Boston Murals featured on Boston.Com

The Boston Globe and Boston.com caught on to my mural project and asked me if I was interested in highlighting a few of the best ones. Click here to check out the slideshow or head over to the Boston Murals Tumblr page where you can see the latest murals I’ve uploaded. 

Anonymous Boston

Photo Courtesy of Joanna Marinova Jones

The last time I saw an exhibition that literally made me tremble was at the Institute of Contemporary Art during the Mark Bradford show (November 19, 2010 – March 13, 2011). This time around, it wasn’t Bradford that almost moved me to tears, but rather an exhibition at Fourth Wall Project on social justice and gun violence in Boston. Words could not even begin to describe the emotions I felt as I read every wall text, looked at every photograph and listened to the desperate pleas of families (a haunting audio piece was part of the show) in Anonymous Boston a multimedia exhibit that focused on life, rather than the devastating effects of gun violence.

Organized by media producer and human rights activist Joanna Marinova Jones, Anonymous Boston directly and indirectly brought to light many issues that have long been ignored by public officials, and people not directly affected by gun violence. Anonymous Boston aimed at empowering those families who have experienced devastating losses—by giving them a voice with which to tear down the derogatory comments left behind by anonymous bloggers on online news articles.

Newspaper clippings with stories on the victims made this exhibition not only interesting, but relevant on so many levels. The headlines are nothing short of sensational, they nurture the anonymous monsters that leave tactless comments that hurt victim’s families.

Fueled by the insensitive, inaccurate and superficial media coverage of violence in Boston, these anonymous bloggers further exacerbate the situation by relentlessly attacking not only grieving families, but an entire race. Their comments, some of which I have quoted above, are difficult to stomach.

It’s much easier to ignore the issue or point fingers and blame the victim’s family, rather than to take a stand to stop gun violence. It is also much easier to say “if it is not happening to me, then it’s not my problem— why should I care about all the violence that is destroying your community?”

Photo Courtesy of Joanna Marinova Jones

What happens in Boston is everyone’s responsibility. I could not help but feel mentally drained and spiritually devastated, but always remaining hopeful—as I was confronted with blatantly racist and ignorant comments left by these bloggers next to a victim’s photograph. It’s easy to hide behind a veil rather than to discuss the real underlying issues as to why these things are happening in our city.

To say that what happens in Roxbury, Dorchester or Mattapan isn’t my problem— is to be part of the problem, as a family member of one of the victims in Anonymous Boston was quoted saying.

Anonymous Boston communicated a powerful message and I sincerely hope that those who experienced it listened. Gun violence is the product of complex cultural issues. We as a culture are obsessed with guns and yet we wonder why there is so much senseless violence in this country. My only regret was not being able to experience this exhibition more than once, as I went on the second to last day before closing. 

All other uncredited images are by Anulfo Baez.

Making Boston Awesome One Community Garden at a Time

As an urban dweller, there are many things that make me happy to live in a city. One of those many things is being able to talk to people tending their plots in community gardens. According to the Boston Natural Areas Network, there are nearly 200 community and school gardens in the City of Boston and its surrounding towns. These gardens are cared for by more than 10,000 urbanites working towards making Boston a more sustainable, healthier and greener city.

Boston’s community gardens are thriving, but is evident from this sign that people are eager to garden more. The current demand for more community gardens is pushing city planning officials to re-consider zoning in Boston.

Empty, unattended land parcels are eye sores in many of the poorest neighborhoods of Boston.

These empty sites are uninspiring and promote among many other things, blight. In contrast, community gardens promote safe and healthy communities, they nurture good neighbor relationships, promote exercise, healthy eating habits, and many other benefits.

Bostonians are eager to make this city an even more awesome one, one community garden at a time. Are city planning officials listening to the people?

A New Year, A New Boston

Here’s to a new year, a new Boston!

Source: Emerson College

More than two decades in the making, the Paramount Theatre is breathing new life today thanks to dedicated organizations like the Boston Preservation Alliance, institutions like Emerson College, the  Boston Landmarks Commission and Bostonians whose vision aided in the revitalization of many of the theatres on Washington Street. Two weeks ago, I went on a tour of the Paramount Theatre organized by the Boston Preservation Alliance with the Boston Society of Architects and was thrilled to see Downtown Crossing finally reaping the benefits of historic preservation.

