by Joey Phoenix
In 2018 the Metropolitan Area Planning Council awarded Lynn’s Department of Community Development a Technical Assistance Award to install a signature piece of art in Lynn, MA’s Central Square’s Mt. Vernon Street Plaza.
This past week, after two and a half years of dedication to seeing this come to pass, Lynnstallation and the City of Lynn have chosen the artist and the project is ready for the implementation stage.
A call for public art submissions inspired by the Lynn community
After a series of discussions and workshops in 2019 to determine the project’s goals and values of Lynnstallation – a women and LGBTQ2+ led project made up of collaborators from MAPC, The City of Lynn, Kick it Up Consulting, and Creative Collective, put out a call for public art proposals in early 2020.
While this phase of the project was delayed slightly because of the global pandemic, Forty-Six national, regional, and local artists would eventually apply. Each artist submitted a proposal for the original work and developed plans for community engagement, specifically in how it would speak to the dreams of the Lynn community and address important issues like racial injustice and social inequity.
“For us, the Community engagement piece was instrumental from the start, and so we put it in the call,” said Carla Scheri (she/her/hers), project manager for the City of Lynn. “We made it very clear that this is what you had to do: you had to engage local people in all phases of the application process.”
“I’m a big fan of public art, but as a native Lynn-er I really think the time has come for the community to actually have a say in what public art gets installed here,” said Carolyn Cole (she/her/hers) the former Director of the Downtown Lynn Cultural District. “Hopefully they’ll love it and be proud of it.”
From the forty six entries, five were chosen for the final selection phase: a round which involved a public voting period. Once the votes were tallied, the community chose “Laces of Lynn” by Orlosky Studio (Los cordones de Lynn, por Orlosky Studio).
Orlosky’s project will draw upon Lynn’s history as a prominent shoe manufacturing site, using brightly colored lace-like beams composed of phrases written in the multiple languages represented within the diverse Lynn community.
“I’m very excited and honored to be selected for Lynnstallation,” said Kevin Orlosky (he/him/his). “Community Engagement is at the heart of my work and I believe it is important for public art to represent its entire community. I am really looking forward to meeting all the different people and learning about unique details that make Lynn a great place to live.”
From Idea to Lynnstallation
The scope of the Lynnstallation project changed dramatically from its original concept to final iteration, transforming from a nebulous form of temporary community engagement into a dynamic and more permanent creative project with elements of community identity building and public art infrastructure.
“When I was working for the downtown cultural district this unseized opportunity came across my desk. Lynn City hall and the MAPC wanted to help Lynn develop some sort of public art infrastructure for the city, but there wasn’t really a person who could lead the project and make sure it happened,” said Cole. “That’s where I came in.”
In 2018, The Lynnstallation team submitted an application for the process to begin and they were awarded a Technical Assistance Award, which, unlike a grant which offers a lump sum, offers time, resources, and funding to expand a project’s capacity and help the project team to see it through.
The project would slowly evolve over the next couple of years, spurred by the resources provided by key community organizations and real funding, a rare event in Lynn’s cultural and developmental history. The funding gave Lynnstallation the unique opportunity to do their due diligence in engaging the community in the full scope of the project.
“We reached out to many different demographics and organizations and representatives throughout the various communities, and they informed every value on the call that each artist applicant had to adhere to,” said Cole. “Some of those values were education and multigenerational and racial justice.”
Throughout this process, not only did Lynnstallation’s organizers create possibilities for the existence of community driven public art, they also helped create a roadmap for how projects like these can be accomplished in the future.
Public Art that speaks to the community, driven by the community
While the initial call for public art proposals wasn’t limited to artists working in the City of Lynn, the Lynnstallation team deemed it critical that if the selected artists weren’t local, there had to be some sort of element of reciprocal mentorship or partnership with a local business or local organization that would speak to the unique needs, desires, and hopes of the Lynn community.
“It is something that was delivered to this community by the community, and we’re so proud of that piece,” said Cole. “We knew that no matter what [the community] chose to go in the ground, they were going to be the ones who informed the call.”
“I think that’s what really is going to make a huge difference in the final piece,” added Scheri. “Not only do we have all kinds of members of the community in the city of Lynn involved in the different committees, the panels, and the processes, but we also have made space for the public to have a hand in it and to feel involved in this as well.”
Lynnstallation hopes to kick off the implementation phase of the project this fall with a series of programming and a party to commemorate its launch. You can learn more about Lynnstallation at https://www.lynnculturaldistrict.org/lynnstallation or by following them on Facebook.
Joey Phoenix (they/them) is an interdisciplinary artist and the Director of Brand Strategy and Innovation at Creative Collective. As the resident storyteller and town crier, they encourage you to send story ideas, inspiration, or pictures of adorable critters to firstname.lastname@example.org.