Common Exchange Adds Uncommon Experiences to Public Space

The Cambridge Common, a park and historic site near me, had seemed a space of few surprises until a few months ago. Then suddenly it became the place to spark inspiring messages by holding hands, to select story performances from a food truck, to share the seat of a gigantic chair, and to join an eyes-closed tour led by a blind artist. Those were just some of the experiences offered through Common Exchange,* with ongoing installations and scheduled events from May through September 2017. Though I missed many opportunities, the ones I experienced connected me with people, history, and hope, especially that we will keep benefitting from the arts.

Here are photos, notes, and links for what I got to do, followed by a quick summary of other features of Common Exchange.*

*”Developed to celebrate the park’s recent pathway renovations, Common Exchange is organized by guest curator Dina Deitsch and Cambridge Arts Director of Public Art Lillian Hsu. Through exhibitions, performances, installations, and the newspaper, it will reframe how we experience the historic Cambridge Common.”(quoted from Cambridge Arts website: Common Exchange Exhibition. ) For specifics about collaborations and funding, click here.

Aki Sasamoto: Food Rental

“Food Rental lives in the space between street performance, theater, and the gallery as it explores the awkward unspoken space of public interactions.” ( This sentence and those in the captions for photos above are from page 4 in Issue 4/4 of  Common Exchange, the printed special edition newspapers stored in waterproof packets attached to benches throughout the Common. The four issues were designed by the Lesley University College of Art and Design’s Community Design Studio, headed by Rick Rawlins.)

For more about Aki Sasamoto, click here.

Allison Smith: Common Goods

“Smith’s chair offers a formal embrace and protected space for intimate exchanges between invited woodworkers and chance passersby.” ( This sentence and those in the captions for photos above are from page 4 in Issue 2/4 of Common Exchange.)

For more about Allison Smith, click here.

Julianne Swartz: Interactive Bench: We Complete

“The system plays a soundtrack of children of various ages speaking short bursts of texts- poems, quotes, parts of songs, manifestos, and other writings on the subject of interdependence.” (This quote and most sentences in the photos above are from page 7 of Issue 1/4 of Common Exchange.)

For more about Julianne Swartz, click here.

Carmen Papalia: Blind Field Shuttle

“It is a chance to unlearn looking and to take ones first few steps into a non-visual world.” (This final sentence and all captions in the photos above are from Carmen Papalia’s artist statement.) Photos are from an “eye-opening” discussion immediately after an eyes-closed walking tour when I could not use my camera or my eyes. To witness Carmen Papalia in action, watch videos of his explorations at Gallery 344 in Cambridge, through Dec 15, 2017, or online (Getting to the Front Lobby).

Carmen P leads walk May Com Ex

Photo from a similar walk led by Carmen Papalia through the Common in May 2017

For more about Carmen Papalia, click here.

More Art and Artists in Common Exchange

Banners from We Were Here: Memories of Cambridge Common are still up. and printed editions of Common Exchange newspapers are available on benches as of this post date, October 17.  Additional artists noted there are Andy Graydon, Paul Ramirez Jonas, Xaviera Simmons, Kelly Sherman, Lee Walton and Jon Rubin. For more information about how each artist related to the whole project, click here.

For an overview of Public Art programs in Cambridge click here.

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