Past Events with Violence Transformed:
*Click year for more information
For their homepage, please visit http://www.mass.gov/mova/
Meet Jonathan Shirland, Lead Curator of the Statehouse Exhibit
Assistant Professor of Art History, Bridgewater State University
“Just a small exhibit of the work of three printmakers I have met at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts”. The message on my cell phone as I was traveling by train to London in the United Kingdom in the fall of 2006 seemed innocuous enough. Little did I know that Mary Harvey’s request that I help her stage a modest show of artworks connected to the mediation of violence would have a transformative impact on my career and professional service for the next decade. I was just about to move to Boston with my wife for family reasons and was reluctantly saying goodbye to colleagues at the Royal Academy of Arts where I was working as the Curator of Public Programs. Within a couple of months I was consumed by the possibilities emerging from this embryonic collaboration that joyfully challenged boundaries between a range of professions and vocations that often result in wonderfully dedicated, creative, and passionate people operating in isolation from one another despite sharing geographical and ideological common ground. I was also terrified by the daunting task of pulling together an art exhibition that seemed to grow by the day and had just secured Doric Hall of the Massachusetts State House as a venue. Mary, I and a small yet diverse group of inspiring people that Mary had introduced me to, then decided we should aim even higher and hire out the entire second floor of the State House for a dramatic opening event to launch what we were just beginning to call ‘Violence Transformed’. All we needed was to raise thousands of dollars to pay for the hiring of the space, find an audience, and pull together a coherent program of visual and performing arts from a dizzying range of submissions by April 2007. No pressure.
The dramatic success of the first Violence Transformed exhibition during which over 3000 people witnessed the power of art and art-making to confront, mediate, protest, and imagine alternatives to violence in a powerfully symbolic public venue has proved to be the just the start of a much larger project which I have had the honor of contributing to for the past 10 years. I remain astonished by the rich diversity of art exhibitions, performances and educational events we have designed, curated and hosted with very limited resources. They are testament to the tireless commitment to social justice of many different people in the Boston area, and to the extraordinary leadership, drive and powers of persuasion of Dr. Mary Harvey. The project remains an innovative and important means of forging relationships between a wide variety of artists, curators, activists, community service providers, museum professionals, and academics who share a belief that the arts can transform peoples lives, communities and environments. Violence Transformed is a central armature of my work at Bridgewater State University, and every year I am inspired and invigorated by the creativity and resilience of the artists whose work we have the opportunity to celebrate. I hope we can continue to do justice to their talents, vision and bravery. But I will forever remain suspicious of messages from Mary about “just a small exhibit”….