Cambridge Awarded $100,000 to Develop Artist-Designed Shade … – the City of Cambridge


January 18th, 2023

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The City of Cambridge was recently awarded $100,000 from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s (MAPC) Accelerating Climate Resilience program to commission artists to design temporary shade pavilions for city parks. Shade structures in parks and plazas help residents stay cool on hot days and create social spaces. The city’s two-year project, Shade is Social Justice, funded by MAPC, a regional planning agency, is one of the ways Cambridge is engaging the creative perspective of artists and designers to help the community adapt to global warming.

Led by Claudia Zarazua, Arts and Cultural Planning Director for the City of Cambridge, and Lillian Hsu, Public Art Director, Shade is Social Justice will expand shade in an innovative manner where it is needed most.

“‘The City of Cambridge is thrilled to be part of this regional cohort of communities addressing the impact of climate change,” said Cambridge City Manager Yi-An Huang. “Shade is Social Justice captures our innovative spirit by bringing artists and creatives as part of the solution to help residents stay cool in extreme heat events. As one of the densest communities in the metro Boston area, we understand the importance of providing cooling opportunities that are culturally attractive and that respond to the needs of the community.”

Artists have a unique capacity to provide a visitor entry into complex issues. Climate change is complicated; heat is invisible. Shade is Social Justice, a pilot project, employs artists and designers to create shade structure prototypes for selected hot spots of Cambridge that also serve as places for social connection, a key ingredient in building community resilience. Artists will have the opportunity to demonstrate the power of design to prompt thought, imagination, and action on the issue of heat exposure.

City staff will identify hot spots in under-resourced neighborhoods and guide the artists through the design and installation of temporary structures. Shade is Social Justice will challenge artists to design innovative solutions through material exploration, site responsiveness, and captivating communication around impacts of environmental heat. Replicability for additional neighborhoods and by other communities in the region will be one of the criteria for the designs.

The Cambridge community will have opportunities to meet with the artists and be part of the design process. Once these structures are installed, the project team will co-create programming in the new shaded communal spaces in collaboration with members of the community. Examples of programming include educational events, meal distribution, vaccine clinics, cultural performances, and other activities.

A call-for-artists process will open the opportunity for a wide audience of artists and designers and promote the climate preparedness work of the city. Based on qualifications, a jury will select 3 artists to develop proposals for shade structures. Shade is Social Justice is a project to demonstrate the role of artists in designing creative and equitable heat mitigation strategies for Cambridge and beyond. It uses experiential learning to engage the public in daily spaces with the challenging themes of climate change impacts while also providing much-needed shade.

Shade is Social Justice is guided by the lessons from previous city cooling strategies such as CloudHouse, cooling shelters, and Untold Possibilities at the Last Minute, an art exhibition around climate preparedness. Serving as a temporary pavilion at Greene-Rose Heritage Park in the Port neighborhood, CloudHouse provides shade and seating in this active recreational area to help reduce the impacts of extreme heat and sun.

The Shade is Social Justice project team, which includes staff from Cambridge Arts, the City’s Community Development and Public Works Departments, and Cambridge Public Health Department, will participate in a regional Resilience Community of Practice (RCOP) designed to support grantees, advance better practices to strengthen resilience, and workshop barriers to progress.
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