For “The Light From Within” installation for Hanukkah, I collaborated with teen artists at Artists for Humanity and staff at the Bowdoin Street Health Center. It has been so special to work with two Boston-based nonprofits, which are not only very near and dear to me, but, more importantly, have an incredible impact on the city and the communities they serve.   

Bowdoin Street Health Center in the heart of Dorchester is a community health care center and is part of Beth Israel Lahey Health. It provides world-class health care to the most underserved population. This vibrant, multi-ethnic community comprises long-time Bostonians and new immigrants and has been hard hit by the coronavirus. The health care providers at the center offer care from neonatal to geriatric patients and everything in between in every language spoken in the neighborhood. As dedicated as they come, the staff provide day in and day out for the community’s needs.  

I got to know Artists for Humanity intimately while on staff as director of community outreach and curatorial affairs in 2012-2013. The organization provides employment opportunities for underserved Boston youth in creative arts and design. The largest youth employer in the city offers art mentorship, tutoring for hundreds of under-resourced teens employed as artists and designers each year during critical out-of-school hours.   

I have witnessed first-hand the dedication of the staff in both organizations. They are deeply committed to the well-being of the communities they serve and have been a source of inspiration since I arrived in Boston nine years ago. Showcasing my Jewish-inspired artwork in the health care center‘s windows while collaborating with the teen artists at AFH is a dream come true for me. I feel excited and extremely grateful to be doing so. 

The concept behind and inspiration for “The Light From Within” draws from the resilience and the vibrancy of the Bowdoin/Geneva residents, immigrants from many countries coming to America seeking a more secure and prosperous future. I feel a deep connection to these immigrants, being one myself. This community features many languages, foods, histories and stories to share. This piece celebrates the beauty and vibrancy of each story and contributes a unique aspect to the collective.

Over the last few months, the teens in the 3D studio at AFH and I have collaborated to come up with the concept for this installation. We talked about the story of Hanukkah and the meaning of resilience and perseverance in the face of insurmountable challenges. Each teen was tasked with sharing their personal story through an art piece, which they shared with the group. In addition, each teen sketched ideas for the installation, and together we came up with the final concept. To create the silhouettes, the staff at Bowdoin volunteered to have their photos taken and those were turned into silhouettes by the artists at AFH.

If you look at these gorgeous windows and wonder what you are looking at, here’s an explanation: Thirty-four windows transform into stained-glass art pieces made of a lightweight, colorful transparent material, giving a stained-glass effect. Each window features a different silhouette of either a Bowdoin employee or teen artist. The reflective material of the body shapes catch the light during the day. As the sun sets, each window is backlit, showcasing the shadow through the stain glass shining outward, the brightness symbolically coming from within. Ten of the windows include the following inspirational words in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, and Cape Verdean Creole: Hope, community, resilience, love, friendship, stronger together and shalom.

Can you find them? Take a picture and tag #thelightfromwithin.

“The Light From Within” will be on display at Bowdoin Street Health Center from Dec. 9-18 as part of JArts’ “Brighter Connected” public art series. Learn more here.

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