Dorchester is a unique community within the greater Boston area. It’s an outlier in a city that is known for being somewhat racially homogenous. But in Dorchester, a youthful community of color, residents take pride in the personality of their neighborhood. The identity of the community has developed intricately through cultural exchange and creative initiative. Thankfully, I see a side of Boston that is diverse, authentic, and hardworking everyday all because I live and work in Dorchester.
Easily noted, there is the same level of industry and ingenuity flowing through Dorchester as there is in wealthier or more gentrified areas in Greater Boston, but when you survey the amount of capital circulating within the Dot community something doesn’t quite add up; There is an overall lack of interest and investment in artistic and collaborative endeavors. In response to this demand various arts organizations are making efforts to execute programming that will help saturate Dorchester’s creative market. They are specifically focused on bringing to the community events and business models that are sustainable and supportive, and that enrich and enliven the current community.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that the University of Massachusetts Boston would contribute to this. UMass is a part of the Dorchester community and right now in their University Hall Gallery the Dot Now exhibit is showcasing the complex identities that exist here in our very own neighborhood. Now, yes, I’ve been using everybody’s favorite buzzword: Diversity. But it can’t be underscored more–the actual and authentic presence of diversity in Dorchester is here in this exhibit! Various ethnic and social groups come together at a cross-section in Dorchester and the Dot Now exhibit accurately and compassionately illustrate and promote this fact!
Walking into the exhibit, I immediately noticed the presence of a small writing table with a notebook at the center. Then came the sounds of voices through a nearby speaker; It was interactive piece called “Make a Wish for Dorchester” by Joanna Tam and it added a multimedia element to the exhibit. Auditory and tactile senses were stimulated, and I was encouraged to listen, read, and write.
I could hear people expressing their love and desires for Dorchester as I jotted down my own wishes on the blank pages of the notebook. It was wonderful also to see the comments and musings others had left behind. Interestingly enough, however, some of the comments espoused support for gentrification and political extremism. This is to be expected in such a polarized political climate. Yet thankfully, it did not seem to take away from the overall statement of the Dot Now exhibit, it strengthened it. It proved how important it is for our communities to create safe spaces where people can share their different points of view.
On my way to the writing table, I couldn’t help but notice the life-size portrait of a man, a custodian, who stared at me kindly and expectantly as if we were in the middle of a conversation. The liveliness of his stare drew me in! The other pieces in the exhibit, similarly, called upon onlookers to become meaning makers alongside the artist and to interact with the subject matter. The statements that these pieces made were neither overt nor direct but instead, left space for active interpretation to happen right there in the gallery. The artists’ creations impressed upon the viewers the primacy of concerns and topics represented in the artwork.
Artists involved in this exhibit were a diverse group: A couple expressing environmental concerns and industrial perspectives, respectively, in their art; A 13-year-old girl whose use of color and depth inspired onlookers to contemplate the experience of black girlhood in America; A Vietnamese LGBTQ+ zine curated to mesmerize while bringing together richly relatable writing. Together, all these creations illustrated the complexity and warmth of our Dorchester community.
Dot Now is a powerful exhibit that highlights ethnic, social, and economic differences within the Dot community. It highlights concerns and perspectives that are relevant right now to the people who live there. Dot Now is a space to reflect on who we, the Dorchester community, have become in the 21st century and how we can continue to practice acceptance and fellowship. Do not miss out on an opportunity to see true and authentically diverse artwork in Boston. To experience this exhibit is to experience togetherness and, in this day and age, that is something we cannot afford to pass up.
Feature Image: Jamal Thorne, Untitled #22, mixed media on paper