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A Racial and Social Justice Department forum, COVID recovery listening sessions, and a BIPOC Space Initiative



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Somerville Open Studios explores the theme of “space”

Now in its 23rd year, Somerville Open Studios will bring visual art to the public from April 30 through May 1, with more than 300 artists across the city opening their studio spaces for visitors to view. The event will showcase works of photography, painting, sculpture, glass, clay, furniture, and more. This year’s theme is “space,” and a media release provided the following description of what this idea could mean:

“What started as a discussion about the loss of art and maker spaces in Somerville evolved into a discussion about space—space to live, space to create and explore,” reads the release. “During the pandemic our spaces became entwined—for some, work and home became one and beyond our “pods” human interaction was virtual or socially distant—“six feet plus please”. In art, space is one of the basic elements—the area within the picture plane. This year Somerville artists will allow the public into their sacred spaces to see where and how art is created and conceived for the first time since COVID became a household word.”

Artist Mara Callahan said of the event, “SOS is such a wonderful community event.  I look forward to the influx of energy I get from engaging with others who love art and want to learn more about how and where it is made. The sincere feedback can inspire me all year long.”

“This year my artist building at 11 Miller Street, home to some of the area’s finest professional artists, is delighted to join Somerville Open Studios, a gem in the local arts community,” said painter Michael Compton.

For more information, visit this link.

Racial and Social Justice Department virtual forum

The City’s Racial and Social Justice Department will be holding a virtual forum to meet staff, learn about their work, and for community members to learn how to get more involved, on March 31, at 6 p.m. The department was formed in 2021, and since then, staff have been working on “initiatives related to racial and social justice including reimagining policing and public safety, hosting conversations with neighborhoods affected by increased gun violence, and increasing support for City commissions.”

“The RSJ Department wants to ensure that the community has access and opportunities in various ways to be informed and engage with the department and its initiatives,” said RSJ Department Director Denise Molina Capers. “We have been working hard to strategize ways of moving forward in our work to promote racial and social justice that continue to focus on building trust, engaging the community and stakeholders, and providing information on our work and how to get involved.”

“The RSJ Department staff have very quickly started to work on big, complex issues in our community and I encourage residents to take this chance to meet them and learn about what they have been doing,” said Mayor Katjana Ballantyne. “As we work together on issues like tackling systemic racism and other forms of oppression, reimagining policing and public safety, and creating a more equitable city, it will be important to have all voices at the table.”

Go to at the start time of the forum to join online, or call 311 (or (617-666-3311) on March 31 to get call-in information.

COVID recovery listening sessions

Mayor Katjana Ballantyne will be hosting small-group listening sessions with Somerville residents and workers disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic. This effort is a part of Ballantyne’s First 100 Day Agenda and the City’s ongoing work to promote equitable recovery from the virus. According to a press release, “The goal is to listen to community experiences and gather ideas and input on how the City can support the recovery. Listening sessions will be jointly facilitated by the Mayor and interested members of the community. City staff will also help document the conversations so that ideas and comments can be considered as the City develops its recovery plan.”

Residents and workers impacted by the pandemic, who will be prioritized, include “those who have lost loved ones and those who have had their income, employment, health, housing, food access, education, childcare, or mental health disrupted by the pandemic.”

Somerville residents or workers interested in participating in a listening session can sign up as an individual or on behalf of a group at or by calling 311 (or 617-666-3311). Participants can also volunteer to serve as a community liaison for their group, which could include helping with facilitation, note taking, and reviewing write-ups of the meeting. Listening sessions will begin in April. Sessions can be held via Zoom, telephone conference, or in person. Interpretation can be provided.

Somerville Arts Council BIPOC Space Initiative

The Somerville Arts Council is holding an open call, looking for local Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to help program and organize a temporary space. The group gave the following description of how they would like to see the space utilized:

“We want this to be an accessible opportunity; therefore this space will feature new curators and concepts on a rotational basis. We invite you to think about how you would want to occupy this space. Some examples (use is not limited to the following): Exhibitions or a crafts market space, small lectures, workshops, meetings, etc. Due to neighbors and other competing uses of the building, this space is NOT available for performance, dance, music, or a rehearsal room.”

If you are interested in applying, please fill out this online form.

Armory Master Planning Committee members

The City of Somerville, the Somerville Arts Council, and the Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development, is seeking three artists to serve on an Armory Master Planning Committee.

According to a Facebook post, “This Committee will guide the municipal consultants and staff in preparing the Somerville Armory Master Plan over the next few months, in preparation to transitioning the property into a public community arts center. Comprised of a diverse mix of municipal leaders and local artists, the Committee will meet six (6) times to discuss the following issues.”

For more information and to apply go here.

This article is syndicated by the Somerville Wire municipal news service of the Somerville News Garden project of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism.

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Shira Laucharoen is assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and assistant editor and staff reporter of the Somerville Wire.








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