A documentation of the discussions and dialogues between different groups of people relating to the multi-faceted issue of gentrification and the role it has played in their lives. The documentation will culminate with a collaborative map of Central Square.
Gentrification is a controversial issue all across the United States. Central Square, Cambridge is a community that has undergone extensive development in recent years with no sign of stopping. The goal of the Central Changes map room is to create a dialogue between people of Central Square from different sides of the recent development and to display their varied perspectives and experiences to the community. The people brought in will be a mix of biotech employees, current and former residents, current and former store owners, and current and former minimum wage laborers. These groups of people will prompt compelling discussions during the process.
The process will proceed as follows: The group will be seated around a mounted canvas where they will try to convert discussion points into imagery on the map. A facilitator will prompt the group with different questions and project different 'data layers' onto the canvas to aid the group. A sample question might be, "What and where do you think of when you hear 'change in Central Square'?" and a sample
'data layer 'might show the number of years since each building has been constructed. The entire exercise will be recorded with a video camera. The final product will be a framed board in Lafayette Square split into three panels. The first panel will display information about the project, the second panel will be the physical map created, and the final panel will be a video compilation of the process. Lafayette Square is a compelling place in Central Square to put the product because it has had recent development itself, and is also a welcoming community space. When completed, the hope is that Central Changes will catch the eye of newer, more privileged residents, in particular, educating them about the history of the square and how gentrification has affected different community members and making them more considerate and empathetic towards those who are less privileged.
A proposal for a map room in Central Square to explore the consequences of the intense gentrification in Central over the past 10-15 years. This will bring together groups of people with different perspectives and open up a dialogue about how Central's changes affected each group.
"Central Changes" is a proposal to bring together a few different community groups to discuss the changes brought about by gentrification in Central Square over the past ten to fifteen years and how they have affected different communities. For example, as local stores and restaurants are being replaced by big chains, local store owners will have a more and more difficult time making a living. At the same time, however, this is helpful to the consumer in knowing where to buy certain goods and potentially give more budget-friendly. The hope is to bring in workers from biotech (one of the biggest driver for Central's changing landscape), local stores (owners and employees), and Central Square residents (both former and current) and have them answer a few questions about their personal experiences with Central's changing landscape, like "What first comes to mind when you hear "changes in Central Square?"" or "What are memorable places for you in Central, and how have they changed over time?" The participants will be asked to mark relevant locations on the map provided, and also to add a comment giving perspective on their specific experience. To help focus on the actual discussion between the groups, and on their personal experience, the moderators will project any objective information about the changes onto the working area, including the year of construction for buildings, and what stores were there, beforehand, so that time isn't wasted trying to flesh out details by memory. After the groups have finished marking the map for each question, they will be given a final task "Of the changes discussed, identify what changes that you would deem good, neutral, and bad, based on your personal experience. Once the map is finished, the display will not only feature the final map and a project description, but also a recording of the making process. Hopefully, this all together will be able to show people how much gentrification can change a place, and how much that can change its different communities.