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Two new public art installations by two will make their debut in East Boston on July 13, at the East Boston Social Centers and LoPresti Park. 

With support of a Boston Transformative Public Art grant artist Yu-Wen Wu and artist Eli Brown have both commissioned to create the two new works of public art in Eastie. 

Over at the Social Centers Wu, a Now and There Public Art Accelerator Artist, has created a light-based public art installation, We Belong, that debuts in East Boston by July 13. In LED neon, the work forms the text “We Belong, here, together, guided by the same stars” in an eight-foot circular sculptural art form with a constellation that maps and connects Boston’s neighborhoods.

The continuously-lit piece will begin its city-wide journey at the East Boston Social Center, where the city’s early immigration centers were located, and will move onto other diverse neighborhoods across Boston in the future. All are welcome to celebrate the opening party on Wed. July 13 in Central Square.

“Two years in the making, We Belong is an exciting push for my practice in public art and another opportunity to experiment with light-based media,” said Wu. “I am so excited to bring the installation to East Boston, a neighborhood with vibrant culture, tight-knit community, and important history. I hope the work will help to initiate dialogue on belonging and inclusion among all communities in Boston.”

Wu is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in Boston. Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Wu’s subjectivity as an immigrant is central to her artwork. Arriving in the United States at an early age, her experiences have shaped her work in areas of migration—examining issues of displacement, arrival, assimilation, and the shape of identity in a new country. 

Wu said she is passionate about data, mapping, and its storytelling and her work lies at the crossroads of art, science, politics, and social issues. 

Her wide range of projects include large-scale drawings, sculpture, site-specific video installations, community-engaged practices, and public art. Wu has been awarded numerous grants, exhibited nationally and internationally and is included in several private and public collections.

With the support of a Boston Transformative Public Art grant, Wu’s “We Belong” will travel to multiple Boston neighborhoods in 2022-2023. Through community events at each site and digital engagement opportunities, local residents will be invited to participate in the project by sharing what the concept of “belonging” means to them.

“We are all about creating visionary new works for the city and highlighting inclusivity,” said  Executive Director of Now + There Kate Gilbert. “Yu-Wen Wu’s installation emphasizes a welcoming spirit to residents, new and old, who have come here to Boston to make this their home.”

At LoPresti Park, Now + There’s Public Art Accelerator Artist Brown will premiere Beam Me Down, a public art installation of an unidentified flying object (UFO), on the same day. 

The sculpture’s design blends the qualities of a UFO and a shell, and is steered by a selection of hermaphroditic tidal animals such as oysters and barnacles. An accompanying comic book is co-illustrated by the artist and young Eastie residents. 

Brown said “Beam Me Down” is meant to play on the power and wonder of the unknown and asks viewers to consider relationships with some of the smallest animals that sustain life at the water’s edge and what they can teach about navigating rising seas. It is one of several installations that will be going up this summer as part of Now + There’s Accelerator program, bringing site-specific, temporary public art works to all neighborhoods of Boston.

“I wanted to focus on the feeling of encountering the unknown, because it’s something we’re all facing right now as resources become more unstable and we come up against the dilemma of who is going to save us from ourselves,” said Brown, who identifies as a trans artist. “But it’s also been a huge part of my life as a trans person. And so the UFO as this universal symbol of ‘the other’ can serve to raise questions we are thinking through as a species, while also being a playful object for all ages.”

Brown added that by featuring hermaphroditic creatures at the helm, his work hints at the lessons we can learn from human and non-human queer life, adaptation and survival. 

Brown said by reframing the climate change narrative the artist hopes viewers move from a linear perspective, where society reaches an end, toward a cyclical perspective and look to the strength of ancient tidal species for survival strategies. 

“This project is meant to encourage us toward small acts in response to big anxiety, like the Kid in the comic who forms a relationship with a neighborhood snail,” said Brown. 

From the installation in LoPresti Park, Brown draws on the work’s tidal animals to become the main characters in a sci-fi comic book which he co-illustrated with East Boston students, ages 3 to 18, from Adams Elementary School. The comic book will be available by QR code and will be printed in English and Spanish. Local bodegas and shops will carry it for free, and people can contribute drawings to the virtual space at the East Boston Public Library.

Brown is an interdisciplinary artist working in sculpture, comics, and community organizing whose work explores queer and trans intimacies through time and cross-generational dynamics. They are especially interested in asking what the future of human evolution could look like if we reimagined reproduction as a queer, ecological strategy. Recent work has been featured at Flux Factory, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Tailgate Projects in Tampa, FL. and Creative Time Summit X. 

“I expect Beam Me Down will be as transformative to visitors as Eli’s thoughtful participation in the fourth cohort of the N+T Public Art Accelerator,” said Gilbert.

Now + There’s Public Art Accelerator program grants Boston-based artists a $25,000 stipend along with a six-month curriculum to help them with curatorial, technical, and financial support as they develop new temporary and site-specific works of art for the neighborhoods of Boston.

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