Cedric Douglas & Julia Roth

Installing project "title" on the corner wall of the Fox Library in East Arlington.

Julia Roth wheatpasting
Artist Team

Left to right: Nilou Moochhala, Julia Roth, Cedric Douglas

Collecting Memorable Moments

During the Feast of the East, an annual street festival in East Arlington, Douglas asked participants to share a story about a "memorable moment" involving a local business as part of our nomination process.

Story

A collaborative spray paint mural created at Feast of the East by inviting community members to spray paint layers of stencils over the word STORY. This was organized to promote awareness of the project; the final painting was donated to the neighborhood Fox Library.

Nomination Box

People were invited to nominate a favorite local business by filling out a postcard with a short story.

Portrait of Tom Furrier

Owner of Cambridge Typewriter, one of the last remaining typewriter repair businesses in New England. Tom also has an amazing collection of vintage typewriters.

Tom Furrier and staff of Za Restaurant
Portrait of Maxima Owners

Installation of the portrait of Jelena Babic and Brian, owners of a craft and gift store.

Cedric Installing at Clay Dreams
Portrait of Rosemary
Cedric photographing Larry Maida

Cedric set up photographs of local business owners to use for his designs. This is Larry Maida holding some of his vintage pharmacy equipment.

Installation at Maida Pharmacy

Cedric, Julia and volunteer Grey Held installing Larry Maida's portrait.

Installing at Maida Pharmacy

Cedric, Julia and volunteer Grey Held installing Larry Maida's portrait.

Larry Maida

Larry Maida with his portrait.

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ArtBeat and Continentale

The owner of Continentale Hair Salon speaking with a group during a tour celebrating the "opening" of Storefront Stories.

13 FOREST GALLERY

Marc Gurton, owner of the 13 FOREST GALLERY next to his portrait.

Drum Connection
Friends of the Fox

In addition to portraits of local business owners, we created a tribute to the Friends of the Fox, an activist group of neighbors who saved the Fox Library from closing due to budget cuts. This photo shows the print-outs for a portrait of Shun Yamaguchi, an artist who lives a few blocks away and painted distinctive fox banners that won visibility for the cause.

Shun Yamaguchi
Emily

Branch librarian of the Fox Library, who particularly enjoyed reading aloud to neighborhood kids during regular story hours.

Tour of the finished murals

Cedric Douglas describing his process.

Fox Library Installation

The Fox Library hosted several portraits, including the owner of ArtWear.

Gerry, the owner of ArtWear

Gerry and Cedric, with Nilou and Julia in the background hard at work.

Group picture

Left to right: Adria Arch of Arlington Public Art, Cedric Douglas, Julia Roth, Gerry of ArtWear, Nilou Moochhala and Cecily Miller.

Storefront Stories Zine

1000 free copies were distributed at the library and throughout the neighborhood.

STOREFRONT STORIES

Cedric Douglas, Nilou Moochhala, Julia Roth

My first project in Arlington evolved from my community engagement process with Arlington Public Art in East Arlington.  Over several months, we organized open public meetings and smaller scale conversations with stakeholders and neighborhood leaders.  I heard from many residents that the independent small businesses along the Mass. Ave corridor were a valued element of the landscape and the community. I visited every store in the neighborhood known as Capitol Square to meet owners and workers and ask them about their neighborhood.

 

It quickly became clear that these storefront business offered vital places – a hybrid of public and private space where all kinds of people would informally meet and get to know each other. Diverse shops, bakeries, salons, and restaurants provided a kind of connective tissue and built a feeling of local community. A few examples:

  • one of the last typewriter repair shops left in New England

  • a pizza place that had given three different Greek families a foothold in the American economy,

  • a drumming store and school that brought visiting artist/teachers from West Africa,

  • an independent pharmacy run by three successive generations of the same family,

  • a welcoming clothing shop that served older women with artful clothes that emphasized personal style over fashion. 

These establishments, often run by one person or a family,  could be understood to express the hopes and values of their proprietors as well as their practical skills and business interests. I proposed to the Town that we create a temporary public art project that would explore, document and celebrate the diverse stories of these store owners, with an emphasis on understanding their personal history and cultural grounding.

ARTIST TEAM

I enlisted Cedric Douglas as a collaborator and thought partner as well as lead artist. Cedric has a gift for listening to people, genuinely appreciating and honoring their unique and positive qualities.  He saw almost everyone that he interviewed in Arlington as a fellow artist, and praised the way they created their spaces, their food, and their interactions with customers in the same thoughtful and expressive way that an artist creates images or music.

 

I also invited talented graphic designer and public artist Nilou Moochhala, who had already created her own Arlington stories project, to develop oral histories and design a newsprint publication. Cedric brought his partner/collaborator Julia Roth on board, and we had a team. 

 

We held a nomination process, asking people to share their stories about their favorite local businesses. Cedric produced oversized boards to interview people on the street and we printed postcards for people to pick up at the local branch library. Our team selected 13 people for portraits. Cedric interviewed all of them; Nilou and I worked on crafting written portraits while Cedric focused on large scale designs that would be wheatpasted on  exterior walls throughout the neighborhood. Cedric designed each graphic portrait with details to capture the character of the primary subject.  I developed pull quotes for each site – extracts from the transcribed interviews. Nilou designed and produced a Storefront Stories Zine, a free newspaper with the content from our project, including Cedric's final designs and process photos.

Whew, that project was a lot of work.  It took more than a year to accomplish, and should have been funded with 4 times the budget! But live and learn.  It was the first major project I did as an independent consultant.