Boston has soul. I’ll show you


Editor’s note: Katherine T. Morris has spent her entire life preparing for the work she does now. A child of Jamaica Plain and Roxbury, she remembers art and music always being part of the conversation at home: She remembers her mom cobbling together the home sound system, blasting the sounds of funk, disco and soul; Her father, who was responsible for house painting and wallpaper, taught her color theory. She attended Lincoln-Sudbury High School Mayco plan — Katherine started Universal Rhythm, which grew into a regular showcase of the arts experiences of Black METCO students. Her friends joked that this was a sign BAMS FestivalBoston Arts & Music Soul Festival.

Now in its sixth year, the festival will bring together multidisciplinary Afro-centric artists for two days of art, music, dance and food. About 10,000 people are expected to attend the celebration at Franklin Park. But the annual June event is just one part of BAMSFest as a nonprofit organization that aims to break down racial and social barriers in art, music and culture.

Catherine is also the Director of Arts and Culture at the Boston Foundation, where her mission is to challenge us all to think differently about Boston and how the city defines itself. “I’ve never heard the word soul associated with our city, and it frustrates me. We lack creative civic pride,” she said. “If we are to define ourselves by these big words—world class, champion, innovator—we must remember that art is the grandparent of all this excellence.”

This article is excerpted from a conversation and edited for length and clarity. —Chloe Axelson and Kate Neal Cooper


“I don’t want people to just look at art. I want them to live in it”

We live in a world where we are measured by honor and belonging, which sometimes devalues ​​our creativity and imagination. Too many of us think of art as something we did as children. But we are all born into this world as creative beings. We have opportunities to be creative every day. Creativity is in the choices we make—which phone we buy, which pen we use, what clothes we wear. This is how we express our feelings and emotions. We do live in art.

When we realize this, the urgency and responsibility to support and embrace art, to demand more art, to need art becomes even stronger. I don’t want people to just look at the art. I want them to live in it.

Crowds enjoy music at the 2022 Boston Arts & Music Soul Festival (Courtesy of Yohansy Garcia)
Crowds enjoy music at the 2022 Boston Arts & Music Soul Festival (Courtesy of Yohansy Garcia)

If art were music, it would mean getting up and dancing. It’s okay to play in the grass. It doesn’t matter if it rolls around. It’s okay to dance in a historical space that never invited you into it. In Boston, this is determined by institutions that have historically influenced and shaped where we go and what we do to have fun.

What I’d like to see is more creative freedom. The freedom to be yourself, the freedom to express yourself, the freedom to connect with people without being restricted by titles or affiliations. But just being human – with all the amazing possibilities of being human – especially in a city like Boston.


“Art doesn’t hurt our city. It changes our city.”

I am an arts civil servant. But the work I’m doing is around system change because the system we’re working with is broken. The licensing process is a good example. When it comes to allowing, accepting, and encouraging creative pursuits that truly help our cities look and feel different, we hinder the process and performance. We pride ourselves on being an innovative, world-class city, but then we also put up obstacles, like this difficult process of getting permission for art projects.

We treat art as a construction project. Not only do people have to be willing to come to the table, but they also have to be willing to sit in different chairs around the table. We need a new perspective: art doesn’t hurt our cities. It changes our city.

Check out Rob Gibbs’ mural on the Ross Kennedy Greenway. That was a huge victory. But it took years to get there. We need more large murals covering our cities like a blanket. Public art actually gives more people a reason to visit, it centralizes a sense of belonging, it drives foot traffic to small businesses, and it might even get people to move here. But if people don’t crave radical public expression and discussion about art, then we’re just a passing city modifying our identity. I won’t tolerate this.

Rob “ProblaK” Gibbs sits high on a knuckle lift on the facade of the Rose Kennedy Greenway’s Dewey Plaza tunnel intake structure, creating “Breathing Life Together.”  (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Rob “ProblaK” Gibbs sits high on a knuckle lift on the facade of the Rose Kennedy Greenway’s Dewey Plaza tunnel intake structure, creating “Breathing Life Together.” (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

“Each iteration of the festival is the birth of a new generation of artists”

I would definitely say I’m a hype woman – I’m a Boston hype woman. I grew up listening to Skippy White’s, Nubian Ocean, Funky Fresh Records, Mattapan Records, Tower Records and Cheapo Records. Those places are our Starbucks. We watched movies at the theater at the Copley Center and hanging out at the downtown intersection was a big deal.

This is the Boston I remember – and I worked really hard to honor it and incorporate the sense of belonging I grew up with into the BAMS Festival.

When I was a kid, at least once in the summer, I would wake up at 6:00 in the morning with my family and head to the American Legion Highway where there was an outdoor grill. By the time the picnic starts at noon or 1:00 p.m., people from different parts of the neighborhood will start arriving. I saw old friends and made new ones. I discovered people I didn’t even realize I had a relationship with. I wanted to bring that spirit of giving and sharing bread with friends and family (and even strangers) into the holiday experience.

When I was a kid, the community center had a lot of talent shows. You want to see the best in every community so you can go home and work hard to be better than those guys at the next show. People validate your creativity through these shows: if you get the loudest ovation, you get bragging rights for the year. I want to bring this excitement and inspiration to BAMSFest. Each iteration of the festival brings a new generation of artists, and there’s always someone in the audience—young, mature, or mid-career—who is inspired and thinks, “I want to be on that stage.”

When I was growing up, this store was the corner grocery store at Blue Mountain Avenue and Moreland Street. It has everything you need and the owners are people you know and they know you. They care for children and help families through difficult times. Small businesses are an integral part of our growth and development as communities and cities, which is another element I wanted to bring to this festival.


“We have artist collectives, jam sessions, circus arts, hip-hop communities and street art”

I’ve never heard the word “soul” associated with our city, which frustrates me. We lack creative civic pride. In Boston, art is a beauty. It’s not a necessity. We are a city of championships, but the concept of championships needs to expand beyond the Red Sox and Celtics. If we are to define ourselves by these big words—world class, champion, innovator—we must remember that art is the grandparent of all this excellence.

Ten years ago, when I talked about a festival, no one believed I could make it happen. No one believed this was possible because This is Boston. People have such a narrow view of Boston and that’s hard to overcome, but we’re doing it.

We need to turn up the loudspeaker volume and shine more light [art’s] Urgency and impact.

I think of people like Tim Hall, who is an incredible musician, entrepreneur, and educator. Ife Franklin did amazing work in African ritual and artistic creation. People like Valerie Stephens elevated the level of blues, hip-hop, and jazz in revolutionary ways in a city that historically wasn’t welcoming of them. Chanel Thompson and Shaumba-Yandje Dibinga, who ensure Caribbean roots and dance are not forgotten by teaching young people about their history and how movement connects us. I think it’s people like D. Ruff, who is an amazing spoken word artist who tells stories from the perspective of being a father raising a black boy in Boston, and people like Amanda Shea, who Spaces are being curated for the next generation to tell their stories.

We need to continue to integrate arts and culture into the narrative of our cities, but we also need to expand that narrative and ideology beyond the traditional arts and cultural institutions we often hear about. We have artist collectives, jam sessions, circus arts, hip-hop communities and street art. We need to turn up the volume on the megaphone and spread the word more about its urgency and impact. We need to make it easier to buy local art.

We are at a critical moment in challenging Boston’s identity. Show people that Boston has a soul.

Follow Cognoscenti on Facebook and Instagram.





Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *