By Puloma Ghosh
Cambridge, MA – At the Cambridge Arts Council’s 344 Gallery through July 29, the “CRLS Alumni Photo Show” showcases the achievements of former Cambridge Rindge and Latin School photography students. A part of Cambridge’s Art City program, the exhibit is not only about how far these artists have come individually, but a community experience that brings together art lovers in the Cambridge.
The Art City program is a developing initiative committed to uniting the Cambridge arts community. What began as a one-month event series called “Art City August” soon grew into a full-time organization.
“We created Art City to put on that event and to put on future events and become our own non-profit eventually that would elevate the art of emerging artists in Cambridge and Greater Boston,” co-founder Amyko Ishizaki revealed. “Our long term goal is to be a conduit for artists in and different arts groups. We’ve always felt the need to connect people who are doing similar work.”
The 344 Gallery, which was initially the Cambridge City Arts Council’s gallery, now emerges as Art City’s headquarters. “We had an opening in the gallery,” Jeremy Gaucher, the CAC public art administrator, recounted. “Rather than extend the last show, we offered them the space to use as their headquarters and lab space — an open space as a hub for all their activity.”
The “CRLS Alumni Photo Show” is Art City’s kick-off show marking the gallery’s transformation into the 344 Gallery, an art and performance space that is central to Art City activity. A show made up of eight Cambridge Rindge and Latin School alumni, the exhibition shows how far each has come since their days of early nurturing in Cambridge.
“I thought it would be appropriate to highlight some of the artistic work that’s a byproduct of living in the city which a lot of people identify with strongly,” co-founder Nina Berg explained. “It’s been an opportunity to get everyone together again in an artistic reunion. You can see where everyone’s path has diverged as they graduated.”
The eight artists, who followed their own paths throughout the years, now bring their experiences back to Cambridge through their photographs.
Sam Lawrence, having spent his college years at Oberlin College, dove into the history of Oberlin Jazz, and its slow but steady acceptance into the classical music community. In the limited space of the Hales Memorial Gymnasium, the Oberlin Jazz Studies Department became one of the best in the world. Through his untitled color photographs, Lawrence captures the spirit of Oberlin Jazz, particularly in one shot of a student playing saxophone while leaning against a set of battered old lockers.
Samara Vise, a Boston University graduate, after having spent several years in L.A., returns to the Atlantic. Vise’s three black and white photographs carry her west coast experience back to Cambridge: a flat, expansive landscape; a gas station with a dog lying lazily in front of the pumps; and “For Your Health”, an ironically titled and beautifully captured shot of a boy lighting up a smoke, the shadows on his jaw and neck giving the clear impression of suction.
Some of the artists remained local and continued to thrive in the community. Among them, J. Shia, a graduate of Massachusetts College of Art and Design, continues to travel while keeping her home base in Cambridge. Her three images, from her “Children” series, is an intersection of two important parts of her world: photography and parenting. Two of the adjacent photographs parallel each other; “Boys with Guns,” taken in Essaouira, Morocco, of three boys sitting with toy guns, and “Dogs,” taken in Warwick, Rhode Island, of a girl with three puppies. The comparison is simultaneously whimsical and dark.
Regardless of how far they travelled, when brought back in the same gallery, the artists are welcomed into the community where they grew up. “When they all brought in their work, it seemed like a lot of the artists knew each other and were catching up,” Gaucher recalled with a laugh.
The most unique feature of the gallery is the long metal board on the back wall peppered with little magnets. Refrigerator magnets towards one side read, “a-d-d you-r p-hot-o her-e.” The board is an open call for visitors of the gallery to contribute their own photographs, especially during its opening reception. This quirk is representative of the spirit of Art City in uniting local artists, a process which the “CRLS Alumni Photo Show” begins by reuniting these photographers as if they’ve never been away.
(The “CRLS Alumni Photo Show” can be seen through July 29 at the 344 Gallery, 344 Broadway, Cambridge, Mass. The gallery is open Monday from 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. and Friday from 8:30 a.m.-noon. The show’s opening reception takes place on Monday, July 21 from 6–8 p.m. For more information, call (617) 349-4380.)