Coming Together with Beautiful Stuff
During the spring 2023 semester, Eliot-Pearson community members came together to design and create a collaborative art piece that would represent our values and aspirations for a just world. The project was initiated by students in the E-P Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Committee and done in partnership with the Beautiful Stuff Project (BSP), a Somerville-based nonprofit that aims to increase access to play and art through the creative reuse of materials. Emily Bhargava, BSP’s Community Art Director, facilitated a design workshop that had students, faculty, and staff envision what equity, inclusion, justice, and compassion look like. Using themes and motifs from the design workshop, Emily created a mosaic blueprint that community members brought to life by gluing on tiles and small mementos donated by E-P community members. Many of the pieces had personal significance to those who donated them, such as stones from a favorite beach, pieces of a grandmother’s teacup, and a button created by members of an E-P lab. The final component of the art piece was a border composed of individual mini mosaics, each one created by a child enrolled in the Eliot-Pearson Children’s School (EPCS). From faculty, to graduate students, to children in the EPCS, each community member was able to add their piece to the collective endeavor.
The conversations and connections made throughout the process were just as beautiful as the final art piece. For instance, undergraduate and graduate students learned more about one another and had important conversations about the challenges of doing DEIB work in academia. The EPCS children had fun conversations with graduate students about what they wanted to put on their mini mosaics. Graduate students forged relationships with EPCS teachers that will serve as the foundation for future collaborations.
By the end, we achieved the goals reflected in the project’s title, Coming Together with Beautiful Stuff. The E-P community came together and built new and stronger relationships; beautiful stuff was upcycled and used to create a beautiful art piece; and civic conversations and civic skill-building took place through a partnership with a community-based organization. Through this project, we laid the groundwork to manifest our visions for what a more equitable, inclusive, and just department could look like. Furthermore, we produced a physical reminder of how much beautiful stuff we can make when we work together, hold each other accountable, and care for the spaces we inhabit.
We would like to thank the Tisch Fund for Civic Engagement for generously funding the project.We would also like to express special thanks to Department Chair Tama Leventhal, Mary Ellen Leone, Janet Wysocki, EPCS Director Hanna Gebretensae, the EPCS teachers, BSP Community Art Director Emily Bhargava, and the E-P student volunteers for their support and work on the project. The art piece was hung in the Connector and unveiled on September 11th during the E-P Welcome Celebration.