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MassArt Celebrates First Annual Common Good Awards

A painting of a woman smiling with her hand up to her forehead looking outward, with sun rays shining around her. MassArt's 150th Anniversary logo sits on top of the image.
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President Mary K. Grant and the MassArt community gathered for the first annual Common Good Awards ceremony on Saturday, December 16, 2023 at the College’s Design and Media Center.

Wilco, Western Avenue Studios, artist Silvia López Chavez, art teacher Jozeph Zaremba, The Secret Society of Black Creatives, and Dr. Lisa Wong were honored for their work at the intersection of art and civic life at the MassArt Common Good Awards December 16, 2023.

All honorees received a custom-made artwork by Fiamma Glass, a Waltham, Massachusetts-based small business owned and operated by two artists and alumni, Caterina Urrata (‘12 BFA Glass) and David Weintraub (‘10 BFA Glass).

About the Awardees

Dominican-American artist and alumna Silvia López Chavez (‘00 Graphic Design and Illustration) will be honored with the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award for her community-centered murals that form connections across disciplines and cultural boundaries. She uses joy as an act of resistance and celebration through her vibrant murals. Her work, which can be seen all over the Commonwealth and beyond, transforms urban spaces by honoring the identity of a place and its people.

Mural video footage by Mario E. Ramirez / TostFilms and Zach Heyman. Video by The Media Men.

Real estate developer Karl Frey and his wife Patty Cullen were honored along with the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston for their partnership, with support from tenant artists, to permanently preserve Western Avenue in Lowell, MA. One of the largest artist communities in the country, Western Avenue is comprised of 250 artist work studios, 50 artist live/work lofts, artist gallery, and a 250 person live music performance venue. Western Avenue is home to at least 23 MassArt alumni.

Video by The Media Men.

The founders of The Secret Society of Black Creatives (SSBC), Evelyn Brito, Malik Williams, MassArt alumni Vladimir Minuty and MassArt faculty member Nerissa Williams Scott, all creative professionals, have dedicated themselves to creating a pipeline for Black creators into film, music, advertising, and other areas of production. From The Drop, their work in schools and with youth groups to expose young people to the industry, to The Konnect, their networking events for young people interested in these kinds of careers to The Dojo, their mentoring program, SSBC is giving back so youth can see themselves in lucrative production careers.

Video by The Media Men.

American rock band Wilco were honored for Solid Sound, the festival they founded in 2010 in partnership with the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) in North Adams. MassArt will honor them for their incredible work with Mass MoCA, for their commitment to the Berkshires, and their adventurous curatorial vision. They set out to create the kind of festival they, as music fans, would like to attend, and in the process, cultivated a longstanding civic institution that brings thousands of people, economic activity, an unmistakable sense of community, and international visibility to one of the most beautiful corners of the Commonwealth.

Video by The Media Men.

Pediatrician, musician,and author, Dr. Lisa Wong is an assistant professor of pediatrics and associate co-director of the Arts and Humanities Initiative at Harvard Medical School. With a deep interest in the intersection between the arts and health, she is heavily involved in interdisciplinary programming as well as scholarship on the local, national, and international levels. Lisa has been a pediatrician at Milton Pediatric Associates since 1986, and served as president of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra for 21 years. There, she was the lead designer of the orchestra’s “Healing Art of Music Program” documented in her book, Scales to Scalpels: Doctors who practice the healing arts of Music and Medicine. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Lisa  helped create Boston Hope Music to provide music and music education virtually to patients, staff and caregivers.  She currently teaches a course on music, health and education at Harvard University and serves on the boards of Conservatory Lab Charter School, A Far Cry ensemble, and BPS Arts Expansion initiative. Most recently she has been working with the Massachusetts Cultural Council on Culture Rx, an innovative model of cultural social prescription for health.

Video by The Media Men.

Recently retired Boston Public Schools art teacher Jozeph Zaremba (‘81 BFA Illustration) was honored with the inaugural Frances Euphemia Thompson Award for Excellence in Teaching. Mr. Zaremba, known as “Mr. Z,” taught at the Henderson Inclusion and Harbor Schools in Dorchester and is an alumnus of MassArt. The award is named for Frances Euphemia Thompson, a groundbreaking artist and lifelong educator who graduated from MassArt (then called the Massachusetts Normal Art School) in 1936. A graduate of Lesley College (now Lesley University), a two time Fund For Teachers fellowship recipient, art director at Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester, and a founding teacher of the Harbor School, Mr. Zaremba, like Ms. Thompson, inspired a generation of young students.

Video by The Media Men.

About the Awards

MassArt Common Good Awards, established as part of the College’s 150th anniversary year, honor a group of individuals and/or organizations that exemplify public practice in the arts.

These awards celebrate the integration of arts and culture in civic life, honoring those who push boundaries in advocacy, teaching, placemaking, and creation, emphasizing the arts’ public influence on problem-solving and quality of life.

As the nation’s first and only independent public college of art and design, MassArt has been a catalyst for envisioning the role of art, culture, and design in all aspects of life. We look forward to celebrating the contributions of individuals from across the Commonwealth and beyond.

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