Sorry, these images don't do any justice to the recreated interior of the Paramount.

Perhaps the Paramount can serve as an example to the Filene’s Basement fiasco? Let’s hope that 2011 is the year that this stalled project resurrects from the ashes of Downtown Crossing.

Decaying Downtown Crossing

And what about Dudley Square? Many promises were broken in 2010, but maybe,  just maybe we’ll see a commitment from the city to finally give it the attention this area deserves.

The gaping hole in Dudley Square and the scars of the Ferdinand Building

Finally, I must commend the Boston Landmarks Commission for their outstanding work in completing the Christian Science Center Study Report. This was a tremendous, but extremely important undertaking which will give a voice to Modernism in Boston and beyond. Now the Boston Landmarks Commission will consider the petition for the  potential designation of the Christian Science Center Complex as a Boston Landmark on January 25, 2011. Let’s hope that this petition is approved!

Christian Science Complex, Nicholas Nixon, 1957. Source: Columbia College of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Photography

Looking forward to a year filled with many preservation successes and fewer losses!

Memories of Modernism

Christian Science Monitor Plaza and Fountain, photo taken by John Michael Garcia.

Looking back to my years growing up in the Dominican Republic, I can vividly recall the memories of the sights, sounds and smells that shaped me as a child.  As young as I was when I left my country to join my parents in the United States, the power of the places I experienced have molded me into a passionate advocate for the preservation of history and architecture.

My first few years living in this country were extremely difficult. Everything felt strange, from the language and culture to the weather and food.  However, with time, I managed not only to adapt to this new land, but also keep my childhood memories alive. Growing up in Boston allowed me to witness firsthand many changes that were taking place in the city, all leaving a powerful impression on me.

One of my first experiences interacting with architecture in the city occurred on a field trip as a student at the Hurley Elementary School in the South End.  On our way back to school from the Mapparium located inside the Mary Baker Eddy Library; founder of Christian Science, my classmates and I strolled around the iconic modernist space and jumped into the fountain to cool off from the scorching summer sun.

That was my introduction to Modernism. I have never been able to forget how emotionally intense and powerful this experience was.  One, it happened just a few months after leaving the little rural town I was born in and two, I had never seen an enormous pool nor a fountain where kids ran around and played in. The moment was magical, so magical and powerful I often see myself reflected in the lives of the kids who play in this space today.

According to Dolores Hayden in The Power of Place, “[memory] is the key to the power of historic places to help citizens define their public pasts: places trigger memories for insiders who have shared a common past, and at the same time places often can represent shared pasts to outsiders who might be interested in knowing about them in the present” (46). Places have the ability to evoke visual and social memory and the Christian Science Center Complex along with its reflection pool and fountain has not only formulated my understanding and appreciation for Modern architecture today, but was my first introduction to the power of modernism and the role it plays in our lives (of course, this statement I only realized a few years ago while studying art and architectural history in college).

Photo taken by John Michael Garcia

The Plaza is truly one of Boston’s grandest spaces and the emotional attachment I feel is also felt by many friends and colleagues. When hearing of the possible fate of the Plaza, a friend of mine also traveled down memory lane to the days when he was a child playing in the fountain.  I sensed the beginning of an emotional void as he perhaps contemplated on the future of this site, a future which everyday seems more uncertain to me and hundreds of people. Designating the plaza as a Boston Landmark will assure that memories are kept alive for many generations of Bostonians whose lives have been touched by this Complex.

Memories last a lifetime.  Not designating the plaza as a Boston Landmark is an opportunity to shatter the dreams and memories of those who have experience the magic of the reflection pool, the fountain and its buildings.

If you’re reading this and you have also been touched by the Christian Science Complex, I urge you to send a letter to the Boston Landmarks Commission advocating for the designation of the Complex as a Boston Landmark.

To learn more, you can view the study report here.

You can send your letter of support or comments by August 16th, 2010 to this address:

The Boston Landmarks Commission voted to designate the Christian Science Monitor Plaza as a Boston Landmark! Thank you!!!!

