Somerville High School building opens, Charlotte Kelly launches a campaign, and the Union Square Projection Series hosts a panel.
Welcome to the Somerville Wire’s March 9 Weekly Roundup—a fast look at local news published every Tuesday at somervillewire.news. Readers with Somerville-focused news tips or press releases or calendar items or letter and opinion submissions can send them to Wire staff at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call us at (617) 209-9511.
A look at the tools recently introduced for use by the City.
After a long winter, many are preparing to welcome customers back.
“As an artist, most people are not thinking about me so I can do whatever I want and it’ll be just fine.”
New Somerville High School debuts, allowing student entry
The new Somerville High School opened on March 4, welcoming special needs and younger students into a state of the art building. Planning for the redesign began in 2012, while construction began in April 2018, with design having been part of a community process since the beginning.
“This project represents not only the educational vision of Somerville students, families, and staff. It also represents the heart of this amazing community,” said Superintendent of Schools Mary Skipper, in a press release. “As you walk through the building, evidence of the thought and care that went into planning, designing, and building a teaching and learning facility that will serve generations of students for years to come, and one that will also serve as a gathering place for our community, are evident at every turn.”
The school is six stories tall, featuring 14 specialized learning spaces for each of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, 12 science labs, three art rooms, three music rooms, a multilevel media center, a fully renovated gymnasium, a collegiate-style lecture hall, outdoor learning and dining areas, and advanced technology throughout. It is roughly 396,000 square feet, in contrast to the old school, which was 360,000 square feet. The building will support a wide range of teaching and learning methodologies, delivering improvements in quality and organization of spaces. It will also serve as an important gathering place for all Somerville residents. The structure is designed for 1,590 students.
The building will also support public facing services, including a student-run restaurant and bistro, a hair salon, auto repair bays, Cambridge Health Alliance Teen Health Center, and the Somerville Child Care Center. Work on the auditorium and cosmetology lab will be done later in the spring, while the athletic field is expected to be completed in spring 2022.
“This is an incredible milestone for our entire community, one that we have all been anxiously awaiting. This project speaks to the commitment of the Somerville community to our kids and their future,” said School Committee Chair Andre Green, in a press release. “It goes without saying that we wish this historic moment had come under very different circumstances. However, our current reality does not diminish the importance of this moment and what it means for the future of our students. I cannot adequately express my gratitude to the Somerville community, and in particular to our Somerville High School students and staff, for your patience, strength, and resilience throughout this project.”
Somerville remains in limited Phase 3, Step 1 of reopening stages
While the rest of the Commonwealth moved to reopening Phase 3, Step 2 on March 1, Somerville did not. The city will stay in Phase 3, Step 1 until at least March 15. Capacity limits in Somerville will also remain at 25%.
“While COVID numbers have been trending in the right direction recently, we don’t want to move too quickly and risk the progress that we’ve made,” said Mayor Joe Curtatone. “Before reopening new businesses or increasing capacity limits we want to make sure that can happen in a safe and sustainable way. We will continue to watch the data and listen to what public health experts are saying before making any decision in the coming week.”
Boston, which moved into Phase 3, Step 2, will see indoor performance venues and indoor recreational activity centers open at 50% capacity, starting on March 22. A number of industries will increase to 50% capacity. Restaurants will no longer be subject to a seated capacity limit; however, there must be six feet of distance between tables. In Somerville, businesses that will remain open include fitness facilities and health clubs, motion picture and television streaming productions, martial arts and dance facilities, and non-athletic instructional classes.
Charlotte Kelly enters councilor-at-large race
Charlotte Kelly, former Executive Director of Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance (MEJA), 4th generation resident, renter, and dedicated community organizer, announced on March 8 that she is running for Somerville city councilor at-large.
With experience building community coalitions across the state and bringing thousands of people together to fight for transformative solutions to pressing issues, Kelly will bring leadership to address urgent crises in Somerville. At MEJA, Kelly led the Fund Our Future campaign to win the Student Opportunity Act, according to a press release. This secured more than $1.5 billion in public education funding to be distributed across Massachusetts. It held a focus on funding working-class people, communities of color, special education students, and English language learners.
“We’ve won so much in Somerville thanks to working people fighting to make our community a better place to live. There is still so much work to do to make sure all of our residents have what they need to live full lives,” said Kelly. “We can have more affordable housing, invest in our schools, make public transportation free, and create good union jobs in the process.”
Artists discuss work from Union Square Video Projection Series
The Somerville Arts Council and Somerville Media Center hosted a panel discussion with artists behind the Union Square Video Projection Series on March 3. Speakers included choreographer Margaret Wiss, storytelling and animation artist Angie Lin Boyer, and abstract artist Allison Tanenhaus. The public art initiative was part of a three part series where video art was projected onto a building façade in Union Square and was broken into three themes. During the discussion, the featured panelists discussed their inspirations, their interests in collaboration, and the overlap between different disciplines they are involved in.
“A lot of the inspiration that I find honestly is in really mundane objects,” said Boyer. “I really like stock photos, commercial art product photos, things that are created to look a certain way and sell a certain thing, in such a way that has become so normalized to us.” Boyer’s video incorporated found footage on her iPhone and images found through the internet, as well as displays from her desktop.
Tanenhaus’ piece drew from the idea of corporate responsibility, the “tension between big business having these outreach efforts to help their communities, but also how much of that is really compensating for potential harm they’ve done.” The video also addressed the concept of how every day people are complicit in this complex. She used public domain footage and applied “a bunch of glitchy effects” to convey what she described as a colorful but sinister quality.
Wiss’ dance-based work, created with Mike Brun, was made at the beginning of the pandemic and incorporates music for four pianos. She had been taking Zoom technique classes online, which she did not find very rewarding, so she turned to the setting of an open farm field.
“I was trying to find what brought me joy in movement, because taking technique classes in my bedroom, on a screen, was not very fulfilling and satisfying. Getting outdoors in nature and being with the changing of the seasons [was a solution],” said Wiss. “What motivated the development of the piece [is that] we were definitely talking a lot about time and being side by side, and also the directionality and the unknown of this time.”
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Shira Laucharoen is assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and assistant editor and staff reporter of the Somerville Wire.