BOSTON – Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, in collaboration with Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF), announced that seven artists have been selected for the third year of Boston AIR, the City’s artist-in-residence program.
One of the artists selected is Sneha Shrestha, a Nepali artist who paints mindful mantras in her native language and meshes the aesthetics of Sanskrit scriptures with graffiti influences.
“The Boston AIR program brings bold and creative thinking into policy areas of municipal government,” said Mayor Walsh. “I’ve been very impressed with past Boston AIR projects, and I can’t wait to see what this next group of artists accomplishes.”
In the third year of Boston AIR, artists will collaborate with community members and City of Boston employees through projects that explore key policy areas, including racial and social equity. The artists will explore how socially engaged art processes can be used to bolster City initiatives such as climate change, immigration and income inequality.
The seven artists chosen for this year’s program include:
- Daniel Johnson: Poet Daniel Johnson is known for his early lyrical explorations of the American Rust Belt. A resident of Roslindale, Johnson is currently completing In the Absence of Sparrows, which explores his friendship with journalist James Foley, who was executed by ISIS in Syria. For nearly a decade, Johnson served as the founding executive director of 826 Boston, a youth writing center in Roxbury.
- Marsha Parrilla: Award-winning choreographer Marsha Parrilla is the founding artistic director of Danza Orgánica. Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, she pursued a Master’s degree in dance education from New York University. Now a Roxbury resident, Parrilla is a proud recipient of several grants from the New England Foundation for the Arts, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Boston Foundation, among others. She is currently a Dance Ambassador at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.
- D. Farai Williams: Williams, founder and facilitator with Dynamizing Equity (dEQ) and Idjeli Theater Works (ITW), is an artist, theater of the oppressed facilitator, racial equity strategist and cultural organizer. A Roxbury resident, Williams serves as a partner and racial equity strategist with The Disruptive Equity Education Project (DEEP). She is also the core-coordinator for the Network of Immigrants and African Americans Building Solidarity, and a faculty member with Southern Jamaica Plain’s Racial Reconciliation and Healing Project.
- Sneha Shrestha: IMAGINE, aka Sneha Shrestha, is a Nepali artist who paints mindful mantras in her native language and meshes the aesthetics of Sanskrit scriptures with graffiti influences. Being the first to mesh Nepali Alphabets with American graffiti, she has shown her work all around the world. A Somerville resident, Shrestha graduated from Harvard Graduate School of Education with a Master’s degree in Education. Currently, she is working as the founder and senior advisor of the Children’s Art Museum of Nepal where she is passionate about designing creative learning experiences for young people.
- Karen Young: A Jamaica Plain resident who specializes in percussion, Karen Young’s passion for taiko drumming was ignited the first time she heard it 30 years ago. Young’s approach to taiko aims to inspire marginalized populations to reclaim voice, culture, power, and a sense of belonging. Influenced by Japanese-American taiko activists of the 1960’s, Young is a member of Genki Spark, a multi-generational, pan-Asian women’s arts and advocacy organization that uses taiko drumming, personal stories, and creativity to build community, develop leadership, and advocate respect for all.
- Nakia Hill: Nakia Hill is a writer and educator focused on developing writing programs for urban youth. A Boston resident with a background in journalism, Hill specializes in managing creative writing spaces for underserved youth to fuel empowerment and discover the writer within. Her work has been published in The Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post, The Bay State Banner, and Sister to Sister Magazine. Her latest work is created through a non-fiction lens in the form of poetry and reflective personal narratives. The theme of her work focuses on womanhood, self-care, and resiliency.
- Steve Locke: Steve Locke is a Boston-based visual artist.. His solo exhibition, “there is no one left to blame” was curated by Helen Molesworth for the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. His practice is rooted in portraiture, language, and the discursive power of nature. Currently a tenured professor at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Locke has been included in group shows all over the world, and his work is in the collections of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit.
Mayor Walsh recognized and congratulated each Boston AIR artist during a reception at City Hall earlier this month.
“I am very excited to contribute my expertise and artistry towards the Resilience and Racial Equity program with the City of Boston,” said Marsha Parrilla. “I am most looking forward to getting to know members of our community in a focused and intentional way, and to utilize my skills as a dancer/choreographer, cultural organizer, and activist towards social change in the City. I am very inspired by the idea of working with the local government to reframe critical social conversations, and to propose new ways of integrating our communities through arts, activism, and sustainable civic practice.”
Each Boston AIR artist will carry out a year-long residency project revolving around the theme of resilience and racial equity at one of the City’s BCYF centers.
“We’ve seen impressive results from the first two years of the Boston AIR program in the City of Boston,” said Julie Burros, Chief of Arts and Culture. “Continuing the program with a new round of artists brings us one step closer to achieving Boston Creates’ goals of investing in local artists, bringing arts opportunities to underserved communities, and using the arts to establish a dialogue on racial equity in Boston.”
The Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture’s mission is to support artists, the cultural sector, and to promote access to the arts for all. The office houses the Boston Cultural Council, the Boston Art Commission, and the Poet Laureate program. Responsibilities include implementing the City’s cultural plan, Boston Creates; commissioning public art, managing the Boston Artist-in-Residence program; curating exhibitions in City Hall; and operating the historic Strand Theater in Dorchester
The Boston Art Commission (BAC), an independent board of arts leaders charged with the care and custody of all artworks on City of Boston property, advocates for the creation of innovative and transformative art and promotes its accessibility to enrich the lives of Boston’s diverse citizens and visitors. The Art Commission advises, supports, and consults with artists and communities, City departments, and others. It commissions, approves, and conserves the City of Boston’s collection of art and historical artifacts.