characters — the brooding, sharp-witted personal detective Juno Metal, who lives on Mars — can be bi. In a while, the character turned nonbinary.

“Within the meantime, I additionally turned nonbinary. And actually the present has influenced me, in flip, quite a bit,” Takagi Kaner says. “So, in some methods, generally I’d resolve one thing for the present after which would come to imagine it later, if that is sensible.”

Along with the story that takes place on Mars, Takagi Kaner’s “The Penumbra Podcast” additionally chronicles a narrative from days of yore with knights and magic and monsters.

Whereas the start of the present was anchored to illustration, Takagi Kaner says illustration is not “the end-all, be-all of my artwork.” Now, they’re centered on reflection — on who they’re and who they wish to be. Typically, it’s critical. Different instances, it’s not so critical.

Left: Harley Takagi Kaner at work in a studio control room at The Bridge Sound and Stage, Cambridge. Right: Takagi Kaner answers podcast listener questions with actor Joshua Ilon and writer Kevin Vibert. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Left: Harley Takagi Kaner at work in a studio management room at The Bridge Sound and Stage, Cambridge. Proper: Takagi Kaner solutions podcast listener questions with actor Joshua Ilon and author Kevin Vibert. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

“Properly, one of many characters that I’d say is me at my worst is a genderfluid witch,” they are saying with amusing. “She is extraordinarily whiny and really complain-y.”

However some characters are reflections of what Takagi Kaner aspires to — like a spaceship pilot with a troubled and traumatic previous.

“I imply far more troubled and traumatic than my very own,” Takagi Kaner says. “One of many issues that he says that I actually love, which I am unable to fairly take credit score for, as a result of my co-creator [Kevin Vibert] is the one who wrote the phrases — he talks about how there are particular issues that he chooses to imagine as a result of he thinks that his perception adjustments the world. And I really like that.”

Takagi Kaner says it may be onerous to stay as much as these phrases, but it surely’s good to have the sentiment enshrined on this work that they’ll at all times hear again to. They are saying their household doesn’t hearken to the podcast as a result of issues turned strained once they got here out as trans. However just like the area pilot, Takagi Kaner believes within the silver lining, saying “The Penumbra Podcast” has introduced them considerably of a selected household with their collaborators and viewers.

“I’m near my co-creator and individuals who work on the present,” they are saying. “At this level, it is onerous to separate ‘The Penumbra’ from this complete time of my life.”

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Iaritza Menjivar

Documentary photographer Iaritza Menjivar looks through prints of her work. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Documentary photographer Iaritza Menjivar appears to be like by prints of her work. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Iaritza Menjivar’s images have appeared within the Washington Put up and the Boston Globe. She has photographed Massachusetts political luminaries: Joe Kennedy and Deval Patrick, amongst others. However her most constant topic has been her household.

It began as a matter of comfort, a option to fulfill faculty pictures assignments with out paying for a studio or hiring fashions. “Each time I had an task, I’d discover a option to both use my mom or my aunts. They usually had been at all times extraordinarily supportive,” says the Somerville photographer, who additionally works because the occasions and public artwork coordinator for the Somerville Arts Council. “However as time went on, I noticed that there was this thread that linked all the pictures collectively.”

That thread was the every day lifetime of her sprawling prolonged household. Menjivar’s mother and father immigrated to the States from El Salvador and Guatemala earlier than she was born, elevating youngsters whereas working lengthy hours for little pay. Menjivar wished to seize the fleeting moments in on a regular basis life that had been straightforward to overlook, and onerous to specific in phrases. “Issues in life which may go unnoticed,” she says. “Moments, tales, expressions, feelings.” The 29-year-old has been engaged on the mission, which she calls “First Era,” since faculty.

“Typically my aunt can be within the kitchen proper straight out of labor, and I’d take these photographs of her on the desk, feeling all drained… and she or he’d be like, ‘Why?’” Menjivar says. “And I would be like, ‘I do know, however that is what I need. I need these pure moments, these sincere moments, of you getting back from work from a 14-hour day at a manufacturing facility, extraordinarily drained, and you are still cooking dinner to your husband. That is the type of picture I wish to make.’”

The photographs Menjivar ended up making had been compelling sufficient to be featured within the New York Instances Lens Weblog in 2016. Menjivar says the collection took on new which means within the Trump period, when bigotry towards Central Individuals turned extra palpable. “It feels unusual to stroll into a spot and really feel like individuals are simply observing you, trying down on you,” Menjivar remembers of that point.

