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Armenian Heritage Park inspires Geometry as Public Art: Telling a Story – Armenian Weekly

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2015 Abstract Sculpture at Armenian Heritage Park on the Greenway (Photo: Matt Conti)

Geometry as Public Art: Telling a Story, the innovative curriculum sparked by Armenian Heritage Park on The Greenway, its design and key geometric features that tell the story of the immigrant experience, is being implemented this school year at nine elementary schools including seven Boston Public Schools (BPS) and two private schools.

EdVestors, which is dedicated to “meaningful education that prepares every Boston student to activate their power and shape their future,” is funding round trip bus transportation to and from Park and teacher training. The curriculum aligns with two of EdVestor’s key initiatives with the Boston Public School: BPS Arts Expansion and Zeroing in on Math. “We are excited to work alongside you and see how this project continues to blossom and impact students,” said Alia Verner, EdVestor’s director of strategic school support.

Beginning this school year, Geometry as Public Art: Telling a Story is being implemented in fourth grade classes in the following Boston Public Schools: Harvard-Kent Elementary School in Charlestown, Higginson-Lewis K-8 School and Nathan Hale Elementary School in Roxbury, Josiah Quincy School in Chinatown, The Hurly School in the South End and The William Monroe Trotter K-8 School in Dorchester. For several years prior, the curriculum was piloted by teachers in their fourth grade classes at The Eliot K-8 Innovation School in the North End.

A Boston Public School (BPS) Partner Program, Geometry as Public Art: Telling a Story was developed by the fourth grade teachers at The Eliot K-8 Innovation School in collaboration with several educators among the Friends of Armenian Heritage Park. The Friends is an initiative of the Armenian Heritage Foundation, sponsor of Armenian Heritage Park on The Greenway. The Foundation’s Board is made up of representatives from Armenian-American parishes and organizations within the Commonwealth.

The key intent of Geometry as Public Art: Telling a Story is to spark awareness of geometric shapes and their creative expression of ideas and thoughts expressed by the geometric features of Armenian Heritage Park that tell the story of the immigrant experience. In doing so, this engages students to learn about and share the experience of the first person in their family to come to this country. Many students realize this discovery for the first time; for some, it’s about sharing their own experience. All are building common ground, a key theme of the Armenian Heritage Park on The Greenway.    

The development of this curriculum was sparked by a young student during a 2012 visit to Armenian Heritage Park with her fourth grade class from The Advent School on Boston’s Beacon Hill. Several years earlier, cultural organizations and ethnic communities were provided the opportunity to develop and fund a parcel on what was to become the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway with the Central Artery relocated underground. Parcel 13 was to become Armenian Heritage Park on The Greenway, a gift to the City of Boston and Commonwealth from the Armenian American community.

“He’s talking about me,” whispered the fourth grader as Don Tellalian, AIA, the Park’s architect/designer was speaking about the significance of the annual reconfiguration of the abstract sculpture. 

Annually, the abstract sculpture, a split rhomboid dodecahedron made of stainless steel and aluminum, is reconfigured. In early spring, a crane lifts, pulls apart and reconfigures its two halves to create a new sculptural shape. This is symbolic of all who left or were forced to pull away from their country of origin and came to these Massachusetts shores, establishing themselves in new and different ways.

The significance of the annual reconfiguration of the abstract sculpture, a shared experience, resonates with so many people. In much the same way, the labyrinth, a circular winding path paved in grass and inlaid stone, celebrates life’s journey. The two features are connected by the waters of the reflecting pool upon which the abstract sculpture sits, washing over the sides and reemerging at the labyrinth’s center as a single jet of water, symbolic of life and rebirth. The inscription etched on the reflecting pool includes that abstract sculpture is dedicated “to lives lost during the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923 and all genocides that have followed.” Etched around the labyrinth’s circle are the words – Service, Science, Commerce and Art – in tribute to contributions made to life and culture by all.

The Park’s design with its geometric features is sparking discovery, curiosity and delight while uniting and connecting through a shared experience, the immigrant experience and building common ground.

Geometry as Public Art: Telling A Story is engaging students to tell their own, their families’ or ancestors’ immigrant experience, prompting the realization that most people come to this country from somewhere else. The multi-disciplinary curriculum creatively integrates geometry, art, language and social studies while promoting cross-cultural understanding and respect.  

