The Homeless Population at 289 Derby

 

photo: Claudia Paraschiv

Stumps by Michael Jaros

A series of stumps were brought to 289 Derby by city workers to be used as flexible seating for the upcoming Community Design Events, and we wanted to paint them. But who would paint them? On one of our first days at the site, a group of teens from the On Point Plummer Youth Promise came to help. Paint was everywhere, as the stumps took on a life of their own and a series of strange, otherworldly colors emerged. Some stumps were spackled with multiple colors of paint, some were hand-printed, and some were monochromatic. We quickly realized that we had not logistically thought through a lot of things – we did not have water, for instance, to wash off the brushes and rollers and only a limited amount of supplies. Trips to the gas station and ace hardware solved these problems, somewhat.

When the kids left we still had more stumps to paint. A day or so later, two friends brought their two children to help paint the stumps and the process began again: select a nice color from our many paint-cans, make sure there was actually paint in it, find a brush that was still usable, fill up the water bucket, and so on. The kids painted with a frenzy and excitement that oscillated with mild disinterest.

We’d had some encounters with homeless folks who occupied the side of the gas station next to the 289 lot. A man named John had come forward first and talked to us about what we were doing. He then returned with his friend and wrote on one of the doors we had set up for community interactions, which read “WRITE YOUR QUESTION HERE.” The question he wrote was “Why are the homeless treated so poorly?” The second question was: “Why does the shelter not help anyone?” It was a stark reminder of their presence and of their humanity, something we often willfully ignore or place just at the uncomfortable margins of our sight. They were curious about what we were working on, but also wanted to be involved in what was happening. Understandably, they approached our actions with a deep skepticism.

We’d rolled a series of logs near the water to be used for a drum circle during the first event. I’d noticed a group of homeless had begun sitting there and, as I was once more painting nearby, John came and talked to me. I learned a little more about him. He had three sons. He had worked in a variety of fields from construction to IT. He had not seen his sons in years. They did not know where he was. I didn’t ask what made him live on the streets and he didn’t tell me. He asked if it was ok if his friends sat on the stumps in the circle. I said it was fine. I told him I would be moving over to the circle to paint those stumps soon.

I confess I was somewhat afraid to do so. The stigma around homelessness has also affected me, but this conversation with Barry had made me feel less trepidation. I began painting a stump in the circle and very quickly they began chatting with me; some of them asked if they could help to paint. A woman was clearly drunk, but wanted to help. She kept calling me David, instead of Michael, and told me she thought she was stuck on that name because she’d had a son who had died who had had that name. Another woman joined and painted an entire stump and ended it by placing a heart on the top of it. I didn’t catch her name, but she had “been lucky” and gotten her family and her house back after a spate with addiction. She had merely come out there, it seems, to meet with her friends from her harder times. Another man told jokes and riddles, and kept asking me what I thought of them, why I wanted to hang out there with them. A man named Green, dressed in a green hat, green shirt, and green socks jacket painted an entire stump green.

Eventually I had to be on my way and took the paint back to its place and cleaned up. It was a brief, accidental moment, but I think it was important. Empathy is in short supply these days and it certainly tempered any fear or frustration that I may have had at later events as screams might have rung out, chairs might have been kicked over, or fights broken out on the edge of 289. They are there, they are people with hopes and dreams, and they must be a part of the process.

(note: names have been changed)

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Move With Me, a pinwheel installation

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(all photos by John Andrews unless otherwise noted) 

MoveWithMe is a community art installation of multiple sailcloth pinwheels that embodies the connection of cultures across waters and land from the past to now, moving in confluence when the wind is just right.

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Front Street

The project transforms Front Street with 369 pinwheels, many of which are hand colored with personal interpretations of cultural patterns from places along Salem’s famous maritime trade.

When still, the pinwheels look like magnolias. They begin to spin sporadically, sometimes just one on a line, at other times multiple pinwheels spin in unison. They surprise. Only intended as a three day installation, the project will stay up through October. The sun has begun to bleach the hand colored patterns, as the sun bleaches the sails of long journeys across the waters.

04_jaMoveWithMe re-uses sailcloth donated by Doyle Sailmakers. The minimal design of knotting rope, to keep each pinwheel in place as it spins on its grommet, reduced hardware. Material budget: under $300. The small budget inspires us to be resourceful and mindful in our design: do we need to buy up bulk stock from Home Depot when we can re-use waste products from a local business and also build a relationship? Do we need to buy new materials when using waste product makes much more sense for a temporary project?

Design in Conversation: transition from tension cables to ropes with slack

Design in Conversation: transition from tension cables to ropes with slack

 

As an artist and architect, how can I adapt my vision to changing circumstances? Initially, I envisioned perfectly straight lines of pinwheels in geometric contrast with the flutter of the tree canopies; this would have required strong and costly cables. The use of the rope allowed for flexibility, and creates a different relationship with the context: the pinwheels are no longer in contrast, but rather in dialogue with the organic nature of trees.

Process is Product

Process is Product: without the participation and the relationships created, there could be no community project

The pinwheels were collaboratively created at multiple workshops at PEM/PM’s Artopia, The Phoenix School, Salem Academy, Old Town Hall, and weekly workshops held 10 Derby Square.

#MoveWithMe was installed for the 2016 Salem Arts Festival, and led by Claudia Paraschiv, local architect and community artist.

The community art project transforms a familiar space in Salem through an environmentally and financially sustainable project that is in dialogue with the city’s culture and involves as many people as possible. Participate in next year’s project (TBD) starting February 2017! Sign up on our email list to get early info on participating! 

