An Art Installation in Allston
At the intersection of North Harvard Street and Western Avenue lies “the Grove,” a triangle of green space that will host a new public art installation this fall. The Grove is “a major intersection” and an “entry point from Cambridge into Allston,” so Harvard hopes art will help it utilize the space and engage with the Allston community, explains Graduate School of Design (GSD) spokesman Travis Dagenais. The installation’s name, WE ALL, reflects both its mission and of the collaborative process of creating the project, which was jointly commissioned by GSD, the office of the executive vice president, planning office, campus services, and Zone 3 Initiative (Harvard’s hub for engagement in Allston), as well as the external development firm Graffito SP.
The name WE ALL will be displayed in giant letters on a 200-foot-long, colorful fence made of plexi-glass tubes. The fence will surround a large, open space, decorated only by a handful of benches. The space is intended to be “open and as unrestricted as possible,” Dagenais says. Harvard hopes the installation “encourages moments of connection” between people—the kind of connection, he adds, that is missing from digital interactions.
WE ALL, designed by Francisco Alcaron, M.Des. ’18, Carla Ferrer Llorca, M.Des. ’17, and Rudy Weissenberg, M.Des. ’18, was the winner of a competition, launched in November 2016, encouraging GSD students to design ways to utilize the Grove that would engage the Allston community. In addition to promoting “learning, experimentation, and exploration,” entries had to be feasible to set up and maintain, and stay within a $60,000 budget.
Every stage of the installation’s design and creation process involved collaboration with Allston residents, Dagenais says. The competition required each submitting team to talk to community members about what they would like to see in the space, and to incorporate that feedback into the proposals. Part of the competition jury’s criteria in evaluating projects, Dagenais explains, was “how well each proposal responded to certain community interests.”
Allston residents also helped to decide which proposal would win the competition. The jury reviewed the 12 proposals and chose their top five. The GSD then organized an open house so residents could see those projects, give feedback, and vote on their favorite ones. The community’s vote was given the same weight as that of a jury member in the final deliberation, Dagenais says, so “the community was as much of a juror as the jury was.”
This new installation represents a larger effort by the University to engage with the Allston community. Most notably, the buildings at 267 Western Ave (a five-minute walk from the Grove) have been turned into Zone 3, a multi-purpose center for Allston engagement. Zone 3 is now used to host community events like fitness classes and outdoor movie nights, as well as public art installations like murals and video projections. The WE ALL installation fits into the Zone 3 efforts, Dagenais says, because it “is a capstone of sorts for efforts to activate this corridor of north Allston.”
The installation also fits into a larger theme of “the power of art and design to provide community, to highlight commonality, and to foster collaboration and connectedness rather than separation,” Dagenais explains. The Grove, it’s hoped, will be a space that WE ALL can use.