“The three thoughtfully planned lessons take educators and students on a path of self-discovery and storytelling, intertwining interactive classroom lessons and the hands-on nature of visiting the Park. The culmination of celebrating the immigrant experience is as heart-warming and thought-provoking when the students share proudly their I AM Poems at the Park,” comments Morgan Atkins, former Coordinator of Culture and School Climate of The Eliot Innovation K-8 School. 

The student’s I AM Poems are a powerful, insightful culminating activity of the three-part curriculum. A geometric illustration and portrait of the individual accompany each poem. 

Successfully piloted for several years at The Eliot K-8 Innovation School, the comments of 4th grade educators reflect the curriculum’s intent, impact and value. Brianna Greene, curriculum team leader remarks, “This curriculum is an exciting and engaging way for students to learn more about their family heritage and reflect on the American immigration experience. The curriculum is a wonderful way for teachers to learn about and better understand their students and students to learn about one another.”

Roxanne Emokpae comments, “The pride just exudes from my students as they draft and revise their ‘I AM’ Poems; being able to dive deep into their family’s arrival to America is so worthwhile.” 

Alyssa Kotsiopoulos shares, “Implementing the curriculum in our classrooms at the beginning of the year is a great way to welcome students to 4th grade and to introduce our larger social studies immigration unit.”

Emily Roberts remarks, “The curriculum is a great opportunity for students to spend time with their families, learning the story of their own culture and experience and sharing that experience.”

Teachers are incorporating walking the labyrinth as a class, symbolic of their collective journey. They are also introducing the benefits of walking the labyrinth to quiet the mind and practice mindful meditation.

During the pandemic, the curriculum was adapted for remote learning with a video.

Upon completion of the curriculum this past year, several 4th grade students from The Eliot K-8 Innovation School with Brianna Green, 4th grade teacher met via ZOOM with older adults representing the ABCD North End Senior Center in the North End to share their I AM Poems, geometric illustrations and portraits of the first person to come to this country – the culminating activity of the curriculum. This was the pilot for Geometry as Public Art: Telling a Story – The Intergenerational Project, a collaboration of Age Friendly Boston, Andrea Burns, Director; The Eliot K-8 Innovation School and Friends of Armenian Heritage Park to prompt and encourage intergenerational connections with a sense of purpose by engaging and energizing students and older adults. Sharing what unites and connects us enhances the quality of life and experiences for both generations.

Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia participated in the pilot. She shared,I love this…and would like to be a part of making it happen across the city. This is part of our collective healing. I was moved by the beautiful poems I heard today. As an immigrant my heart was full.”.

Wow, the experience of hearing the young students beautifully share their I AM Poems brought so much hope for our future as an inclusive society. Although each student had a unique heritage, there was commonality in the journey. They are mature beyond their age,” shared Laura Bilazarian Purutyan, STEM mentorship consultant, “The imagination, empathy and mysterious wisdom of our youth will save us, if we listen to them.”

Nearby each school, implementing the curriculum this fall, is a senior center to prompt this intergenerational initiative. One center is the UMass Boston Osher Lifelong Learning Center.

Programs at the Park are planned by the Friends’ Programs Planning Team, each responsible for a key program and/or initiative. The 2021 team, to date, includes Kristin Asadourian, Andrea Burns, Susan Deranian, Tom Dow, Catherine Minassian, Dr. Armineh Mirzabegian, Rita Pagliuca, Katrina Piehler, Tsoleen Sarian and Ann Zacarian together with the Curriculum Team – Jason Behrens, Manneh Ghazarians and Barbara Tellalian. Reviewers of the Curriculum were Joseph Cahaly, Diana Topjian and Chiara Meghigian Zenati. Elizabeth Cahaly and Tom Cahaly developed the video, Join us! We’re on our Way to Armenian Heritage Park.  

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The chaotic joy of Art Fight – The Verge

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In the summer of 2017, I was stuck between high school and college and stuck between two versions of myself. There was the high school version of me, someone with a laser focus on traditional academic success, and the college version of myself, a mystery that burst with the potential to do and create outside of the box that I had formed around myself.

It started with a simple DM — something along the lines of “this seems fun; you should join it also!” When I clicked the link, I saw a dizzying array of character designs laid out in tidy rows, filling the homepage of the site. It was overwhelming, not just because so many people had joined this site but also because they had shared so many stories and characters. The characters were technicolor and sparkling, with lengthy backstories included with their pictures. There was so much passion, and I was being invited to join them.