Documentary photographer Iaritza Menjivar at her studio in Somerville. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Documentary photographer Iaritza Menjivar at her studio in Somerville. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Nonetheless, her pictures remained resolutely centered on the intimate moments of household life. In “First Era,” mundane home areas remodel into quietly dramatic tableaux, made luminous by the glow of a laptop computer or the eerie blue mild from the tv. One such {photograph} facilities on Menjivar’s youthful brother, Hugo. The teenager stands simply outdoors the door to the lounge in his father’s home, silhouetted in opposition to deep purple wallpaper with a baroque floral design. He appears to be like down at his telephone, his face lit up by the display. Subsequent to him, the remainder of the household may be glimpsed by the doorway to the lounge.

Menjivar factors out a framed image on the wall behind Hugo that claims “hope.” It might symbolize her mother and father’ hope for a greater future, she says.

Or it might symbolize their youngsters’s craving for a lifetime of their very own.

“It is like a bittersweet feeling, proper, as a result of we wish to be there to assist them, however we even have this life that we wish to create for ourselves and be impartial,” Menjivar says.

Within the {photograph}, these twin hopes stay in numerous worlds, facet by facet. The picture is actually divided in two: on the precise, the household clustered in a circle; on the left, Hugo, in a uncommon second of solitude.

Nowadays, Menjivar is looking for extra solitude. Through the pandemic, she realized she wanted to have a tendency much less to her household, and extra to her personal wants. The choice has brought on her some guilt; she is aware of the sacrifices her mother and father made to provide her a greater life. “However there’s a time that it’s important to begin to understand you could’t save the world if you cannot save your self,” she says. “If you cannot be there for your self, how are you going to be there for your loved ones?”

Menjivar initially envisioned “First Era” as a lifelong mission, however for now, it’s on maintain. She is embarking on a brand new pictures mission, with a brand new topic: herself.

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J. Shia

Motorcycle designer J. Shia in her art bike studio in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Motorbike designer J. Shia in her artwork bike studio in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

J. Shia’s automobiles of expression roll and rumble, however how her artwork bikes look is what actually units them aside. This fourth-generation metalworker did not got down to be a customized bike builder, but it surely’s not stunning since Shia grew up with a soundtrack of lathes, welders and mills.

“My household is from Lebanon, all the fellows had been tin smiths and mechanics,” she explains. “After they got here to the States, they introduced instruments as their commerce.”

The household settled and carried on their legacy in Cambridge. However as a teen, Shia dreamed of being a battle photographer. She acquired into MassArt, then volunteered to lift a good friend’s child. To assist the kid whereas paying tuition, Shia resorted to fixing bikes in her household’s yard. “I used to be doing tire and oil adjustments within the chilly and the grime,” Shia remembers. “It was only a approach for me to outlive.”

However that every one modified when Shia was 27. A good friend known as with an invite to a contest known as “Bikes as Artwork.” Shia says the idea of refurbishing a motorcycle purely for leisure and self-expression was liberating, “as a result of it made me fall again in love with the machine itself.”

Shia’s artwork bike was successful at that present. Soar to now and the 32-year-old repairs and restores bikes at Madhouse Motors, her personal store in Roxbury. However Shia additionally transforms basic machines (suppose Harleys and Indians) into heavy, rolling sculptures which have classic steel objects playfully embedded into their designs.

Motorcycle designer J. Shia (left) cuts a metal bar in her art bike studio in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Motorbike designer J. Shia (left) cuts a steel bar in her artwork bike studio in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

“The purpose of me creating them was for the sake of artwork, to construct a sculpture, to intrigue the viewers who — as they get nearer and have a look at it — begin realizing that what they’re seeing aren’t simply bike elements.”

Among the many hidden surprises, you will discover guide pencil sharpeners and outdated rotary telephones, together with elements from outdated taxi cabs and a bit of purple wagon. In Shia’s world, a defunct weed whacker performs the function of chain guard and an egg-slicer turns into a functioning taillight.

Whereas working, Shia usually listens to classical music. Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” impressed her to design and assemble a pair of bikes — one white, one black — identical to the 2 characters within the ballet. The doppelganger bikes starred in a slick video she filmed at Symphony Corridor. In 2021, Shia displayed them at Artwork Basel in Miami the place they upended folks’s perceptions.

