MassQ up: An outdoor festival celebrating art and music from local communities of color

MassQ is a ritual application of face paint in a unique design that aims to reveal the wearer’s character and state of mind. Callahan coined the terms MassQ and MassQed, but he was quick to note that it has roots in traditions around the world. “Through paint, you become a walking work of art,” he explained in an interview with Zoom.

That’s just the beginning of what awaits guests who venture into Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain next Saturday afternoon. Co-produced by Callahan, the arboretum, and the multidisciplinary artistic cohort Castle of our Skins (which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year), the MassQ Ball is designed as a place for healing, learning, and community connection, with the towering conifers of Hemlock Hill all around. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.

“The idea of ​​this ball is intimacy,” Castle of our Skins artistic and executive director Ashley Gordon said in an interview with Zoom. “Being able to exchange and engage with friends and family and being able to travel through the experience in smaller groups.”

That’s how it goes. Upon arrival, guests will be invited to MassQed. You can do it yourself, or you can be MassQed by one of several artists trained by Callahan. “They’ll talk to you a little bit and get a better feel for who you are and where you are and how that plays into line and color, and then they’ll paint that on your face,” Callahan said.

Visual artists participating in a training session with Daniel Callahan to learn his MassQing technique. Over 30 artists will be at MassQ Ball 2022: Origin to help attendees put on their own MassQ.Sarah Duarte

Where a conventional mask hides, MassQ must reveal “who and what you are the moment MassQ is created. So I never do the same MassQ twice,” he added. One of the past MassQs on Callahan’s website transformed its subject’s face with bold arcs of red on a black field, another covered a face in a mosaic of pastel lightning bolts, and a third recreated a summer sky full of wispy white clouds.

After guests don their MassQs, groups of about 30 will be guided through a trail of performance and visual art by Boston-based artists, including spoken word poets Dzidzor and Harlym 1two5, mariachi band Veronica Robles, installation artist Lily Manicolors and a string quartet from Castle of our Skins.

Callahan and Castle of our Skins first threw the MassQ Ball in 2017; it was subtitled “Convergence” and took place at Roxbury’s Hibernian Hall. This year’s event, the second, expands on the 2017 edition “in every possible way,” Callahan said. It is longer, includes more artists and guests can arrive at any time of the event.

Gordon hopes the outdoor setting will help people feel more comfortable about the risk of COVID-19, as well as encourage interactions by “being able to see each other in new ways; to be able to do it again in a space that is a free and open space for everyone,” she said. “We’re trying to emphasize that people of color know this [the arboretum] is a place where, especially if you haven’t done it before, you can enjoy a lot of walking and imagining here.”

Violist Ashley Gordon is the Artistic and Executive Director of Castle of Our Skins, a Boston-based concert and educational series that focuses on black art through music. Robert Torres

Castle of our Skins production co-ordinator Jacqui Dumornay said she was grateful to be able to see her childhood on the ground from a new perspective while planning the event. “A lot of my skinned knees were from off-trail biking,” said Dumornay, who grew up five minutes from the park and worked with the arboretum’s horticultural staff to create an accessible and engaging experience without disrupting conservation initiatives. the park.

“When we get stuck in the hustle and bustle of downtown, being at the arboretum really gives people a chance to stop for that,” Dumornay said. “We don’t discourage phones, but we’ve gone to great lengths to organize the exhibit in a way that feels natural so people don’t have to use their phones to navigate.”

The ball’s ultimate goal, Callahan said, is to transcend boundaries and bring people together.

“I think Boston has always been somewhat of a segregated city,” he said. “There’s a lot of diversity in Boston, but often people stay in their enclaves. So a cultural event like this brings people together to celebrate each other – not only in what makes us the same as human beings, but also in what makes us unique. . . was a potentially beautiful thing in Boston.


July 9, 2-7 p.m. Harvard University Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain.

AZ Madonna can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @knitandlisten.

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