The Boston-based public art nonprofit Now + There wasn’t planning for a pandemic when it welcomed six artists for its annual Accelerator program in January — who was? — but, well, here we are. The pandemic’s explosion partway into the current cohort’s term prompted a community-minded pivot, for some, with the first of the works landing last week on a billboard next to East Boston’s Meridian Street Bridge.
“NO ES FÁCIL, PERO NO TE DESESPERES” it reads in hot-pink block letters on sky blue, an exhortation of hope by accelerator artist Gabriel Sosa to a neighborhood hit hard by the virus this spring. (Quick translation: “It’s not easy, but don’t despair.”) Sosa’s work will expand to billboards around Boston, in English and Spanish, through the end of the year. But all cheerleading aside, is there a better moment for Boston’s artists to be out in public, connected to the city where they live?
Now + There’s Accelerator began just a few years ago, training local artists to scale up their practices to the proportions public art demands, with the intention of shoehorning Boston voices into a landscape dominated by high-profile international fly-bys. (See the Dewey Square mural by Dutch art star Super A, installed just last year.) Now, with the Boston community tied tightly by circumstance — a global crisis whose impacts are felt street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood — artists from here making art for here makes more sense than ever.
Sosa’s words of encouragement will be accompanied, as the pandemic allows, by writing and silkscreening workshops. For more information on the Now + There Accelerator program, visit www.nowandthere.org.