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Creating a Map Home

An Ed School student and alum come together to make an exciting and interactive contemporary art exhibit for children.

Eve EwingWhen Maggie Cavallo, Ed.M.’14, set out to find the Boston Children’s Museum’s first artist-in-residence, she didn’t have to look further than her former HGSE teaching fellow, doctoral candidate Eve Ewing, Ed.M.’13.

Ewing, who is currently completing her dissertation “Shuttered Schools in the Black Metropolis: Race, History, and Discourse on Chicago’s South Side” — a look at the 2013 public school closures in Chicago, and the relationship between such closures and the structural history of race and racism in Chicago's Bronzeville community — is a sociologist focused on issues of racism, social inequality, and urban policy. She is also an artist, essayist, and poet. Ewing’s versatility is part of why Cavallo sought her to be the inaugural artist for the Children’s Museum’s new residency program, Current, which invites one artist per year to build a site-specific installation at the museum that incorporates arts learning experiences for children.

“Eve was at the top of my list,” says Cavallo, whose organization Alter Projects — which focuses on bridging the gaps among contemporary art communities, the city of Boston, and educators — developed the residency at the request of the museum as a way to incorporate more contemporary art into its exhibits. “I was so inspired by a few things about Eve — how authentic she is and how deep and intrinsic her feelings are about arts and education. She also is very transdisciplinary as a poet, scholar, and artist. She works through all these disciplines, which is so relevant in contemporary art.”

Despite being busy working toward finalizing her dissertation, Ewing couldn’t resist getting on board. “I wasn’t going to say no. I am a perpetual seven projects person,” she says, adding that she has always done art alongside her HGSE research.

The result is the exhibition, “A Map Home,” which ponders the ways we connect text and image to make meaning in everyday life, especially the meaning of home. The installation uses a large canvas, paint, and Sharpie markers, interlacing drawings with short messages and poetry that explore themes of place, childhood adventure, and exploration. “A Map Home,” which closes on Monday, March 14, was well-received by museum staff and visitors, especially children.

“Children really responded to [Eve’s] work in a positive way,” says Alice Vogler, the Children’s Museum’s arts program manager. “It is very childlike so they were easily able to connect with it. There are elements that our little visitors immediately recognized and were drawn to which was really fun to watch.  I have observed so many great moments in the gallery — everything from families hanging out on the floor looking at one of the maps telling stories, to families gathered around the interactive question area talking about where they want to go and what places are special to them.”

The inspiration for Ewing’s exhibition came from her own experience of moving from her lifelong home of Chicago to Boston, where she was pushed to redefine the meaning of home. “A Map Home” explores Ewing’s feelings of moving and displacement, with an underlying message about connection.

Creating the work especially for children pushed Ewing’s boundaries as an artist, she says. The result is a piece that provides interaction, not in the traditional sensory experience, but by inviting contemplation from children on art, their lives, and what home means to them.

As Ewing wraps up her dissertation work, she’s preparing to return to her home city, Chicago, after graduation. But now, through her work on the exhibition and her time at HGSE, “I have two homes,” she says. “This [project] was really special to do at the end of my time living in this city that adopted me.”