“Bikes have traditionally been considered as a hardcore factor,” Shia says, pointing to the exhaust on the white “swan” bike that is made out of a soprano saxophone, “and when folks see that they chortle. That simply makes me really feel prefer it’s all value it.”

A collector bought the black “swan” bike, however Shia held onto the white one. These sculptures have impressed this multiskilled inventive to develop – as a superb artist and an award-winning bike builder. Shia celebrates the great thing about bikes annually at a neighborhood “Moto Present” in Cambridge known as Wild Rabbit. She’s additionally proud to say her grandfather’s instruments are nonetheless being put to excellent use.

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Lilly Rose Valore

Dancer, artist and transgender activist Lilly Rose Valore at the Harp & Bard in Dorchester. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Dancer, artist and transgender activist Lilly Rose Valore on the Harp & Bard in Dorchester. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

An hour earlier than drag brunch on a latest Saturday at Dorchester’s Harp and Bard, the host — Lilly Rose Valore — is working round in her avenue garments and full make-up. She’s coordinating with the entrance of the home and the DJ, and serving to the opposite performers prepare. That is her second occasion of six this weekend.

“You go to the primary present on Friday, after which whenever you get dwelling it’s important to unpack, repack, wash issues — by the point you get to mattress, it’s like 4 a.m. After which you’ve a brunch at 11 a.m.”

Her units are excessive vitality. There isn’t any efficiency area within the restaurant, however that doesn’t cease her from cartwheeling between cubicles, kicking right into a handstand within the doorway and voguing on prime of the bar as she navigates breakfast plates and glasses of bloody marys.

Dancer, artist and transgender activist Lilly Rose Valore performing at the Harp & Bard in Dorchester. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Dancer, artist and transgender activist Lilly Rose Valore performing on the Harp & Bard in Dorchester. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

“Any person requested me at present, ‘what are you able to anticipate with a Lilly Rose Valore quantity?’” she says to the group after her first set. “I stated flips, splits, stunts and tomfoolery. Did you’re keen on me?” Their loud cheers and applause recommend that they do.

Valore is a classically skilled dancer, mannequin and artist, however she feels most at dwelling as a drag performer. “There’s a number of issues that I do, however I by no means really feel nervous after I’m performing round people who find themselves identical to me, who had been pinned as outcasts,” she says.

Through the COVID-19 lockdown, Valore began making movies about feminine empowerment and the distinction between her private and non-private experiences as a Black trans girl. “Folks know me from being out and about, and so they’re like, ‘oh, that lady is so pleased,’ however quite a bit went into who I’m at present, and it took quite a bit to get right here.”

The 26-year-old artist encourages others to point out up authentically and share their tales as a result of she thinks extra consciousness of the complete spectrum of gender and sexual identities will result in a greater tomorrow. “I’ve gotten a number of survival ways, and what helped me get by my hardest instances had been simply the folks that I encompass myself with,” she says. “Group can push you to really feel empowered.”

Valore says she is going to proceed making the movies, as they’ve allowed her to achieve a special viewers on-line, and at galleries and festivals. However her creative house is getting up-close-and-personal together with her neighborhood by drag.

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Lily Xie

Artist Lily Xie at the River Stream Fountain in Chinatown Park on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Artist Lily Xie on the River Stream Fountain in Chinatown Park on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Multimedia artist Lily Xie lives in Jamaica Plain, however she finds her inspiration in Boston’s Chinatown. “A variety of my artwork is about making an attempt to create space for communities to have the audacity to dream about their very own neighborhoods,” Xie says whereas sitting on a bench in Mary Soo Hoo Park.

With the enduring Chinatown Gate in view, Xie describes the colourful scene round us. “There’s numerous elders right here enjoying playing cards, speaking trash, gossiping, hanging out,” she says. However as sirens scream previous, Xie notes it is also extremely loud.

“Chinatown, like many communities of colour, has a freeway working by it,” she says. “That contributes to air pollution and the noise that we’re listening to proper now.”

To construct Interstate 93 and the Mass Pike within the Fifties and ‘60s, numerous Chinatown houses and companies had been razed, displacing 20% of the inhabitants. The cruel, long-term impacts on the neighborhood drive Xie to have interaction the general public in “spatial justice” initiatives.

