Weekend-Long Celebration of Art in Natick

Photo shows a large group of people of all ages dancing in a circle

For the Love of Natick: Creative Placemaking Project Culminates with Weekend-Long Celebration of Art

By Mallory Nezam, Jennifer Erickson, and Elise Harmon

Earlier this month, the Town of Natick saw an infusion of creative projects installed in three locations in Natick Center, including a musical bridge, a colorful hopscotch board, and new wayfinding decals designed to look like stained glass. The town was brought to life in a new way on Nov. 3 and 4 through "For the Love of Natick: A Creative Placemaking Weekend" - the culminating event in a year-long "creative placemaking" process.

Over a dozen artists were commissioned to contribute site-specific artwork throughout the town's center that embodied the values of the project: accessibility, engagement, boldness, respect, historical relevance and forward-thinking, and wayfinding.

The sites selected for the project included a bridgeway over the commuter rail line, an alleyway, and Natick Common. On the bridge, instruments made from recycled materials provide an opportunity for passers-by to make music and engage with their surroundings. In the Adams Street alleyway you’ll find flags with images of nature and everyday life, inspired by Tibetan prayer flags. The Common hosts four installations: a Clootie wishing tree, animal-inspired benches, a giant hopscotch board, and murals adorning the town’s central gazebo. New wayfinding decals direct pedestrians to points of interest in the area. All of the artworks will remain installed for a two-week period ending on Saturday, Nov. 17. Select works may remain on view longer.

The opening weekend also featured dance performances organized by Nellie Goodman and Eve Costarelli, which took place at the Common Street Spiritual Center, a cross-cultural community center located adjacent to the Town Common.

The art pieces and performances were selected and funded by the Town of Natick, MAPC, and the Natick Center Cultural District as part of a larger project to develop a creative placemaking strategy for Natick Center. “Creative placemaking” is a process that uses arts and culture to enhance community identity, improve social and cultural cohesion, and address challenges in a specific area.

Developing a strategy for creative placemaking in Natick Center has involved engaging a diverse array of stakeholders in the town to identify improvements they wanted to see in their town center. The project will gather information about the area’s arts and cultural assets and include recommendations for new processes, tools, and strategies to encourage creative engagement.

To begin reimagining the town center, MAPC and Natick Center Associates issued a Call for Creatives for public art projects in August. The Call asked for submissions that would make Natick Center more navigable and welcoming. Finalists were selected in October by a members of Natick Center Associates’ Public Art Committee and members of the Natick Center Creative Placemaking Advisory Group. In addition to the roster of projects awarded through the official Call for Creatives, project partners also collaborated with the Common Street Spiritual Center, which commissioned a diverse group of five local artists to produce artistic “Visions of Community” that have transformed the gazebo on Natick Common.

Participating artists included Beth Fagan, Sasha Kuznetsova, Mark Eddie Bruckner, Mark Favermann, Shahreen Quazi, Rebecca, McGee Tuck, Sepidah Golestani, Lewis Randa and Lauren Rafal (Life Experience School), Fotios Mpouris, Sophia Brinster, Rohma Shirwani, and Nellie Goodman.

By Rohma Shirwani, Sepideh Golestani, Sofy Brinister, Fotios Mpouris, & Lewis Randa

By Beth Fagan

By Beth Fagan

By Eddie Bruckner

By Mark Favermann

By Rebecca McGee Tuck

By Sasha Kuznetsova

By Sasha Kuznetsova

By Shahreen Quazi

About the Natick Creative Placemaking Project

MAPC is providing technical assistance to the Town of Natick to help with the development of a Natick Center Creative Placemaking Strategy. The project will produce recommendations for new processes, tools, and strategies that the Town of Natick and Natick Center Associates can use to facilitate continued creative placemaking in Town Center.

Building on recently completed and ongoing planning projects - including the Natick Cultural Asset Catalog Project (2015) and the Natick Center Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Plan (2016) - the final Creative Placemaking strategy will include information about Natick Center’s arts and cultural assets and policy and programmatic recommendations to sustain the creative placemaking vision. The process has engaged Natick residents, business owners, and town staff to develop a values-driven strategy to promote cultural inclusion and accessibility, and activate public spaces in Natick Center through arts, culture, and design.

This project is funded by a grant from MAPC’s Technical Assistance Program that was made possible with funding provided by the Barr Foundation. Additional funding is also provided by a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Creative Placemaking Knowledge-Building grant awarded to the American Planning Association (APA), on which MAPC and Americans for the Arts (AFTA) are partners. Additional in-kind support was provided by the Town of Natick and Natick Center Associates (NCA).

More About Creative Placemaking

Creative placemaking engages arts and culture to help shape the character and vitality of neighborhoods, cities, towns, and regions. Placemaking involves deliberately integrating art and culture into community planning and development work.

Done well, creative placemaking can enhance community identity, improve social and cultural cohesion, and address challenging community issues. Creative placemaking efforts can result in improvements to public infrastructure and administrative procedures, removing barriers against and encouraging the siting of temporary and permanent public art, bring new voices into planning processes, and improving physical and social conditions in public places and spaces.