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What are your thoughts on freedom and immigration?
London-based social sculptor Julia Vogl wants to know, so she can weave your answers into a massive public art project she’ll install on the Boston Common next month.
The project, called Pathways to Freedom, was commissioned by the Jewish Arts Collaborative (JArts), a 2-year-old nonprofit organization that promotes Jewish arts and culture. Pathways to Freedom has been 18 months in the making. Vogl aims to include up to 2,000 Boston-area people in the project, which will culminate in a 5,000-square-foot piece of vinyl art around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on the Common. The art will be on display from April 25 to May 2.
“We used the themes of Passover, which is very much about freedom, immigration, leaving and coming to a new place,” said Jim Ball, director of communications at JArts. “We worked with Julia to sort of figure out how her work fit into that process.”
Vogl, who grew up in Washington, D.C., has been creating social sculptures, which she describes as pieces of art that have “an interactive, social experience with a physical residue,” worldwide for the past seven years. This is her first project in New England. Vogl, who is Jewish and celebrates Passover (taking place this year from March 30 to April 7), said the idea of interpreting the Jewish holiday as an accessible public art project intrigued her.
“There’s eating and singing and dancing and storytelling,” Vogl said of the holiday. “By nature, it’s very immersive and cultural and really has this amazing kind of narrative. So to turn that into something that’s not just happening at a dinner table, but something that could happen in public, was really exciting for me.”
Here’s how you can get involved: Vogl is inviting the public to meet up with her at scheduled “encounters” around Greater Boston at places such as City Hall Plaza, the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, the Prudential Center, Cambridge’s Venture Cafe Kendall, and Somerville’s Aeronaut Brewing Company. The encounters kicked off Tuesday and will run through Sunday, April 8. At them, she’ll ask you to answer four multiple-choice questions about freedom and immigration on an iPad. Vogl said she’s asking four questions because part of the Passover seder involves asking four questions. Participants will then decorate a button, fashioned after a seder plate, with stickers that correlate with their answers. They’ll get to keep the button, while Vogl will keep a digital copy of the button so she can recreate it later on.
The four questions at the heart of the project are:
- When did you or your family move to the Boston area?
- Do you feel free?
- “I feel free when…”
- “If freedom was a food, it would be symbolized as…”
“This project is about the Boston area,” Vogl said. “It’s going on the Boston Common. It’s about the community here and now. The artwork that I’ve generated for this piece includes photographs of Boston landmarks. So this project could not happen in any other city, because it’s designed for Boston.”
Vogl expects it will take two to three days to install the art once she’s collected all of her data.
“When you come to the installation wearing a pin, you’ll be able to find your pin, just blown up,” Vogl said. “Then you’ll get to see yourself in context to everyone else who did it.”
There will also be an audio component to the project, Vogl said. When participants make a button, they’ll have the option of having their answers recorded, and some of those recordings will become part of the installation.
“I want this to be two things,” Vogl said. “One, a snapshot of who Boston is today. And, two, a catalyst for further conversation about the ideas of immigration and freedom.”