“Spatial justice in Chinatown means how can we get entry to extra reasonably priced housing, extra open area,” she says. “Nevertheless it additionally means — on the finish of the day — how can working-class immigrant residents, who’re essentially the most usually marginalized, have the life that they need in no matter approach which means for them?”

Artist Lily Xie looks up at the “Lantern Stories” installation by Yu-Wen Wu as she walks through Auntie Kay & Uncle Frank Chin Park on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Artist Lily Xie appears to be like up on the “Lantern Tales” set up by Yu-Wen Wu as she walks by Auntie Kay & Uncle Frank Chin Park on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The 27-year-old explored these questions in a 2021 public set up known as “Washing.” For that mission, she recorded interviews with residents and requested about their hopes for the neighborhood. Additionally they shared their every day struggles dwelling with the fumes, congestion and warmth.

One individual contemplated the Large Dig and puzzled why officers determined to maneuver I-93 underground all over the place apart from Chinatown. One other talked concerning the gobs of cash they spend on air purifiers. Many stated they will not even open their home windows for concern of the filthy air. With collaborators Charlene Huang, Chu Huang, Dianyvet Serrano, and Maggie Chen — together with the Asian Group Improvement Company and Pao Arts Middle — Xie amplified the residents’ voices in a collection of out of doors, audio-visual occasions.

“You realize, we’re bringing folks again into the sonic panorama who’re often ignored, not invited, and generally even erased,” Xie says.

She has gathered folks’s narratives for different initiatives, together with the Chinatown Story Cart which included mail-in artwork kits for households to work on in the course of the pandemic shutdown. Xie additionally animated a movie with the Chinatown Group Land Belief that envisioned what energetic, neighborhood governance might appear like.

“I actually wish to simply make area for Chinatown residents to inform their very own tales,” she says. “I believe art work is a type of uncommon cases the place common folks can actually assist form one thing that involves life and that they’ll see and contact after.”

Xie desires her artwork to work hand-in-hand with organizations and activists preventing for a extra flourishing Chinatown. She additionally appears to be like ahead to future collaborations with the general public as an artist-in-residence on the Boston Planning and Improvement Company.

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Michael Aghahowa

Michael Aghahowa working in his studio in Lynn. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Michael Aghahowa working in his studio in Lynn. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Michael Aghahowa’s artwork may be seen throughout Lynn — the neighborhood he loves — on partitions and album covers, in daring colours that transfer and make an announcement.

Exterior Ernie’s Harvest Time final summer season, he created a scene of abundance, outstretched fingers that move fruit like mangos and pineapples to different open palms. As he painted, households dipped their very own fingers in paint, protecting a close-by wall with tons of of multicolored handprints.

“You might see in my outdated work, I used to be afraid of portray fingers, like entering into the small print,” he says. “It was a problem… I advised myself if I might try this, then I might paint something.”

Aghahowa’s love of artwork began younger. He remembers diligently making an attempt to craft a lemon tree out of building paper in kindergarten. Each time he had an artwork mission in school, his mother helped. His expertise grew, transferring into illustration after which portray, ultimately attending Montserrat School of Artwork in Beverly, the place he graduated along with his BFA as a first-generation faculty pupil. For his mom’s fiftieth birthday, Aghahowa offered her with a portrait of herself aglow in yellow. It made her cry pleased tears.

“She was like, ‘when did you get that good?’ She’s seen the entire course of,” he says.

When he began portray, he responded to the way in which it required him to make use of his complete physique to make one mark. That is considered one of Aghahowa’s favourite features of portray. The flexibility to make a mistake and discover magnificence within the flaw.

“You can also make a mark after which fully cowl it up or wipe it away,” he says. “After which generally even that wiping away of the mark… does one thing stunning and one thing that you simply would not anticipate.”

The 28-year-old now experiments with the shape, lately utilizing a mirror to refract daylight off his topics in a collection known as “Components to a Complete.” He provides dimension with charcoal, scrap paper and molding paste. It’s onerous to inform the place his topic ends and the sunshine begins. It’s meant as a reminder: no individuals are a monolith.

Left to proper, two of Michael Aghahowa’s work, “Girl of Gold, Man of Slate” and “The Numbers Recreation.” (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

In his portray known as “The Numbers Recreation,” he portrays a bunch of just about god-like beings inserting bets at a desk in what resembles an ocean whereas sharks swim round them.

