Four new art installations are now enlivening MAPC’s meeting spaces. Last Thursday night, a group of artists and MAPC staff gathered for a celebration of the new art in the four conference rooms on three floors of the MAPC’s offices. The new commissioned artwork was coordinated by Aminah Yahya, with support from MAPC Artist in Residence Carolyn Lewenberg. Artwork was created by Jameel Radcliffe, Aminah Yahya, Dakota Deal, and Yffka Lavaud.
When Carolyn took on the project of replacing some of the art in MAPC's offices, she wanted to work with young, emerging artists to commission pieces reflecting MAPC's values. Each art piece coordinates with one of MAPC’s core priorities: Climate, Regional Collaboration and Municipal Efficiency, Equity, and Smart Growth.
To develop their pieces, artists met with staff members to learn more about each subject. Artists listened and took notes, asked questions, and looked at the spaces in need of art. Over the course of the fall, they created work to fit these spaces, match the colors, and convey the spirit of MAPC by expressing these strategic priorities.
"I'm extremely impressed by the sensitivity the artists portrayed to the themes, the office culture at MAPC, and to the particular sites of each meeting room where their artwork has been placed," said Regional Arts and Culture Planner Daniel Koff. "The artists were able to provide pops of color near our entrance, subdued tones in a large meeting room, and atmospheric shades in an interior space that was in need of character."
Artists for humanity
Carolyn described MAPC’s work to the students and went over the process the artists undertook to understand the company's values and reflect them in the art pieces. She explained how the commission process worked for both MAPC and the artists, and encouraged them to develop the skills to talk about money and charging for their work.
Rosaline Valcimond, MAPC Counsel, agreed, saying that she has looked at several artists’ contracts and thinks that artists should always ask for more than they think.
Having the students at the celebration was especially meaningful for Carolyn, who had first met Aminah and Yffka seven years ago as their mentor and teacher at Artward Bound, a four year college preparatory program at MassArt.
“Over four years of working together, our relationship grew strong and it was a wonderful experience for me to see their skills grow,” said Carolyn. “When I got the opportunity to coordinate new artwork in the office, I asked them if they were interested and was so excited that they wanted to do it.”
Carolyn pointed this out to the AfH students that she had been a mentor to Yffka and Aminah as Jameel was to them, stressing the importance of developing networks and strong relationships.
The local art has been met with enthusiasm from MAPC staff. Mark Fine, Director of Municipal Collaboration commented that "creating visuals to describe 'municipal collaboration' could not have been easy, but Aminah did a fabulous job."
“She got to the heart of what it's about - people working together to improve the places they care about,” he said. “And I love how she depicted some of the tools communities use to sustain those places, especially the street sweeper, which seems a mundane item of municipal operations, but does so much to keep our communities and waterways clean.”
Aminah described her vision to represent the interdependence and unification of all the city areas. Her compositions are organized around the office table as the nucleus, with a diverse group of leaders having a meeting. She was inspired by remnants of old city planning maps, and used these as a base on the panels, adding familiar office supplies for a three dimensional element to the pieces and a sense of relatability to the office environment. She chose warm hues of brown to convey the richness of the people and teal to compliment the earth tones and blue of the office space. Metal gears are incorporated in the piece and show the work in progress and grind that is needed for all the moving parts to work in concert with each other: the community centers, farmers market, hospital, and the community at large. The golden wire is a technological bridge between them. Her emphasis is that these entities are inevitably intertwined, and through them, culture can flow and enrich the communities in our region.
Jameel Radcliffe used a very different style to convey the spirit of equity in his work, and was equally successful in making his expression meaningful. Research Manager Jessie Partridge Guerrero said she felt the challenges of this topic area come through in the work, even though it was an abstract expression.
Government Affairs Specialist Diego Huezo agreed. “I really appreciate Jameel’s work and its representation of equity," he said. "It’s a subtle, yet thought-provoking piece that reflects equity as a value MAPC tries to work on everyday."
Jameel described how the color fields of emerging and submerging tones of whites and blues represent the way that some groups are being pushed to the back and forgotten about while others are able to come forward without resistance. In his five works, each has a single four sided shape of exposed wood residing in an atmospheric and calming space. As a metaphor for the idea of equity, each shape takes up the same amount of square inches per piece, although each shape takes up a different place on the piece and is shaped uniquely. Jameel also noted that he wanted to be sensitive to the energetic quality of the space and chose an atmospheric style that also had a sense of calm to make it a comfortable space for meetings.
Yffka Lavaud represented MAPC’s climate work with a piece that depicts rolling waves with futuristic yet primitive homes with solar panel roofs above the water. For the water, she used dyed plastic bags, which creates an interesting texture and recalls the issue of plastic in the oceans. The homes on the water represent the innovative approaches people will need to adopt to live with the unpredictability of climate change. Communications Strategist Karen Adelman reported that her work has totally transformed the acoustics of the space, making conversations and phone calls less echoey and distracting.
Dakota Deal created a triptych that represents efforts toward smart growth. The panel on the far left illustrates a community with ample accessibility to everyday necessities. The center panel is a beautiful landscape, untouched by humans. The far right panel shows the vibrancy of modern eco-friendly transportation.
Operations Manager Heidi Anderson noted that she is usually prefers photography or representational art, but that the energy in Dakota’s work and the use of colors enliven the space and welcome people to the office. She noted that all of the artwork makes people feel more welcome. The large conference room hadn’t been described as feeling warm or welcoming, she said, but with the inclusion of the artwork, the Artists for Humanity students stayed for the whole reception, listening intently, and seemed to enjoy their time in the office.
“It’s doubtful that the MAPC offices have ever hosted such a diverse and young group of people, and we are proud of this initiative,” she said.
The spirit of place
Government Affairs Specialist Diego Huezo summed it up well: “It’s great that MAPC is walking the talk and reaching out to young, local artists to spruce up its own offices,” he said. “I hope that our guests will take moments to pause and ask or read about the pieces hanging in our offices. I hope this project can continue within MAPC and hopefully to other organizations, cities and towns.”
The artists agreed that they would all like to do more art enhancing the spirit of place.
“I am inspired to work towards taking on bigger art commissions and projects in the future,” said Aminah, who coordinated the four pieces and created the Municipal Collaboration installation “It was really great meeting all of the office workers and coming to the office every week. My goal for this project was to have our pieces be a reflection of the people that work there. Hopefully this project sparked a creative curiosity in everyone about art and will help stimulate a desire to pick up a brush and paint.”