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Posts Tagged ‘lowell’

091617-Lowell-mill-girlsMico Kaufman’s 1984 “Homage to Women” captures the determination of Lowell’s 19th century mill girls.

Like many of New England’s postindustrial cities struggling to reinvent themselves, Lowell has attracted a thriving artistic community to its old warehouses.

And as a magnet for generations of immigrants since the Merrimack and Concord rivers were harnessed to power cotton mills in the 19th century, the city has also attract a rich array of cuisines and cultures.

The late U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas helped to create a popular national park in Lowell. Today, others are building on the city’s arts reputation to attract tourists while strengthening ties among the various nationalities.

Yesterday I decided to check out one of the city’s newest festivals, “Creaticity.” Despite good weather, music, food, giant bubbles, and booths that featured artisans of many ethnicities, the event didn’t have anything like the attendance of the city’s 31-year-old folk festival. But you couldn’t expect that. It probably just needs time to get established.

Here are a few Lowell scenes to give you a taste. The last photo is an editorial comment on how challenging it can be to unlock all the inherent beauty of a city like Lowell.

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Dan Holin, who used to run a Concord-Lowell volunteer partnership called the Jericho Road Project, is now director of special projects at UTEC in Lowell. (UTEC doesn’t use the longer title its youth founders originally came up with, but since people ask, it was United Teen Equality Center.)

UTEC describes itself as a nonprofit that “helps young people from Lowell and Lawrence, Mass., trade violence and poverty for social and economic success. It works to remove barriers that confront them when they want to turn their lives around and offers young people paid work experience through its social enterprises: mattress recycling, food services and woodworking.”

On May 15, Acton’s Pedal Power joined members of the Concord-based Monsters in the Basement bicycling club to share their bike-repair expertise with young people who wanted to acquire bikes and learn to maintain them. Holin, a serious biker himself, organized the event to give UTEC young people two things that he said they normally lack: transportation and fun.

At the event, one of them, Sav, recounted his story of change. Before UTEC I never talked to anyone,” he said. “I was a problem child on the streets. I was hanging around with gangs, selling drugs. I don’t do that now. Seven months ago, I moved from a place with nothing positive. Atlantic City. I let my family know I’m ready to live life. It was hard for me to get into something good: I’ve got a lot of tattoos and a record. But I’m in the culinary program here. It’s a family. They make you feel like you are somebody that has a chance. They give me love like a family. They changed my life for the better. There are so many new things to do here. Yesterday I went kayaking.”

More here.

Sav, in sunglasses, got a good bike at UTEC’s bike event in Lowell on May 15. The bike will provide transportation to his job at UTEC. It will also provide some much needed fun.

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Several civic-minded design and construction businesses have once again entered the Rhode Island Community Food Bank‘s annual Canstruction contest. The display at the Providence Place mall combines fun with a message about hunger in the state and the need for canned goods.

LLB Architects of Pawtucket and Shawmut Design and Construction of Providence are the geniuses behind the display featuring the Left Shark, an Internet celebrity since one of singer Katy Perry’s backup dancers at the 2015 Super Bowl went rogue.

I remember seeing another Canstruction event last year, at the Boston Society of Architects. It’s easy to see why this sort of work needs to be done by designers and builders: it’s really hard to make cans look like anything but cans. The BSA cans were donated to the Merrimack Valley Food Bank in Lowell.

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I am a fan of UTEC, the United Teen Equality Center, in Lowell, Mass., which has many programs for helping acting-out youth choose a better path. A couple aspects of UTEC’s approach strike me as fundamental to its success, which was recognized by the governor in his inaugural address.

For one thing, UTEC gives people a second, third, fourth, fifth … chance. (ROCA in Chelsea is like that, too.) It tries to remove barriers to success but holds that it’s up to the individual to take up opportunities. For another thing, teen decisions are key to the organization’s direction. After all, young people concerned about gang violence were the founders in 1999.

An impressive staff, led by Gregg Croteau, is also dedicated to making change.

One of UTEC’s initiatives, as I learned from a recent presentation at church, is called Teens Leading the Way. The members are actually working to change government policy. Right now they are focused on expungement of early criminal behavior after teens have served their time. They believe underage offenders must deal with the consequences of their actions but be able to start over and not be blocked from education and jobs.

Here’s what the website says, “Expungement essentially erases a criminal record, including police reports and arrest records, as if it never existed. This would be a unique opportunity for young people with criminal records to obtain a clean slate after completion of their sentences. In 2012 a report titled ‘An Exploration of Juvenile Records Maintenance Across America: A Way Forward for the Commonwealth’ looked into the status of juvenile records in Massachusetts and recommended policy changes to offer expungement to juveniles. …

“Teens Leading The Way youth … have coined the motto: “Erase our sentence so we may write a novel,” which highlights their belief that young people should be held accountable for their actions, but additional rehabilitative actions should be taken to remove barriers upon re-entry and to prevent recidivism.”

More here.

Photo: UTEC

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Fyfe-Day-repertoire-with-frame-cardGreeting card of Meredith Fyfe Day’s “Repertoire with Frame.”

Back in the early 1990s, I worked for Meredith Fyfe Day at Harte-Hanks newspapers, where we whipped into shape tottering stacks of press releases of wildly varying literacy.

