Location: Ruggles Station, Boston, Massachusetts / Materials: Sense of Self / Year: 2017
"The Great Boston Wall of Gentrification" is vandalism/public installation I performed near the Ruggles Station in Boston, Massachusetts. It came to life as part of The Weave News "Dissecting Boston" series. During this project I researched and actively dissected the hidden borders that partition contemporary New England. The piece in itself was a call to action. It irritated the public space, and brought ones attention to the walls that surround our lives and partition our communities.
While living in Boston, I worked at a Community Based Organization in Mission Hill, a borderline community neighborhood between the university spotted Fenway, the gentrifyingly hip Jamaica Plain and the more impoverished Roxbury. While many of the youth I taught didn’t know the meaning of the world gentrification, their families were finding it increasingly difficult to live in Boston proper. The Community Based Organization was rapidly finding itself without a community. The rents in Mission Hill were skyrocketing, large development projects were slowly expanding, and college students (with loans or family money) were becoming the dominant population. One of my primary tasks as an employee of this CBO was to build relationships with the larger cultural institutions of Fenway. I thus found myself tripping over the invisible lines that divided the different segments of the Mission Hill community, and the unconscious (and economic) barriers erected by its residents.
In my most recent visit to Fenway and Mission Hill I outlined these boundaries, physically. With a string of yarn, I drew small borders, figuratively cutting an already divided community. In doing so, I acknowledged my own presence, as a representative of transition. Next to minimalistic acts of yarn bombing, I included a small label, titling the piece: “The Great Boston Wall of Gentrification.” The title alludes to the national discourse surrounding “wall building,” but it further focuses on the smaller, less noticeable wall that surrounds our every movement. While in a less flamboyant fashion then our current President, the way we move and speak (in the virtual and physical world) is a vital link in the walls that divide our globalized, classist and racist society. It is thus essential for all of us to come to terms with the walls we perpetrate, whether it is in our economic fingerprint, our social media presence, or our interpersonal conversations. Walls only exist if there is a society to sustain them. If the society rebels, rejecting the barrier’s foundation, walls will crumble.