Belonging Mural

Art in Public Space | Projects

  • What makes us feel like we belong? Some would say respect from their family for making the decision to be a musician and pursue their dreams; for others, finding acceptance in a new place when they've been displaced from their home and transplanted elsewhere in a foreign land; for some, finding aconfidant with whom they can share their most personal secrets. A sense of belonging goes beyond just a desire; it's a basic human need that drives us.

    The Belonging mural was created as part of the Art in Public Space studio at NuVu lead by Artist Shilo Shiv Suleman. Centered at the heart of Central Square in Cambridge, MA, the mural is a participatory art piece created by NuVu students and residents of Cambridge that shares the diversity of the city and its people. 

    Woven between the transient populations of university youth, migrant communities, cantabrigian locals and the ever imminent threat of gentrification, the river shown in the mural threads all of Boston’s diverse groups together. The mural wall sits at the threshold of Area 4 (now being renamed the Port Neighborhood), old Cambridge and MIT. The mural itself depicts a multi-racial person, with locally found flowers growing out of her chest. The Charles river weaves and snakes through her body and emerges into a 'port' of sorts. A port where one comes and docks, and is simultaneously welcoming, but also a checkpoint or threshold. In a place of so many intersections, the mural explores the question "What makes us feel like we Belong?".

  • Mural on Belonging
    Across Boston and Cambridge, the ancient river charles etches it’s way through the landscape creating intersecting islands of people.

    Woven between the transient populations of university youth, migrant communities, cantabrigian locals and the ever imminent threat of gentrification, the river gently threads all of Boston’s diverse groups together. At the threshold of Area 4 (now being renamed the Port Neighborhood), old Cambridge and all the universities is our wall. In a place of so many intersections, we want to explore the question "What makes us feel like we Belong?".

    The mural itself will depict a multi-racial person, with locally found flowers growing out of her chest. The river weaves and snakes through her body and emerges into a 'port' of sorts. A port where one comes and docks, and is simultaneously welcoming, but also a checkpoint or threshold of sorts. In each of the small plots on the map of the charles, we will have different members of the community "dock" and write one thing that makes them feel like they belong, to create a sense of ownership and community involvement.

    We want to create something *with* the community that makes them feel central (in central square) to this intersection/port.

    Symbolism
    The mural includes many symbolic elements nestled within the piece. A few of these elements include:

    1. Birds
    There are a number of different birds specifically selected to represent a different culture and the birds sit on the river like a 'branch'. Each of the birds represents people from Cambridge who have come from different parts of the world, and settled on the branch of this river.

    2. Multi-racial Figure
    A lot of the murals in Cambridge tend to have a whole bunch of figures on them to represent the diversity of the neighborhood. To keep the simplicity but also have the diversity, we thought we would have one central figure who could look black, asian, or latino. Someone who felt like a mix of backgrounds yet wasn't too identifiable.

    3. Text Topographies
    The mural includes topographies made out of different languages (arabic, chinese, english, french) and uses texts as a way of showing diversity rather than representing this via faces.