“The poker chip is symbolic, not playing to make a revenue, however playing on one another,” he says. “Like beginning a enterprise and hiring one another and uplifting one another out of those conditions.”

On a latest afternoon inside his Lynn studio, he mixes paint to complete a scene of a funeral procession. Purple and blue hues seize these in mourning, the pallbearers’ pores and skin the colour of nightfall. There’s been a number of loss over the previous few years.

“My household’s at all times been like an enormous inspiration in work, however I believe recently the loss of life facet has been on my thoughts quite a bit,” he says. “There’s one thing actually stunning about seeing my complete household come collectively in a time of ache… even after the funeral, there’s gathering. Somebody may throw a cookout, after which folks will present up, and it is only a good time to share recollections.”

Three of Michael Aghahowa's paintings. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Three of Michael Aghahowa’s work at his studio in Lynn. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

One in all Aghahowa’s first work was impressed by a second in time when he was 4 years outdated. His household pulls him alongside in a wagon as they march by the road following the loss of life of his cousin in police custody.

“You guys know the triceratops, proper?… I keep in mind being enthusiastic about studying that they defend their younger by forming a circle round them,” he says. “The youngsters are within the center. So I actually need it to kind of have that very same factor right here. Like we’re protected right here.”

A soon-to-be father, Aghahowa can’t wait to deliver his toddler to the studio, to sit down collectively and blend paint and introduce her to a paintbrush.

Again to prime.

Nygel Jones

Artist Nygel Jones pins a frame together in his workshop. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Artist Nygel Jones pins a body collectively in his workshop. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Nygel Jones admits he was a bit of directionless after graduating from Montserrat School of Artwork. He acquired a job at a customized signal and brand firm in Boston’s Seaport, and labored on work at dwelling. However he remained uninspired. Then in the future he watched considered one of his coworkers use a instrument known as a T bevel, which carpenters use to put out angles. It is a easy system, however “the lightbulb clicked,” says Jones. He realized it was attainable to construct an object that’s sometimes rectangular – like, for instance, an image body – with sharp, sudden corners.

So Jones started to construct decidedly non-rectangular canvases out of scrap wooden in his basement workshop in Roxbury. On them, he painted otherworldly landscapes, sci-fi vistas in orange and pink. And for every portray, he hand-crafted an image body that completely match every zig-zagging contour of the picture inside. The impact of those early works is like glimpsing an alternate dimension by a jagged rip within the space-time continuum.

Over time, the shapes of Jones’ work turned increasingly more complicated. Then, in the future, he had an epiphany. “As a substitute of creating a form for a portray, make the form the portray itself,” Jones says.

Artist Nygel Jones pins, lines up, cuts and assembles frame material in his workshop. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Artist Nygel Jones pins, traces up, cuts and assembles body materials in his workshop. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Artist Nygel Jones looks through some of his paintings in his studio. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Artist Nygel Jones appears to be like by a few of his work in his studio. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Now the 29-year-old’s work — which promote for 1000’s of {dollars} — are extra like sculptures, three-dimensional shapes that occur to hold inside image frames. They’re summary, however acquainted — like one form with spikes that drip like icicles, painted in white and funky blue. It is wintry, and barely malevolent, impressed partly by the chilly, futuristic look of the units on “The Empire Strikes Again.” Different shapes are paying homage to the looping, dynamic types of graffiti, or the spiky speech bubbles present in comedian books.

Making shapes brings Jones again to his boyhood, constructing with legos and, when he was older, studying to make use of his father’s energy instruments. His father labored in building, so carpentry is “so shut and private,” Jones says. “I really feel at dwelling.”

There’s one thing so satisfying about seeing his oddball shapes completed with such intricate precision, he provides. “To see the top consequence, trying the way in which they do, yeah, it by no means will get outdated. It is like ‘Alright, make one other one and one other one and one other one.’”

This 12 months has been a busy one for Jones, who confirmed his work in a number of exhibitions. He is brimming with new concepts for his upcoming journey to Miami Artwork Week in late fall. There isn’t any finish, he says, to the shapes he can invent in his thoughts.

Again to prime.

Olivia Moon

Dancer and photographer Olivia Moon practicing on a flying pole. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Dancer and photographer Olivia Moon working towards on a flying pole. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

When a few of us hear the phrases “pole dancing,” our minds soar to strippers. “And that is all right,” Olivia Moon says. “Pole dancing did begin by way of strippers and strip golf equipment and by strippers of colour.” And for this up to date motion artist, pole is her genuine type of self-expression.

