Last night MW Productions/SPOKE announced a new partnership with two exceptional Latinx artists, Beacon Communities, and the Boston Housing Authority to activate S. Boston’s Old Colony neighborhood with community-driven public art over the next two years. The organization shared news of this exciting initiative at last night’s Latinx Community Excellence Awards, which it co-hosted virtually from its SPOKE Gallery on Summer Street.
Allison Maria Rodriguez and Franklin Marval will work with MW Productions/SPOKE to engage residents and key institutional partners in Old Colony to activate the transformative power of art to improve the quality of life in this neighborhood as it undergoes a complex, decade-long redevelopment. MW Productions/SPOKE (then Medicine Wheel) has created public art in Old Colony during earlier phases of its redevelopment. This year the organization began planning to transform a facility at the center of this neighborhood as a new public arts center.
“Art is a universal language that helps us understand and navigate change. This is as true for neighborhoods and communities as it is for us as individuals,” said Greg Liakos, Interim Executive Director, MW/Productions/SPOKE. “This project is the first step towards a creative placemaking strategy for Old Colony, where we will work alongside residents and community partners to integrate public art, architecture, and landscape design. We’re so grateful to Allison and Franklin for their willingness to engage with us in this work. And we thank Beacon Communities and the Boston Housing Authority for their confidence in us and our mission.”
Both Franklin Marval and Allison Maria Rodriguez bring deep experience creating inclusive public art with communities across age, race, gender, sexuality and culture. They will use this perspective to guide residents in sharing their ideas, hopes, and vision for Old Colony.
Marval creates vibrant art inspired by the landscape and colors of his native Venezuela. Contrastingly, Cuban-American artist Rodriguez works predominantly in video installation and new media. She creates immersive experiential spaces that challenge conventional ways of knowing and understanding the world, focusing extensively on climate change, species extinction, and the interconnectivity of existence. MW/SPOKE honored Rodriguez with its annual Artist Activist Award in 2019, and exhibited Marval’s work in its SPOKE Gallery last year.
Originally constructed in 1940, Old Colony is one of the oldest federal public housing developments in the country. Beacon Communities and the BHA are redeveloping the 845-unit Old Colony in multiple phases. The first two phases and part of the third phase of the redevelopment have been completed, resulting in the replacement of aging public housing with 420 new apartment units and townhouses. Beacon Communities is currently building 170 new affordable homes in two new, four-story buildings. All of the newly constructed units will be for households earning at or below 50 percent of the area median income (AMI) and will be supported by project-based Section 8 vouchers administered through the BHA.
Last night’s event with the Latinx Wellness Center leaders and celebrated the Latinx/a/o/e LGBTQIAPK + experience, recognizing 18 individuals and local businesses/organizations for their outstanding work in Boston and across Massachusetts. Awards recognized Innovation, Social Impact, Civic Service, and Contributions to The Arts, amongst others.
Photo credit: Boston Magazine