Artist-ethnographers

To extend and enrich the community engagement process, Boston Creates employed three Boston ethnographers: two artist-ethnographers, Heather Kapplow and Shaw Pong Liu, and a photographer-ethnographer, Leonardo March. Selected from a pool of thirty-two applicants, these artists invited Bostonians to connect with one another—sometimes in surprising ways—and, through shared experiences with art, to reflect about their city and the future of arts and culture here.

Heather Kapplow, a self-trained conceptual artist, creates engagement experiences designed to create unexpected intimacies. “In addition to being an artist,” she writes, “I’ve been documenting public debate/discussion and art/performance, and/or facilitating it in various ways, for a living and as a volunteer for most of my adult life.” In her culminating project for Boston Creates, Driving Culture, Heather created what she describes as “a design for a city vehicle using the actual handwritten desires expressed by citizens of greater Boston at Boston Creates meetings.” Her objective was to enable Bostonians’ “exact words, and the nuances of people’s individual voices” to be heard.

Shaw Pong Liu, a classically trained violinist and composer, and a teaching artist, connects people of diverse ages, backgrounds, cultures, disciplines, and ideas through the transformative power of music, stories, and interactive art-making in what she calls “genre-defying performances.” For Boston Creates, she created What Artists Knead, a series of bread-making parties in five Boston neighborhoods at which artists baked bread and discussed their ideas for Boston’s creative future. In a current project as one of three artists-in-residence for the City of Boston for 2016, Shaw Pong is exploring “how music can support healing and dialogue around challenging topics of gun violence, race, and law enforcement practices.”

Leonardo March, whose job was to document in photographs the listening phase of Boston Creates and make a photographic portrait of Boston’s creative life, became interested in the people behind the landscape he photographed, including what they do in their free time and how they invest their creative energy. He sees his work for Boston Creates as “expanding the image of the city in the minds of the people who live here, incorporating images of ethnic festivals, religious festivals, various entertaining events, and political protests.”