Moon trains and teaches at Boston Pole Health, the place she clarifies one very sensible motive why pole dancers are so scantily clad. “With a view to follow this pole, I’m going to want to put on minimal clothes so my pores and skin’s actually gripping it.”

Earlier than every class, Moon arrives early to the studio to work by some choreography. “I kind of improvise across the pole and see what feels greatest in my physique, taking strikes low to the bottom after which up on the pole.”

With an athlete’s power and acrobatic prowess, Moon hoists legs and torso excessive within the air. She twirls and spins across the pole like a performer you’d see in Cirque du Soleil. Then, the dancer flows into an ideal aerial break up that cuts diagonally between ground and ceiling. At one level, Moon’s calves grip the pole, suspending her total physique weight upside.

This artist fuses previous coaching with current ardour in a mix some practitioners confer with as “contem-pole.” “There’s grace, fluidity, focus,” Moon says. “However I additionally love doing tips up on the pole, and I really like carrying my 10-inch heels and carrying my cute little outfits.”

Olivia Moon performs moves on the pole at Boston Pole Fitness. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Olivia Moon performs strikes on the pole at Boston Pole Health. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

“I wasn’t in an ideal place with my physique, and as soon as I began pole, I began seeing a metamorphosis in not solely how my physique appeared, however within the ways in which I perceived myself,” she says. “Pole is extra of a person illustration of who everyone seems to be.”

Moon identifies as queer, which for her means something that is outdoors the norm. “For me, pole is a good way to specific my sexuality and sensuality,” Moon says. “It is a protected area for individuals who appear like me when it comes to being totally different pores and skin colours and totally different androgynous-presenting appears to be like.”

The pole neighborhood celebrates variety and is judgment-free, Moon says. It’s additionally tremendous susceptible.

“We’re carrying nearly nothing, and taking a look at our our bodies within the mirrors, and taking a look at one another,” she says. “I do really feel like I can genuinely be myself on this area.”

Moon has taken pole to different areas together with the seashore, Boston Widespread throughout Satisfaction, and on stage with the up to date firm Kairos (the place she’s a principal dancer). The younger artist makes use of the title halfasianlens for her dynamic pictures work, and has a protracted checklist of concepts for combining pole with totally different genres to create completely new experiences. However what Moon desires most is to assist different folks really feel snug in their very own skins, identical to she does.

Again to prime.

Shanelle Chloe Villegas

Actor and writer Shanelle Chloe Villegas at her home in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Actor and author Shanelle Chloe Villegas at her dwelling in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Actor Shanelle Chloe Villegas acquired into theater as a child as a result of she appreciated to inform little lies to her buddies, solely to disclose the reality for amusing. When her classmates instructed she audition for the college play as a result of she was “good at mendacity,” she wasn’t certain what to suppose. However she went for it. After memorizing a Shakespearean monologue and getting on stage for the primary time, Villegas realized she wasn’t mendacity. The emotions she had onstage had been actual. She felt seen, and that was life-changing. “The viewers indicators as much as see you and listen to you. That made me really feel actually highly effective, whilst a younger child,” says Villegas, now 25.

It was so highly effective that it modified Villegas’ life. She had struggled with disordered consuming and despair in her youth. “I felt like I could not even chortle. Like I could not join with different folks,” says Villegas. Appearing was like a tether for her. When she was studying monologues and finding out the artwork of theater, she felt like herself once more.

There’s one thing a few crowd bearing witness to you — and also you to them — that speaks to Villegas’ coronary heart. For her, performing is akin to happening a religious journey. It makes her really feel complete. “I’m not judging myself or the character, and neither is the viewers,” says Villegas.

Actor and writer Shanelle Villegas at her home in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Actor and author Shanelle Villegas at her dwelling in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

The actress likes taking over roles that permit her to see totally different sides of herself with compassion — and roles that problem the viewers to do the identical. Villegas is expressive, and the elements she runs towards are usually the identical. In considered one of her favourite monologues from the play “What to Ship Up When It Goes Down,” the speaker declares: “You like it after I chew myself as a result of that’s the type of Black story you want. When I’m heavy and downtrodden with biting myself. Once I put on the flavour of Blackness you want. When it’s a heat and fuzzy Blackness that doesn’t creep to your bed room door at night time.” The ability of that monologue reaffirms Villegas’ perception within the energy theater has to rework folks from the within. As an actor, she takes on eventualities and personas that will not be actual. Nevertheless, they change into so on the stage for the viewers and performers alike.

