Boston After Dark: Glory, Old

Posters of protest at Massachusetts College of Art
By THEODORE GROSS  |  June 3, 2010

This story was originally published in the May 26, 1970 issue of the Boston Phoenix

Since the national student strike began, the Massachusetts College of Art, on Brookline Avenue in Boston, has undergone a remarkable change. In the past fortnight, the campus has been transferred into a full-time factory creating art work for protests against the Indochinese war and domestic repression. The change––or “Redirection” as it is called––has provided area colleges and action centers with posters, flyers, and theatrical performances. It has drawn on the talents of over 100 of the school’s painters, potters, photographers, designers, and actors, who go about their work with a degree of imagination, devotion, and good feeling, that is truly heartening.

A visit to the school is a moving experience. On the campus lawn there is a symbolic graveyard for the victims of our war. Scores of white wooden crosses dot the grass. (Behind the building, students have converted a parking lot into a correlative “Peace Garden.”) Nearby, two mourners, draped in black robes and hood and wearing white masks, stand beside a bell on an elevated platform. At five second intervals, one mourner strikes the bell to symbolize the death of another soldier. Last week, there was some controversy over the ceremony when police reported a complaint that the ringing created too much noise (despite the heavy construction work and traffic nearby). The students chose not to make an issue over it and since then the bell has been draped in cloth to mute the noise. A student at the college remarked, “They heard too much noise in their hearts, not their ears. That’s what they couldn’t stand.”

Inside, the studios bustle with strike activity. One large room is inhabited by a zoo of creatures made from chicken wire and papier-mâché; an ass with exaggerated ears, a pig with dilated snout, a painted owl, and masks of goggled National Guards. These make up the costumes for one of three ritual theatre groups, the guerilla artists who perform on street corners and in squares around Boston.

In a small room (once belonging to the student government) are the headquarters for the graphic designers. Here orders are taken (the number is 232-8233) from action centers and area colleges for posters.

I talked with Robert Moore, a young indefatigable teacher and coordinator of the “Redirection.” He spoke enthusiastically about the art work being done there and at the Museum of Fine Arts School. “Students have become more self-critical about their work; they get feedback from the community, and they feel they are making a real contribution– and they are. Instead of imaginary problems––such as how to advertise some product ––we are dealing with issues that concern us.”

Moore and the others hope to keep their work going through the summer, expanding their efforts to include environmental issues as well as election campaigns for peace candidates. They talk about integrating the “Redirection” into the college curriculum next Fall.

“That’s our next step,” Moore commented. From the dedication of the students, their solidarity and sense of community, it appears that step will not be a big one.

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