The Lantern Festival

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Forest Hills Cemetery was founded in 1848 as a rural picturesque cemetery. Every summer in July, the cemetery organizes a lantern festival inspired by eastern Asian Buddhist rituals. This year the weather was perfect for a night of honoring, remembering and celebrating the lives of those who have left this world. I love events like these because they bring people from all walks of life together in a beautiful setting.

For more information on Forest Hills Cemetery, click here.

For more information on the Forest Hills Educational Trust, click here.

 

Roxbury: A Streetcar Suburb in Full Bloom

The Cochituate Standpipe, built in 1869

The more I explore Roxbury, the more I fall in love with it. Its colorful history is reflected in its rich architectural heritage, from the Georgian Shirley-Eustis House to the Heroic Modernism of Madison Park High School to the recently constructed Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, the landscape of Roxbury could be read as a survey in New England architecture and planning. Roxbury, like Jamaica Plain and surrounding neighborhoods was once a streetcar suburb of Boston.

Cooper Community Garden with Tour Attendees

Sam Bass Warner, Jr. in Streetcar Suburbs: The Process of Growth in Boston, 1870-1900 traces the development patterns of the two-mile radius city that was once Boston, to the suburban metropolis that we experience today. The development patterns, the arrangements of streets and buildings throughout Boston’s streetcar suburbs are a reflection of the nineteenth arrival of the street railway and people’s aspirations of home and land ownership (Sam Bass Warner, Jr. Streetcar Suburbs: The Process of Growth in Boston, 1870-1900 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press and the M.I.T Press), 1962) 15).

In the nineteenth century, the idea of living surrounded by nature and open space drove the middle class to escape the crowded city and purchase land in places like Roxbury, Jamaica Plain and in other surrounding cities and towns like Brookline and Cambridge (14). On Saturday June 25th, I attended a tour co-sponsored by Discover Roxbury and Common Boston of the gardens of Highland Park, Roxbury. This opportunity allowed me to experience the urban gardens created by neighborhood residents and also pay close attention to development patterns within Highland Park (a theme I had explored in depth in a Boston Architecture course at Boston University).

Cooper Community Garden with Attendees

Highland Park is an incredibly culturally diverse neighborhood in Roxbury and its gardens embody the resilience, passion and collaborative nature of its residents. As one resident of Highland Park noted in her welcoming statement to the group, the gardens act as a forum in which real contact can be made and dialogues rich in multicultural, ethnic and racial points of view are nurtured and fostered.

Fostering and nurturing enriching dialogues is at the core of preserving the character and history of Highland Park. The gardens were all stunningly beautiful and the gardeners were highly enthusiastic and welcoming. Their passion and determination is not only reflected in their gardens, but in the fabric of the neighborhood as well. These gardens not only act as a forum in which dialogues rich in multiculturalism are exchanged, but are also avenues for educating community members and residents of Boston on pursuing a sustainable way of life.

If you would like to explore more of the gardens of Roxbury, Discover Roxbury will be leading a trolley tour of the Historic Moreland Street District and Mission Hill on July 10th from 10:00am-12:30pm. For ticket information click here.

Garden in Highland Park

 

SOuth of WAshington Street – South End

SOWA Open Market

I love Boston in summer for its many outdoor events, including one of my favorites, the SOWA Vintage Market and the SOWA Open Market. The market opened this weekend at a new location just down the street from last year’s and it is better than ever. This year the market feels much more organized and with more sellers, but that could be my perception. 

Moving the SOWA Vintage Market to this new site gives people the chance to peruse the many art galleries and independent clothing and accessory shops in the Thayer Street area. Also, people can visit the many artists studios in the neighborhood during Open Studios or special art walks in summer. Had it not been for this move, it would’ve probably taken me an entire separate trip to see the excellent work  being done by creative artists in the city. 

I’m looking forward to the next many weekends the market will be open and hopefully find something different every time, including some gluten-free baked goods! I know there must be a bakery in Boston or its surrounding communities interested in selling their goods at the SOWA Open Market. I would love to see more vintage clothing or antique dealers this summer. It seemed to me that there were less vintage/antique dealers in comparison to last year’s market, but again that could be my perception. 

The SOWA Open Market is one of the many things that brings life to communities in Boston during the summer and it’s worth the time spent. It is conveniently accessible by the MBTA buses, the Silver Line, and it is only a short and pleasant walk  from the Green Line Copley Square Station and Orange Line Back Bay Station.