As the summer winds down, the flurry of Community Conversations around the City is also coming to the end. The City had been divided into 16 neighborhoods and each held its own series of discussions about the vibrancy and value of the arts in Boston. I was curious to hear what different neighborhoods had to say, so I listened in on the community conversations in four communities: Mission Hill/Fenway, Back Bay/Beacon Hill, Allston and Roslindale. Some common threads came through in every community conversation, such as the need for more art-making spaces, more affordable artist housing, and more music/recording studios. There were also neighborhood-specific suggestions: some seasoned artists from Roslindale remembered community art festivals in the 1970s; the residents of Allston observed that, although they had many musicians and many porches, there was no PorchFest like that in Jamaica Plain.
One of the most interesting and thoughtful conversations was held on a warm Saturday morning in the kitchen of artist Shaw Pong Liu in Jamaica Plain. Along with several young creative artists, Shaw Pong organized “What Artists Knead,” a five-day movable feast of ideas and camaraderie inspired by communal bread making. Each day, artists would gather to make bread in a different Boston kitchen. Some would measure yeast and flour to prepare tomorrow’s dough. Others would knead today’s bread and set it to bake. Still others would set the sumptuous table of cheese, jams fruit and honey to accompany the fresh-baked bread.
After we sat down and broke bread together, we discussed the role of the arts in Boston. While many of the same of artist issues were identified, it seemed that there were more collaborations offered, and more solutions suggested.
Which got me thinking about the process. Working together to bake that bread, getting dough on our fingers, and sharing the bread together bridged a gap. When creative people get together to identify and solve problems, it makes sense that we think better, solve better, and collaborate better when we’re using our hands and doing what we do best – create.
Lisa M. Wong, M.D.
Pediatrician and Musician