The EMERGENCE Opening Reception

The big day is finally here! In addition to the new do, I'm sporting lots of excitement while presenting EMERGENCE to the public.

Photograph by Joyce Taihei

Photograph by Joyce Taihei

It was really lovely to have the support of Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) Associate Director of Visual Arts Randi Hopkins by my side as I spoke with the public about the inspiration, process, and complexities of hope I explored with community members while creating EMERGENCE. Overall, I felt most satisfied by the openness and honesty generated from the conversations I had with people during the SHARE SOME HOPE: Community Survey events in June. Seeing those conversations evolve into questions, sketches, symbols, and now the EMERGENCE sculpture on the BCA Plaza has been quite a journey.

Photograph by Melissa Blackall

Photograph by Melissa Blackall

In the spirit of continuing the community input, there were some tables set up for people to respond visually as they engaged with the sculpture. Participants had to option to do the following activities:

 Activity 1: WEAR SOME HOPE

Create a pin that displays your thoughts about what hope is.


Write down your hopes for the future on symbols that will be added to the sculpture.


In the midst of all of the art making goodness, I also got a chance to share the portfolio which houses all of the original responses and symbols generated from talking to people who came to the SHARE SOME HOPE Community Survey back in June. It was really great to answer questions and listen to people's reactions to my process and the sculpture. There were a few folks who made a game of hunting for the symbols they viewed in the portfolio within the sculpture.

Overall, it was a great day. Stay tuned for an additional date in the Fall when people can add more of their hopes to the sculpture!

Photograph by Melissa Blackall

Photograph by Melissa Blackall






Install: Day 2

Time to get the last minute touches in! After beefing up the support of the alumalite forms on the bottom tier with extra screws, it was time to put the top tiers together and get to painting. I was lucky enough to recruit the help of fellow artist Napoleon Jones Henderson make it happen.

Once we had all of the painting done we had to give it some time to dry. The fun part of that was talking to people who walked by about the work. Seems like I had gained quite of a few fans of the symbols and bright colors.

As soon as the paint dried ( and after we had a quick water break!), we were ready to stack it up. Many hands make the load lighter.

Now it's time to bolt those tiers together!

Install: Day 1

The time has come for install out on the BCA Plaza and there is LOADS to do.  In the images below you can see BCA intern Mariel Rice and I adding the alumalite forms to the bottom tier of EMERGENCE. The wood blocks are key here because they act as "spacers" between the under structure and the symbols. This aids in suspending the shapes at different angles.

Seems like it's all starting to come together and the opening is near!

Everything In Its Place

Little by little, EMERGENCE is starting to gain shape in the studio. Before I knew it, the top two tiers were filled with alumalite forms. "Controlled Chaos" is a concept that comes to mind as I started sorting symbols and trying to create a flow amongst all of the individual forms.

You'll also notice some of the writing on all of the shapes. In addition to the label system used to identify which symbols were which, there's also some names of colors so there's no confusion come time to paint.

Speaking of painting, red and purple were the first colors to make their debut...



Just wanted to give you a lil studio teaser. Attachment has begun.... 

Contours Galore

The studio is starting to get VERY full, so the base tier of the sculpture had to be broken down to ensure there was enough space to move around. 

At this point, six 4'x8' panels worth of symbols have been cut out. The further along I move in the process of creating EMERGENCE, the more captivated I become by the contours of the shapes. At every stage there's a chance to play around with different combinations of forms on the floor. I'm hoping that playfulness will shine through once the symbols are permanently fixed on the understructure.

Making the Cut

With the understructure of EMERGENCE complete, the next big area focus in the studio is drawing, labeling, and cutting out all of the hope symbols. Mariel ended up copying the key I drew for us to use as reference as we went along in the studio. With this we can keep track of which symbols we've completed and which we still need to make.

For me the fun part in creating this work is seeing it all come together. Much like completing a puzzle there's a sense of play and rhythm in trying to make things fit.

Slow and steady wins the race!

Marking the Territory

For me, the best way to make ideas concrete is by drawing. So, I spent some time in the studio reflecting upon the conversations I had with community members about hope and decided to make a key of the symbols we generated. Once the key was done, it was time to get to work scaling them up and cutting them out of the alumalite panels with my jigsaw. 

I have to say, the more I look at the symbols the more excited I am to have them jump off the page and into a sculpture. Check out them out below!

All Black Everything

Back in the studio, painting continues! 

This time my partner in crime, BCA Intern Mariel Rice and I are in the midst of covering the entire understructure of the EMERGENCE sculpture in black. 

So far so good! Pretty soon it will be time to start making the symbols of hope and some abstract forms to add to the sculpture.

Closer Look: Sketchbook Edition - Refinement of Symbols

One of the things that surprised me when embarking on this project was the fact that people think what I do is magic. While artists are pretty cool people, I am but a mortal. Many people passing by the table during the community survey couldn't wrap their mind around how I produced symbols of hope based on the conversations I had with others. While it is not an exact science, I can say that creating these symbols was not a one shot deal. There's a process to the madness!

