Five compete for Uphams art display commission

By 
Jordan Frias, Special to the Reporter
Jan. 16, 2014

An 18-month partnership between the Boston Foundation, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), and several community-based partnerships has led to a public art installation competition in Uphams Corner.

The Uphams Corner Art Commission project drew 29 applicants from across the nation, a roster that has been narrowed to five local artists, artist teams, artisans, and architects. The finalists were chosen by a panel of monthly advisor groups composed of residents, community stakeholders, and MBTA officials.

“Our deciding criterion is not looking at a particular proposal for art installation, but rather at experience in engaging the community,” said Harry Smith, director of sustainable economic development at the DSNI. “Their projects must include young people, merchants, people for whom English isn’t their first language – those who are usually left out of the planning.”

The finalists are Cedric Douglass of Mattapan, Mags Harries and Lajos Heder of Cambridge, Waqas Jawaid of Dorchester with a team of two, Laurence Pierce of Dorchester and two colleagues, and Katarzyna Balug of Cambridge.

Waqas Jawaid, a new resident of Dorchester and recent graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Design in Architecture, is working with classmate Quardean Lewis-Allen of Cambridge and Jonathan Crisman, who is currently in San Francisco.

The three architects have not worked together before, but are excited to collaborate for this contest. Their idea is to create a café storefront and art studio in a warehouse area that will be called Art Lab and will provide apprenticeship and internship opportunities in the community. “As architects, we think a lot about how a public space functions, and we ask, ‘How does it activate a city?’ Jawaid said.
Jawaid and his team have been working with the Strand Theatre to develop their idea.

Freelance graphic designer and artist Cedric Douglas of Mattapan is developing a project around the theme of “Up,” which he says represents how Uphams Corner is a modern, 21st-century neighborhood. “Uphams Corner is the new art district of Boston,” he said. Douglas has been working with Design Studios for Social Intervention’s “Making Planning Processes Public” project.

His plan is to drive a mobile art truck around the community as a way to get residents involved in his project and to recruit “smart, dedicated youth” to help him conceptualize his final product.

Katarzyna Balug of Cambridge is also looking to recruit youth for her art installation by creating a storefront that will serve as a free public space where open mic nights, fireside chats, and community events will be held. She plans to use these community events as a way to generate ideas for her art installation. “I’m resisting putting my physical initial ideas on the table because I want the people I work with to respond to the challenge and for the community to take ownership over the installation,” she said.

Residents of Uphams Corner are encouraged to attend community meetings to provide feedback and select the winner. The meetings are scheduled for Fri., Jan. 17, at noon at the Mattapan Branch of the Boston Public Library, 1350 Blue Hill Ave; Tues., Jan. 21, 5:30 p.m. at the Design Studio for Social Intervention, 1946 Washington St., 2nd floor, Roxbury; Thurs., Jan. 23, 6 p.m., at the Dorchester Arts Collaborative, Erick Jean Center for the Arts, 157A Washington St., Dorchester.

Read more about the Uphams Corner ArtPlace project here.