For Villegas, these two hours in a darkish theater are like one other world the place people deal with one another with respect and compassion. “That’s another excuse I stick with it,” she says. “As a result of that is the world I want we might have.”

Again to prime.


SuperSmashBroz Muyi Fre$co and Noma Nomz work on a track at The Record Co. in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
SuperSmashBroz Muyi Fre$co and Noma Nomz work on a monitor at The Document Co. in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Music is its personal language. It connects us, and like a spell, it makes us transfer. Boston-based duo SuperSmashBroz have a deep understanding of this. All it’s important to do is activate considered one of their songs and look forward to the infectious rhythm to kick in. When it does, you gained’t give you the option to withstand getting out of your seat. Brothers Muyi and Noma Okundaye wish to make you dance. In actual fact, it’s a household custom.

The pair hosts events and DJ for occasions everywhere in the nation — headlining festivals like Caribana Pageant and No Hype Fest — are on the heart of the brothers’ lives at present. In June, they deejayed for Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s inauguration. Nevertheless, that’s solely the tip of the iceberg. Additionally they produce music, write songs and play a handful of devices, together with the drums, xylophone and cello. Rising up in a church and with strong music training at school was useful. However their devotion to sharing music got here from spending time with household who immigrated from Nigeria.

Their mother and father would host events within the yard, the place many genres of music — from R&B to Afrobeats to pop — can be spinning. Again then, their dad often selected the tunes. An enthusiastic music lover, he confirmed them how a melody has the facility to vary the vibe in a room. “Each time the music ‘Lagos Night time’ by Soukous Stars would come on at a household social gathering, everybody’s legs would go insane,” says 26-year-old Noma. That’s the sensation they convey into their work now.

SuperSmashBroz Noma Nomz and Muyi Fre$co work on a track at The Record Co. in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
SuperSmashBroz Noma Nomz and Muyi Fre$co work on a monitor at The Document Co. in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

“Each time we step into an atmosphere, we at all times deliver a brand new wave or a brand new vitality into the atmosphere,” says Noma. After they had been children, their dad took them to Skippy White’s Data, which was once in Egleston Sq.. They uncovered new sounds — and worlds — within the rows of information. Muyi, 28, nonetheless remembers discovering the most effective music he had ever heard on the time, Mario’s “Let Me Love You,” on the report store.

After they craft a set, they need folks to stroll away with that feeling. The 2 attempt to create a mix of songs that individuals know and love, and people they haven’t heard but. “Songs that, respectfully, you are not even going to grasp for one more year-and-a-half, two years,” says Muyi.

Ten years from now, Noma says they wish to take their sound worldwide, curating and headlining a competition in Nigeria. These global-minded tastemakers are on their approach.

Again to prime.

Victoria Lynn Awkward

VLA DANCE director and choreographer Victoria Lynn Awkward works through some dance moves at Midway Artist Studios in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
VLA DANCE director and choreographer Victoria Lynn Awkward works by some dance strikes at Boston Lyric Opera at Halfway Artist Studios in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Dancers talk solely by motion. It’s a apply that requires whole physique consciousness, and a life talent that might profit everybody, says choreographer and dancer Victoria Lynn Awkward. When she’s not dancing, she works with youngsters as the humanities coordinator at West Finish Home in Allston. She sees them struggling to attach and turning to units for consolation.

“One of many issues they do to cope with their anxiousness is have a look at their telephones,” she says, noting that it’s not simply younger folks. “All of us must be extra current. On this world that has a lot complexity, and the pandemic we live by, we want to concentrate on our physique or area and join with folks.”

Awkward’s ardour is choreography. She feels most grounded within the inventive area, absolutely current with one other dancer, constructing every motion collectively. Her signature type is low and grounded, however fluid.

“Like pushing water,” she says. “Or I wish to say should you’re in a physique of water that has bioluminescent creatures that you’d mild them up as you sweep your arm by the area.”

VLA DANCE director and choreographer Victoria Lynn Awkward works through some dance moves at Midway Artist Studios in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
VLA DANCE director and choreographer Victoria Lynn Awkward works by some dance strikes at Boston Lyric Opera at Halfway Artist Studios in Boston. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Awkward says water conjures up her. When she’s caught, it doesn’t matter what time of 12 months it’s — she goes for a swim. “It calms me, reminding me that I am part of this world and people are part of nature. We’re not separated from it.”

