Art is a powerful megaphone for sharing ideas, sparking conversations, and creating moments of catharsis or calm. But where is this megaphone directed? Access to art is often a question of privilege, based on factors such as cost, location, language, and the psychological weight created by a history of exclusion and elitism. ACCESS: Art explores the democratization of art and how access and audience are considered in artistic practice.
Art in public spaces creates the opportunity to address access by removing both a financial barrier to entry and the psychological one of the intimidation many people feel around museums and galleries. It can also bring the work into a new context, situating it within communities and exposing the geography that defines communities, exposes the segregation and gentrification of urban planning. Our increasingly virtual world provides artists and institutions with another platform to democratize art, allowing people across the world a window into the work and a forum for engagement.
The artists in ACCESS: Art approach the idea of democratizing art in both new and existing work. Through public installations, Ngoc-Tran Vu depicts images of community and heritage, and Allison Maria Rodriguez brings ideas of interconnection to life; a semi-public performance by Callie Chapman, live streamed on social media, blurs the lines between performance in the physical and digital realms, while performances by Basil El Helwagy’s Fine Art Superheroes weave art into shared space and make the aspirational superhero accessible. Digital platforms bring Benny Sato Ambush’s Zoom reading of Anthony Clarvoe’s The Living and Julian Shapiro-Barnum’s comedic commentary on nepotism to the fingertips of their audiences, and Chanel Thervil uses social media as an intimate portal into her process as she broaches topics of self care and mental health. New work by Cindy Lu explores use of public space, and Hector René Membreño-Canales expands his examination of monuments, questioning who writes history.
This exhibition speaks to expanding access in its curation, but also in its presentation. The website has been designed to be accessible in function, with a form that shines a light on alt text. Through window installations, postcards, and public programming, the exhibition will also engage directly with different neighborhoods and communities in the Boston area, seeking to democratize art offline and on.
The exhibition includes new and existing works by: Allison Maria Rodriguez, Basil El Halwagy, Benny Sato Ambush, Callie Chapman, Chanel Thervil, Cindy Lu, Hector René Membreño-Canales, Julian Shapiro-Barnum, and Ngoc-Tran Vu.
This exhibition is presented by Boston Center for the Arts, a leading force in the city’s cultural community which has supported thousands of individual artists, small organizations and performing arts companies, who add depth and dimension to the Boston arts ethos. Through residencies and programming, Boston Center for the Arts serves as an epicenter for an expanding cohort of artists working across all disciplines and has catalyzed careers by providing fertile ground for experimentation and artistic risk-taking.
The artists in ACCESS: Art are Boston recipients of the Red Bull Arts Microgrant. Red Bull Arts expanded their microgrant initiative for the duration 2020 which began in Detroit, to 20 cities across the US in response to the urgent need for financial assistance in the arts.