Testimonial from Barbara Lewis, PhD – on Jataka Fables @ Franklin Park Art Grove

In the summer of 2015, I helped design an environmental art project, Art Grove, in Boston’s Franklin Park, located in the center of the city and intended as an urban oasis for all to enjoy. However, the resident self-partitioning in Boston emphasizes division, not commonality. Bringing everyone together in sharing art out in the open was the Art Grove agenda, which featured about twenty community artists. A jury chose Pampi’s dance collective, In Divine Company, as a participant. Pampi and I were able to work together in preparation for the opening weekend panel that I moderated, in which the artists shared their inspirations and motivations with an audience, which was encouraged to shift from spectatorship to active participation – particularly, as we witnessed in her “Jataka Fables” piece, the use of the animal body in community theater as a collective symbol of our basic natures and the dangers we all face in community when an undue emphasis is placed on the other as threat and prey.

Barbara Lewis, Ph.D.

Director, the William Monroe Trotter Institute for the Study of Black History and Culture, UMass Boston