The 26-year-old is initially from Natick and began dancing when she was 13 years outdated. “I really feel like I’ve been dancing for a very long time, however lots of people would say 13 is late for a dancer to start out.” She graduated in 2018 from Goucher School in Maryland, and moved to Boston the place she has since generated many alternatives for herself and her collaborators.

One in all her objectives for her firm, VLA DANCE, is to pay her dancers a aggressive wage. The corporate additionally offers clear particulars about its funds to advertise fairness and maintain the humanities scene thriving in Boston.

“It is each to encourage different artists to do the identical factor, but in addition to maintain pushing in opposition to authorities businesses and personal funders and companies to make use of their funds to create communities the place folks truly wish to stay,” she says. “With out artwork, nobody desires to stay in that type of area.”

VLA DANCE’s transparency mission is yet one more prong to Awkward’s artwork and activism. It’s all about realizing that regardless of our totally different backgrounds and experiences, all of us share the identical earth, she says, and it’s time for everybody to change into extra current with that reality and let it inform how they present up with each other.

Again to prime.

Yvette Modestin

Artist, poet, writer and community organizer Yvette Modestin in Nubian Square. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Artist, poet, author and neighborhood organizer Yvette Modestin in Nubian Sq.. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

A number of years in the past, Yvette Modestin lead a workshop for a bunch of women, principally of Dominican descent. She went down the road, gently asking every one how they establish. Some would say, “Latina” or confer with their household’s homeland. Only a few uttered the phrase “Black.” After they did, a pair began to cry. They had been taught to imagine the colour of their pores and skin was one thing to erase or be ashamed of. Modestin was there to call this internalized racism and start the method of undoing it.

It’s any such anti-racist coaching that’s on the coronary heart of Modestin’s work and her group, Encuentro Diaspora Afro. She’s a Boston-based artist on a mission to assist the world perceive the African diaspora.

“That is all about reparations and reparative justice,” she says. “My love for my blackness, I need folks to really feel it. I need folks to see it. I need folks to listen to it.”

Modestin desires to restore and deconstruct this denial of Blackness, particularly in Latin America. She grew up in Colón, Panama — a metropolis that was segregated in the course of the first eight years of her life. It stays predominantly Black.

“I believe it was a blessing within the sense as a result of it centered me in my Blackness,” she says. “I additionally had every day visuals of a Black physician, a Black nurse, my very own mom, a Black police officer, a Black firefighter… So I walked round every day with folks that appear like me. I did not have to clarify myself.”

Or her locs, which she wears proudly. She produced a multimedia expertise with different native artists known as “The Hair Story Undertaking,” the place they highlighted this debate over pure hair. Hair is sacred to Modestin, which she writes about in her poem “An Ode to mi Corona.”

“From the Platt to the Cornrows to the Afro to the locks. You’ve gotten stayed with me, reminding me of an unconditional pleasure and love of our Blackness.

…Name it your crown, La Corona. Your antenna for the message of the ancestors sits deep inside ready so that you can say I’m right here. Estoy aquí free. Libre.”

Modestin works all over the world with the U.N. Workplace for Ladies and the African Union. Domestically, she works with organizations together with Firm One Theatre, the Museum of Nice Arts Boston, the Museum of Science and the nonprofit Ladies Inc. She paints and has written books and labored on a documentary concerning the Black historical past of her nation.

Within the documentary, titled “Cimarronaje en Panamá,” researchers famous that fugitives from slavery had been known as “cimarrones,” from the Taino time period for “flight of an arrow.” The movie exhibits how these previously enslaved folks would keep customs and align themselves with others from their homelands.

“I need folks to appreciate that we had been dropped off all over the place,” she says. “The uncle was dropped off in Panama, the tía was dropped off in Martinique, the opposite one was dropped off in Peru, the opposite one was dropped off in Ecuador. So I begin my day by seeing each Black individual as a attainable member of the family.”

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Photographer OJ Slaughter captured the group picture of The Makers, with help from J R Alexander. Alberto Montalvo filmed the video for the collection.

Editors’ Observe: Because the artists’ tales make their approach onto our airwaves this week, we’ll be updating this publish with their radio tales. Test again recurrently to catch the newest additions.