Step 1: Much like a scholar or researcher, after listening to their interpretation of my question, I asked community members more questions that put a focus on what they were expressing about hope. The underlying idea here is that attentive listening will lead us both to understanding.


Step 2: Then I jotted down notes in a brainstorm-y way. Mostly key words that rose from the things that community members said to me. Because I actively did this as we engaged in conversation my writing was pretty messy (and I also didn't have time to concern myself with proper spelling, so forgive me as you view the images below!).

Step 3: After the listening and the note taking, came the sketching. That was a totally collaborative process because as I began drawing, the person I was talking to would give me feedback on how they thought the contours related to their ideas and our conversation until we found common ground.

Step 4: The final step was inking the last draft of the symbol and stapling it to the participant's response on paper.

I'm excited to see these evolve from paper to sculpture!

Tiers on Tiers on Tiers

Back in the studio, construction wages on. Corey and I got into the groove of measuring, cutting, and screwing the cubed tiers that make up the understructure of EMERGENCE. This was one of those moments where I was thankful for the abundance of windows in my studio. There was sawdust everywhere! The horizontal braces on the cubes were added so that the symbols of hope I made with community members have a place to be screwed on, once they are made with alumalite. We made a point to add some diagonal braces to the bottom tier to keep away the wobble and add to the sturdiness. 

Before we knew it we had quite a structure!

You may have noticed that we didn't screw on all of the wood for the bottom tier. That's because if I built EMERGENCE in it's entirety in the studio, it wouldn't fit through the door. It's just too wide. Not to mention the added fact that I'm currently on the fourth floor and have no desire to risk damaging the artwork going down all those stairs. So, the plan is to build it full out come install day outside. 

In the meantime, the tiers will hang out in the studio unstacked for phase two: Painting!

SHARE SOME HOPE: Community Survey #2

Despite all of the windy weather, the table didn't blow away and there was another opportunity for community members to come and share some hope with me. Because we were out on the BCA Plaza on Sunday morning as opposed a Friday night like the previous community survey, we were catching a lot of the brunch crowd in the South End. It was another great day filled with open minds, poignant reflection, and a few shared smiles.

This time around, because it was pride week and the night club massacre had just happened, people who came to the table seemed to carry that with them. Along with the discussions we had about what hope was, came more talk about fear and all of the ways in which people felt hopeless and helpless. My overall impression of the day brought me back to thinking about how things happening in our society and communities tend to act as a catalyst or deterrent for the growth and strength of hope.

SHARE SOME HOPE: Community Survey #1

The very first community survey on the Cobblestone Plaza of Boston Center for the Arts was a pretty interesting experience. Mostly because there were such varied reactions from community members when confronted with the notion of thinking about hope. There were some people who seemed to know instantly what their views were. There were some who felt like the question was just too large and struggled with writing and drawing, so in those instances it just became a conversation. There were others who felt less interested in identifying hope itself and wanted to focus on identifying concrete steps to activate, support, and sustain it. 

With purposeful questioning, warmth, and the charm of my sketchbook and sharpies I was able to reach common ground with every community member that stopped via the creation of abstract forms which acted as a symbol for elements of our conversation that rose to surface.

One of the most beautiful and unexpected byproducts of this survey was the willingness of people who stopped by to a have full conversation not just with me and my assistant (fellow artist Charline Xu), but with anyone else who happened to grappling with responding at the table. In doing this project, I suddenly became reminded of the healing power of art. There were a few educators who stopped by the table who seemed plagued by the recent shooting at Burke High that resulted in the death of a student and injury of others. Although I could not provide a solution for what happened, it did seem like they left the table with a little less of a burden after using our conversation and art as additional tool for processing the event. On a similar note, many peoples' visualizations of hope involved peace, love, and a stronger connection to others and nature. 

It was also really lovely experiencing families stop to make responses together. The fun part in that was seeing all the ways in which individual responses varied from spouse to spouse, parent to child, and sibling to sibling. 

Did I mention that anyone who submitted a response got a small bottle of bubbles as a thank you? I mean what's better than some bubbles for your thoughts?! 

Here are some images of community members that were kind enough to let me photograph them with their original responses and the abstraction I created as a result of engagement.


Squared Up

After more cutting, measuring, and screwing, Corey and I were able to create the remaining frames and attach them to plywood for the understructure for EMERGENCE. The frames and plywood together make cubes, and there is one cube for each tier of the sculpture. Shout outs to our cubes for being strong enough to hold human weight!   

The best part was seeing how tall it becomes once we stack the cubes together. The top tier almost touched the ceiling of my studio!  

Humble Beginnings

It's day one in the studio, and I'd say it was quite productive! My carpenter friend and fellow artist Corey Ploessl worked with me to get started on building the understructure for EMERGENCE. Because this sculpture is going to be installed outside on the Cobblestone Plaza of Boston Center of the Arts creating a sturdy understructure is key for safety and sustainability. In the images below you can see Corey and I measuring, cutting, and assembling some of the square frames that are a part of the understructure.

Overall we were able to build four square frames and cut down some wood for the next set.

There may have been some time for fun in between too...