Maria Servellón. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Maria Servellón. Photo courtesy of the artist.

“[W]e can flood the city with the power of art”

For the eighth interview in this series asking people active in the Boston arts scene about their thoughts on how to rebuild it after the pandemic, I talked to Maria Servellón—an award-winning filmmaker, multimedia artist, educator, and arts advocate from Boston. Her work often explores synesthetic relationships between art, music, and dance. Servellón’s latest and most successful short film is Hyphen (2018). Check out the video of our full conversation below.

On what has gone before

I feel like Boston has been trying to find its missing arts edge that cities such as NYC, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, Austin, and others have been able to polish well before the COVID pandemic. Without too much research or hit-or-miss gatherings to attend, tourists and locals in these cities almost intuitively know where to find the latest events. Or even stumble upon them in spur-of-the-moment outings. These cities know that support for the arts is crucial to their respective economies. The time and financial investments in the arts have solidified and empowered their communities.

Boston needs to invest more time and money into its art scene, especially having many homegrown, diverse artists that represent their neighborhoods with pride. Using these investments for artists to liven up their neighborhoods with exhibitions, murals, art events, lectures, and block parties. Different artists from each neighborhood wanting to know and learn from each other. Having lively art events in the city for all ages; with music, dance, and theater folks performing, craft workers ready to sell their works, installation artists having ample space to put up larger than life works, and painters and muralists working for live audiences ready to support the craft. It is that “something amazing is happening today/tonight” that brings communities and the arts alive. It is this thrill that permeates in the air in other cities that brings in curious travelers and locals to galleries, book stores, museums, studios, thrift stores, parks, and shipyards to treat the eyes’, ears’ and mind’s delight with art. It’s something I’ve seen Boston almost reach, but not quite find its solid footing yet.

On what is still to come  

Certainly the city’s early train curfew hurts this yearning, but it is also support for the arts always first on the chopping block. The mind boggles at cuts that can be very drastic and disheartening. During COVID, Boston artists suffered immensely with financial and public support for their work being taken away instantly with the closures and cancellations. For younger artists, the pursuit of making their dreams a full-time reality reverted back to square one dreams. The city and other organizations were helpful with grants, webinars, and free resources, but this pandemic’s effects will trickle well in the years ahead.

Available time, money, and resources will always be needed. I think the city should do more calls for art to beautify neighborhoods where COVID removed some of their “colors”. It should feature and spotlight more Boston artists that are hard at work to improve the city arts scene so their and other neighborhoods are better familiar with them. When safe to do so, we can try to have these previously described art events happen where we can flood the city with the power of art. Art existed as music, readings, and viewings in our homes while quarantining. Imagine if people had that same yearning to read, watch, and listen to more of it when all of this is over. What if louder support for the arts became part of our planned “new normal”? Art helped us get through this together. And it will continue to do so.

DigBoston Interview with Maria Servellón

Jason Pramas is executive editor and associate publisher of DigBoston. He holds an MFA in visual arts.