That was Meredith’s day job. She was also a working artist. My husband and I have long enjoyed her shows, several of which were at the Whistler House Museum of Art in Lowell when Meredith was the artist in residence.

Recently a friend of hers tagged her on Facebook, which was how I learned that the Lowell Sun wrote an article on her latest artistic venture.

Reporter Debbie Hovanasian writes at the Sun, that Meredith “was recently awarded a grant from the Parker Foundation. The result is ‘Making Art with Artists,’ and Fife Day, who teaches painting at Middlesex Community College, couldn’t be more thrilled.

“During her prior experience teaching art to young students,’I could see the kids blossoming, even the tough kids who said they didn’t like art. I would encourage them and it would light a spark. They’d come back with such enthusiasm, and I fell in love with seeing that change in children,’ she said.

” ‘Making Art with Artists’ is a seven-week summer program offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays at no cost at Christ Church United on East Merrimack Street [Lowell, MA] …  with emphasis on fourth- to eighth-graders, she said.

“The program facilitates the teaching of art to under-resourced and under-served children, Fife Day said. The four teachers are experienced, working artists who will make a presentation of their own work to the students in two successive classes. …

“One of the program’s goals is for the children to adapt the techniques of the artists in order to make their own artwork as well as collaborative artwork, using their own and combined imaginations, Fife Day explained. It also aims to give children a positive alternative to high-risk behavior by giving them high quality educational opportunities …

“Fife Day is currently seeking community donors — food or funds — for a lunch program, which she plans to offer free of charge to the budding artists, a cost not covered within the grant.

“The day is structured so that the students work on individual projects in the morning and group projects in the afternoon. There’s also yoga after lunch and free time early morning and late afternoon, during which Fife Day is exploring having musicians and other volunteers willing to donate their time to entertain or supervise the children.

” ‘It’s about giving the children hope and letting them have fun believing in themselves, knowing that the next day can be as much fun as this one,’ she said.” More here.

Photo: Lowell Sun
Art by Meredith Fyfe Day

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Artist Susan Jaworski-Stranc is having a show she’s calling Water Blues at Centro Restaurant and Bar in Lowell. The exhibit, which includes oil paintings and linoleum prints, runs to March 17 at 24 Market St.

If you can get to Lowell on Sunday, Feb 23, there’s a reception where you can meet the artist, 1 pm to 3 pm.

My husband and I have been to a number of art shows in Lowell, which is quite a creative community. Our favorite Lowell artist is a former boss of mine, Meredith Fyfe Day, who held down a newspaper job while she was artist in residence at the Whistler House. I worked for her at the Harte-Hanks community newspaper chain in the early 1990s.

Here’s the intriguing artist statement from Jaworski-Stranc: “I am a printmaker, specializing in the creation of linoleum block prints. After each successive printing of a color, the surface of the block is reduced while at the same time the printing surface is built up with multi-layered colors. Born from one block of linoleum, my relief prints have the nuance and rich textural surfaces of an oil painting.

“Although Picasso coined this method of working, a ‘suicide print,’ I rather think of this printmaking process as emulating the journey of life. While creating my prints, I am never able to re-visit past stages. I can only proceed forward with the acceptance of all good and not so good choices which were mediated and acted upon with the hope and joy of completion.”

When Asakiyume and I met in December at the Worcester Art Museum, there was an exhibit on printmaking that showed what prints looked like at each of the layering stages. Challenging work. I love that Jaworski-Stranc sees the printmaker’s role as accepting each previous stage and working with it. As she says, “The journey of life.” Another good topic for a poem.

Find out more about Susan Jaworski-Stranc here. And thank you, Vyü magazine, for the lead.

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Once upon a time, mine workers were paid in paper chits that could be redeemed at the company store. (Remember the song “Sixteen Tons,” by Tennessee Ernie Ford and “I owe my soul to the company sto’ “?)

A while back I saw a story in the NY Times about refugee gardens, and there was a picture of someone using wooden coins to buy produce. It turned out that people were not being paid in wooden coins as miners were paid in paper. Instead, the City of San Diego was encouraging poor residents to pursue good nutrition by giving them wooden coins for shopping at farmers markets.

The coins were really just a footnote to Patricia Leigh Brown’s story, which focuses on a national movement to help immigrant farmers get back into the occupation they know best.

“Among the regular customers at [San Diego’s] New Roots farm stand are Congolese women in flowing dresses, Somali Muslims in headscarves, Latino men wearing broad-brimmed hats and Burundian mothers in brightly patterned textiles who walk home balancing boxes of produce on their heads.

“New Roots, with 85 growers from 12 countries, is one of more than 50 community farms dedicated to refugee agriculture, an entrepreneurial movement spreading across the country. American agriculture has historically been forged by newcomers, like the Scandinavians who helped settle the Great Plains; today’s growers are more likely to be rural subsistence farmers from Africa and Asia, resettled in and around cities from New York, Burlington, Vt., and Lowell, Mass., to Minneapolis, Phoenix and San Diego.”

Read how it works. (And click on the slide show to see the wooden coins. My eyes were drawn to them because my father’s favorite “good-bye” line to toddlers always was, “Don’t take any wooden nickels”!)

Photo: Sandy Huffaker for The New York Times
Khadija Musame, right, with a customer from Somalia at the New Roots Farm stand in San Diego.

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