Somerville, Massachusetts: Arts Today
By: Joanna Hayes
Art, no matter what form, is essential to the culture of a place or people. Art and it’s accessibility speak a lot about a neighborhood and the people of Somerville, Massachusetts prove to have art as a top priority. By taking the Red Line to Davis Square, a central location in Somerville, MA, one would be thrust into the middle of an arts-friendly neighborhood, equipped with theaters, museums, and community public art projects.
Somerville is a quaint town nearby to Cambridge with lots of small shops lining brick roads. The second one steps off of the T and into the station, art was catches the eye. Inside of the train station, on the brick walls, small, square murals were painted. The paintings were of various modes of transportations, such as trains, buses and trucks. Upon exiting the station, the first building visible is a small movie theater called the Somerville Theatre which often plays Indie films. The theater has an old fashioned sign on the outside of it with those black letters that must be put up by hand to advertise which movies were playing. Downstairs from the movie theater is a museum known as, “The Museum of Bad Art.” Entrance to the museum is granted as part of a dual package with the purchase of a movie ticket. The ticket sellers recommend that you come to the museum when the theater is playing a movie you want to see so that you can make the most of your purchase.
Within Somerville is also located the Museum of Modern Renaissance. This museum is unlike a typical museum in many ways. For example, the front of the house is beautifully painted in an array of colors and shapes which stands out amongst the other, solid colored houses. The museum is laid out like a house on the inside but with unique paintings on every corner of the wall, every corner of the furniture, and every corner of the kitchen counters.
Continuing to walk through Somerville, eyes would be caught by the brightly painted houses. While many of the houses are shaped and built in similar ways, some are bright blue or yellow, while others are white or green. Some of the buildings, including a church and the West Branch public library have architecture mixed with art.
Somerville is a large town with many murals painted on the sides of walls and buildings. On the side wall of the famous barbecue restaurant, Redbones, a mural of dogs running and fetching bones is lavishly painted. Inside of this restaurant in particular, paintings and murals cover the walls.
Several cast masonry statues stand throughout Davis Square, a large intersection in the northwestern area of Somerville. The Davis Square statues are an art project entitled “Ten Figures” and were created by James Tyler. The statues are based on real people who lived near Davis Square in the 1980s and were part of a larger art project by the MBTA and the Cambridge Arts Council to bring more art into the expansion of the Red Line. Out of over 400 proposals, these statues and 19 other public art projects were selected and developed throughout the area. In 1996, bronze “masks” were placed on the faces of all of the statues in order to both repair and prevent vandalism.
The Somerville Arts Council has sponsored anendeavor known as the “Switchbox Project” since 1997. The project serves as a way to bring the work of Somervilleartists into the public light throughout the city. Switch boxes at various intersections of the town have been turned in canvases as community benefit projects or educational opportunities. The painted boxes bring life to the neighborhood while also preventing vandalism. While walking around the streets of Somerville, these stunning works are surely a sight worth seeing-ordinary sites turned beautiful. The Somerville Arts Council has also teamed up with Nave Gallery to transform out-of-date phone booths into works of art. These projects make Somerville unique amongst other towns across the area.
Somerville houses a unique aerial training center for aspiring trapeze artists, or for those who just want to experience the sensation of flying. Aircrafts Aerial Arts is located in Union Square and offers classes at all levels in various specialties, including silks, ropes, swings and slings.
The Armory houses spaces that showcase a wide range of arts including visual art, dance, theater, and music through an organization called “Arts at the Armory.” The Armory’s mission is to bring together people of all backgrounds and to bridge divides through creativity. Live performances at the Armory are common as well as galleries, offices or various art organizations, and a cafe. Exhibits typically last for about a month, so the art is ever changing. Classes are offered often in various areas of art and artists can enroll to teach a class. Special events consist of outside guests and performances.
Citywide Open Studios in Somerville offers another opportunity for artists to showcase their work. The city is also home to various art galleries including Brickbottom Artists Association, Washington Street Art Center, and Nave Gallery. The Boston Tattoo Company is also located within a short walk of Davis Square.
Mudflat Studios is extremely popular to residents of Somerville and beyond. The studio is home to many pottery classes offered to various age groups and various levels of experience. Both classes and private lessons are offered and classes book up way in advance.
The Somerville Arts Council runs a Facebook page and a website in order to update the public about local art projects and events. Both sites are easy to access and extremely informative. The website provides information such as how to inquire about painting one’s own switchbox, or how to donate to local art funds. The Facebook page allows people to post and comment on shared events happening locally. In terms of accessibility, the Somerville art scene can easily be discovered with a simple online search.
Somerville, Massachusetts is an extremely colorful neighborhood with so much of it's own spunk. Between the swtichbox and phone booth murals, to the colors of some of the houses, there is so much that pops and catches the eye. The museums and galleries as well as the movie theaters and restaurants provide visitors with an opportunity to see art in whatever capacity they may be seeking. There are so many opportunities for artists to showcase their work and for residents and visitors to consume art, opportunities which are all easily accessible online. The Somerville Arts Council makes it clear that art is important to them, the neighborhood, and the people who live there.