Over the past decade, an emerging coalition of community groups and city agencies has sought to revitalize the West End in various ways. Recent among these groups is the arts-based Envision da Berry. As EdB’s purveyors, my colleague and information director, Amelia “Mimi” Cronan and I see art and politics as being inherently interwoven. We work creatively to reshape a more inclusive and participatory public realm. Our projects may seem “theoretical” or “abstract;” however, by embracing these ambiguities, we can collectively explore the confusing aspects of our culture.
We are presenting an online collection of our past year’s work titled “West End Retrospective.” It contains never before publicized photos, drawings, diagrams, videos and data analysis focusing on speculative design and built work within the West End neighborhood. Available from Oct. 5 to Nov. 5, it marks the one-year anniversary of our first public art installation along Hopkins Street. Here we find progress in the growth of coalitions and renewed civic pride.
The online exhibit is ambiguous in the sense that it is an evolving piece of art, made possible by tremendous advances in technology. It is available through our website at app.daberry.org. This website offers a virtual public space where people and institutions can interact beyond the cultural boundaries of geography.
The context of the West End is our point of departure for future work. We are actively confronting the cultural and economic divisions that have held our progress back. The Internet allows us to foster a transcending dialogue that can overcome perceptual nuances between the private and public realms.
The West End Retrospective conceptually occupies this sphere of ambiguity while defining a tangible vision for new viable public spaces. In so doing, we challenge everyone to critically look backward and optimistically forward at the same time. Ultimately, the retrospective seeks to reveal the challenges that surface when attempting to innovatively recover a common history. Reaching artistic truth is the biggest struggle we face because our work gets to the heart of what is happening. Armed with the truth (good, bad and ugly), we can envision a new future and embark upon a new and brighter chapter of history.
Envision da BERRY