Art Fight is a fairly simple concept. For the month of July, artists register on the site and are divided into teams. Once registered and sorted, they upload examples of their art along with personal characters and stories of their own that they would be interested in other people drawing. Then, the games begin.

You score points in Art Fight by drawing another team’s requests, called an “attack” in the lingo of the game. The more complex the request, the higher the score, and at the end of the month, the team with the most points gets a special badge on the site showing they’ve won. There’s no reward beyond the badge, and nobody is too strict about the teams. Individuals can change teams multiple times over the course of the month. The real incentive isn’t winning but, rather, drawing for others and being drawn in turn.

I was an amateur artist at the time and had spent very little time creating a social media profile and promoting my art. But even then, it was exciting to know I could draw for others and know they would be excited to draw back. Something about this space was welcoming to people of all skill levels and meant that I wasn’t lost in the digital noise.

In the following years, the time that I spent on Art Fight waxed and waned based on the business of my own summers. But each year, I made sure to draw at least one piece for it, taking the lovingly rendered illustration that another artist had made of their character and granting it life in my own art style. It remained a constant, this act of creating for someone else that I likely did not know.

The other constant was the range of other artists that used the platform. Some were students or hobby artists, drawing in the free time that they had on weekends or after work. Others were professional artists, pulling together attacks as breaks from their own work. What remained true was the range of people that Art Fight encompassed, with individuals from almost any walk of life with an interest in character design and storytelling coming together to share their creations.

Back in the summer of 2017, I hadn’t realized quite how special that was. Wedged in among my career aspirations and life goals, my art often feels pushed to the background, something that can’t be properly pursued unless it has a “purpose” (usually involving money). Having a space where that creation is encouraged and given a community, for any skill level and with few caveats, still feels exhilarating.

For the artists I know, sharing online can be a mixed blessing. Platforms offer reach but they can feel actively hostile, putting artists at the whims of algorithms and mainstream attention. There are few platforms actively devoted to art and even fewer constructed to make artists feel more comfortable. The result can feel alienating, forcing creators to post constantly to stay relevant rather than follow their own inspiration.

Art Fight, for me, is a balm to that. Even for a hobbyist artist like me, there is something exciting about individuals making art for each other without the caveats of platforms or the frantic scramble to be seen. It is a challenge that asks only for what you want to give to it rather than what the platform wants. For that reason, the month of July is a sanctuary — a place to create on my terms with the knowledge that it will still be seen by others and maybe be special to some of them.

Camille Butera is a Master of Science student at Oxford University and a recent graduate of Smith College. Outside of that, you can find her drawing and catching up on TV shows about five years after everyone else.

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Downtown gateway art project gets initial green light – CollingwoodToday.ca

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Council has given initial approval for the Collingwood Downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA) to proceed in a public art process for a gateway feature for the downtown.

During Monday’s strategic initiatives standing committee meeting, council voted in favour of proceeding with a gateway feature, with a focus on the feature being an integrated public art installation anchoring the downtown core.

“Art is in the beholder. We follow a process. Some may disagree with the process. We’re voting on a process today, not a piece of art,” said Hull. “When it’s installed, and people don’t like it – you voted for the process.”

Based on a plan proposed and approved by the BIA board, the process for the public art gateway feature would follow the town’s public art policy, and would begin with planning by an ad-hoc committee to come up with a budget and theme with an invitation to the community to participate on the committee.

During Monday’s meeting, BIA general manager Sue Nicholson noted that the theme is currently under discussion.

“Working through the public process, I think the theme is ‘What has built this downtown,’” said Nicholson. “The shipbuilding, the rail that basically created this community. These themes will help shape what this piece of art looks like.”

Later, there would be a call to artists, a selection process with interviews, and, ultimately, the installation of the piece. A public art working group selected for the project would include town staff, BIA, community members, and representatives from the Collingwood Museum, the historical society, and the Blue Mountain Foundation for the Arts.

The BIA’s goal is to move quickly through the process to have a final design and artist contracted by the end of January 2023.

The project would be funded by a $215,000 federal grant which must be used for beautification of the downtown before March 31, 2023. If not used by that date, the BIA would lose the federal funding.

Coun. Deb Doherty said she was in support of the recommendation.

“I applaud the BIA board for having taken a very negative assessment of their original proposal and gone back to the drawing board and come back with a very creative approach that I hope will be a win-win for the town, residents and the BIA,” said Doherty.