Street Interrupted – evening view

Pedestrians taking the short-cut up dodge street

Pedestrians taking the short-cut up dodge street

A little down Dodge Street, the yellow line marks the spot and draws attention to the odd dead end that is in fact used by many pedestrians. Some comments plead for the path to be “plowed” and others use the chalk outside the box – this is inspiration for a much grander installation!

This desolate space could really be used for so much more!

This desolate space could really be used for so much more!

 

The hike up Dodge Street

The hike up Dodge Street

Fun with the rope connector

Fun with the rope connector

 

 

Street Interrupted

Street Interrupted at Dodge Street Court

Street Interrupted at Dodge Street Court

On my daily walk to the train station, my route includes two pedestrian only portions.

The second path follows the Salem tourist trail, a red painted line inspired by Boston’s Freedom Trail that leads me up Artists’ Row, around the Old Town Hall, and down Essex Street. Salem prides itself on its pedestrian friendly streets; many residents cite the city’s walkability as a significant factor as to why they live in Witch City.

The first pedestrian way I follow, however, is off the tourist circuit. It is a fragmented asphalt hill that connects Dodge Street to Washington Street. Impossible to traverse in the wrong footwear, it is a small short cut is taken by many. It is not a friendly pedestrian way – it is a Street Interrupted.

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The way up Dodge Street to Washington Street

Its significant use value for the many that do use it prompted a small project to inquire into how the path may better serve its users. We asked two simple questions to understand how people use the path, and how they would like to see it improved.

Prepping the Asphalt

Prepping the Asphalt

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Chalk and Prompts for Participation

Tree Trailblaze marks the Chalk & Prompts for Participation

The first comment!

The first comment!

The asphalt is a bit rough - next time we'll make bigger text! (stay tuned)

The asphalt is a bit rough – next time we’ll make bigger text! (stay tuned)

A yellow line attempts a connection - how would you connect Dodge Street?

A yellow line attempts a connection – how would you connect Dodge Street?

 

Keep Getting to The Point!

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Get to The Point: Neighborhood Narratives installation in Derby Square at the Salem Arts Festival – view of postcard stories located on neighborhood chalk map.

During the months of May and June, Salem Public Space Project collected stories from Point residents and people who have spent some time in the neighborhood. The good memories shared in the stories encourage people to go to the neighborhood – so close to Downtown Salem, yet perceived as such a distant destination.

During the Salem Arts Festival, Salem Public Space Project shared these experiences through an installation that feature postcards to take and share in turn. On Saturday, June 8th, Salem State University students launched the installation through a dramatic performance of storytelling and map drawing of the little known Salem neighborhood. The stories happened in parks, on stoops, down streets, and through open windows. SPSP snapped shots of eleven of the most compelling stories and locations. Explore them all through the growing interactive map.

Salem State University students perform stories written by Point Residents

Salem State University students perform stories written by Point Residents.

Derby Square provides the perfect stage: Salem's central Public Space hosts stories about the city's more marginalized public spaces

Derby Square provides the perfect stage: Salem’s central Public Space hosts stories about the city’s more marginalized public spaces.

The performers read several rounds of the stories as they fill in the neighborhood blocks with chalk.

The performers read several rounds of the stories as they fill in the neighborhood blocks with chalk.

Some lessons learned for future use: 1. position the installation to allow for a closer audience.

Some lessons learned for future use: Locate the installation to allow for a closer audience.

Another lesson: Performances are better after lunch as not everyone gets up bright and early Saturday mornings!

Another lesson: Performances are better after lunch as not everyone gets up bright and early Saturday mornings!

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The performers filled in the map quite quickly and it could have really been twice the size! (although set up took hours…)

The performers finished chalking in the neighborhood map and began lifting up the paper template.

The performers finished chalking in the neighborhood map and began lifting up the paper template.

The dynamic lifting of the template was a great climax to the steady rhythm of the story readings.

The dynamic lifting of the template was a great climax to the steady rhythm of the story readings.

A flurry of activity.

A flurry of activity.

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Soon, the performers reveal the map they created.

The stands are set back to mark the location of each story, and the performers take their bow.

The stands are set back to mark the location of each story, and the performers take their bow.

The installation stayed up for two days in Derby Square - story #4 "Green Salem, Clean Salem" and Story #9 "Talking Play" were among the most popular of the postcards collected by visitors to the Salem Arts Festival.

The installation stayed up for two days in Derby Square – story #4 “Green Salem, Clean Salem” and Story #9 “Talking Play” were among the most popular of the postcards collected by visitors to the Salem Arts Festival.

If you missed the project, you will have another chance to read stories and collect cards during Salem’s Heritage Week – exact time and location to be determined. Contact us for more info.

(A big thank you to Matt Caruso at Salem Main Streets for all his help, and all the other organizers and volunteers for the festival!)

Voting Space

One week ago, The Point voted in the special senate election that elected Ed Markey. Getting out the vote is a always a big effort that includes door knocking and coordinating rides for those lacking transportation; this was the big topic of discussion the night before the vote at the Point Neighborhood Association meeting. One thing that caught my ear was talk about changing the voting location. I am lucky that my voting location is pretty much en route to the train station. When I looked at where Point residents go to vote, it is truly bizarre that it is not just outside the neighborhood boundaries, but more than a mile away.

The Point Voting Location

This is not so far, except when you consider the many that need to walk, and may not be able to easily walk so far. This situation is not unique to the Point neighborhood, but as walkability becomes increasingly desirable for many aspects of life’s necessities, voting should be at the top. How much easier would getting out the vote be if the location was around the corner for as many residents as possible. It’s a good thing that talks are currently underway to change the voting location for The Point to the neighborhood itself.