The original proposed archway project was presented to council in early March 2022. The design showed two tall poles with a black metal archway spanning Hurontario Street at the intersection with First Street/Huron Street. On the arch were white letters reading “Historic Downtown Collingwood” on one side and “Historic Harbourfront Collingwood,” on the other. The idea, according to the BIA, was to help people find the downtown and encourage them to turn onto Hurontario Street.

The proposal was immediately and vehemently rejected by public opinion. Letters to CollingwoodToday.ca decried it as an eyesore and the BIA received dozens of emails and submissions opposing the design and concept of an archway in the downtown.

A public survey put out by the town in April received nearly twice as many responses as the 2022 town budget survey with 727 responses to the archway survey and 529 of them (72.8 per cent) against an archway altogether.

Town council was also bombarded with opposition from residents culminating to a meeting on May 30 when Mayor Keith Hull (then acting mayor) said he was surprised by the ferocity of the response to the archway.

At the May 30 meeting, council told the BIA and town staff to go back to the drawing board to find a different way to spend the $215,000 federal grant.

Nicholson’s proposal to use the town’s Public Art Policy to commission a gateway feature that is not an arch is in response to council’s May order.

On Monday, not all councillors were in favour of the proposal.

“I feel this is contrary to our sign bylaw. I feel it is contrary to our heritage conservation district. It’s almost as if this is a sign project in the guise of art,” said Coun. Chris Carrier. “I think art is art – let art be the anchor as opposed to wrapping it in the envelope of signage.”

“This is almost like another kick at the can we had before,” he added. “I think the public rejected it not because they were misunderstanding the finances, but because they didn’t want an arch.”

The committee voted 6-1 in favour of proceeding with the public art process, with Carrier opposed. Coun. Bob Madigan declared a conflict on the matter and didn’t participate in discussions as he is a BIA member.

The decision will need to be ratified at the next meeting of council before going into effect.

With files from Erika Engel.

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How this local arts group is making art accessible in Calgary – CBC.ca

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In a pursuit to build a recreational facility for the arts, The Alcove has been encouraging the community to pitch in through a series of summer workshops and pop-ups. (Shay Blenkin/Fern and Pine Studios)

The corner of 8th ave and 1st street bustled with colour, music and dancing last week at The Alcove’s Hip-Hop Showcase, one of their several pop-up events this summer. 

“Hip-hop really brings people from different ethnicities, different races together, in ways that other spaces don’t,” said MC GoodMedicine who feels these spaces allow people to be authentic and tell their story.

These pop-ups by The Alcove Centre for Arts are an attempt to showcase how a physical recreational facility for the arts could benefit the community in many ways. This non-profit group is dedicated to making art more accessible by providing workshops and platforms to support local artists. 

“We have so many hidden gems here, and these workshops are helping pass down the knowledge to the youth,” said Ryan De Guzman a.k.a Rubix, a local rapper. 

“I believe Calgary’s still young, kind of like in its pre-teens…but we are growing and have the potential to be like Montreal,” Guzman said as he reflected on the arts scene and its future in the city.

The Alcove workshop attendees visited the CBC booth to create some acrylic art with CBC stencils. (Ishita Singla/CBC)

The first half of the showcase was a spray paint and street art workshop led by Anthony Russell who provided guidance on colour theory, spray can control, letter structure and style. After the formal instruction, the space welcomed a collaborative community mural, facilitated by a graffiti trio, Spreason. Attendees and community members had the opportunity to spray paint their own name tags to this four by eight foot mural. 

CBC Calgary was on location with canvases, custom CBC stencils and paint supplies, for aspiring and professional artists to express themselves. While some captured yellow and orange gradients of a sunrise, others were inspired by bright patterns, and even monochrome palettes. 

In collaboration with ANTYX and TRIBE Artist Society, The Alcove opened up the floor to an open jam, or a “cypher.” DJ Playtime spun some tunes for rappers and dancers to come and vibe together.

“Cyphers welcome hip-hop artists to come together, practice and perform. This is an opportunity for strangers to mingle and develop friendships through arts and music,” as The Alcove explained. (Shay Blenkin/ Fern and Pine Studios)

The showcase was aimed to be “for the community, from the community and by the community.” The workshops were made possible in partnership with the Calgary Downtown Association and the venue was a collaborative effort by University of Calgary’s faculties of Social Work and School of Creative and Performing Arts

The Alcove is hosting a multicultural themed arts showcase on August 27 and once again, CBC Calgary will be on-site to creatively stimulate conversations about art, community and more.

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