Common Exchange Exhibition

Common Exchange

Performing the Cambridge Common
Park installations and performances: May 13 – September 30, 2017
Gallery 344 Exhibitions: April 24 – December 2017
Opening event and performances on the Common:
Saturday, May 13th 3-6pm

Carmen Papalia: Blind Field Shuttle - A line of people crossing the street with security guard
Carmen Papalia, Blind Field Shuttle, 2012, San Francisco, CA,
California College of the Arts. Photo by Jordan Reznick.

Beginning in May, Cambridge Arts will present Common Exchange, a series of art installations, performances, and exhibitions in and around the Cambridge Common that highlights the historic green as a connective space: a space defined by the exchange of ideas, words, and things—a space of conversation. Organized in honor of the park’s recent pathway renovations, time-based and participatory projects will take place over five months and include the work of ten artists: Andy Graydon, Paul Ramirez Jonas, Carmen Papalia, Aki Sasamoto, Kelly Sherman, Xaviera Simmons, Allison Smith, Julianne Swartz, Lee Walton and Jon Rubin. Common Exchange is organized by guest curator Dina Deitsch and Cambridge Arts Director of Public Art Lillian Hsu.

Through exhibitions, performances, installations, and a special edition newspaper designed by the Lesley University Community Design Studio, Common Exchange will reframe the experience of the Cambridge Common for the public.

The recent renovation of the Cambridge Common brings many improvements in accessibility and connectivity to surrounding neighborhoods for pedestrians and bicyclists. Situated at the heart of the City, the Common, like all public spaces, is a place that acquires meaning when citizens use it. Since its early days dating back to the 1600’s, when it was a place for cattle grazing, and during subsequent periods when it became a site for military training and housing, a place for concerts and protests, and a parkland for contemplation and play, it has remained an important communal space that houses and reflects the changing temperament of public participation in civic life over time.

The nine participatory projects of Common Exchange explore this history of the Common while reaffirming its role as a site for gathering, conversation, action, and exchange. 


Three installations will dot the park from late spring through the summer.

Julianne Swartz's We Complete (2017) invites visitors to launch a sound piece by simply sitting and holding hands. Vocal declarations will echo out from a marked bench as two people sit and touch to complete an electrical circuit to run the speaker system, manifesting connectivity in a joyous and playful encounter.

Paul Ramirez Jonas's Publicar (2009/2017) is a set of interactive sculptures that stand in stark contrast to the existing bronze and stone monuments that characterize the Common, by replacing bronze plaques with cork message boards embedded in two enormous boulders. Visitors can post their own messages here to add their voices into the public space of the city's park and invert the hierarchy of the traditional monument

Paul Ramirez Jonas, Publicar - A woman pinning a not to a bulletin board embedded in stone

Paul Ramirez Jonas, Publicar I, 2009, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 7th Bienal do Mercosul. Photo by Paul Ramirez Jonas.

Kelly Sherman’s
We Were Here – Memories of Cambridge Common (2017), converts the oldest and central point of the city into an intimate space through a series of park-wide banners that memorialize individuals’ personal narratives in poetic form. Sherman collected these stories over the course of the year through online forms, in-person meetings, and an open telephone line, and distilled them into short but evocative texts. “As the Cambridge Common has transitioned over the centuries from battleground to playground,” explains Sherman, “the important memories being created there are becoming less public and historic, and more private and personal.”


The Common will be activated with live performances on the first and third Thursday evenings at 6pm and weekends of each month. For a full and final calendar of events, and for event updates, please visit the Cambridge Arts website.

Common Exchange
will launch its performance program on Saturday, May 13th (coinciding with Cambridge Arts Open Studios) with performances by Carmen Papalia, Andy Graydon, and Lee Walton and Jon Rubin. A closing celebration will be held on September 17, with performances by Aki Sasamoto, Carmen Papalia, and Andy Graydon.

Performance / Event Descriptions:

Andy Graydon, Gathering Note:
Graydon will present a live choral performance scattered throughout the park and sung by area choir members that reflects on the timing of historic, Puritan hymns and the formation of congregations as idiosyncratic collectives.

Carmen Papalia, Blind Field Shuttle: Papalia will lead participatory vision-less walking tours of the park, exploring access and trust in public space.

Jon Rubin and Lee Walton, When the World's on Fire: Beginning on May 13, Rubin and Walton will launch a 30-day performance by a pair of historic fife and drum performers playing protest songs each day following from 12-2pm.

Aki Sasamoto, Food Rental: Sasamoto will perform her acclaimed Food Rental, a hand-made food cart by which the artist offers a series of individually-ordered performances in place of hotdogs or pretzels. Part improv, part installation, Sasamoto’s work reframes an every-day interaction into a slightly awkward artistic exchange that questions the line between customer and audience.

Aki Sasamoto addressing a crowd at her homemade food rental truck

Aki Sasamoto, Food Rental, 2015, High Line at the Rail Yards, New York.
Photo by Liz Ligon. Courtesy of Friends of the High Line.

Xaviera Simmons, Number 22 (Overlay):  Simmons collaborated with the neighboring Radcliffe Institute of Advance Study’s Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America to create film and performances that retell feminist history through bodies and voices hidden deep within the archive. Her film and images will be on view at Radcliffe's Johnson-Kulukundis Family Gallery (8 Garden Street) from April 26 – July 1; her performance, Number 22 (Overlay) will feature a series of movements and readings by area actors.

Allison Smith, Common Goods
Smith presents Common Goods as a crafting performance in the park and installation at the nearby Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University (24 Quincy Street). Exploring the history of making in Cambridge, Smith will lead colonial-era making workshops and discussions to address issues of early moments in statehood, revolution, and the capacity of objects to effect and reflect change. On June 4, guest artist Judith Leemann will replace Smith in leading a discussion and demonstration. 

Performance / Event Schedule

Download a PDF of the Full Performance and Event Schedule


Alongside performances and installations at the park, Cambridge Arts will host three exhibitions in Gallery 344, at 344 Broadway:
Kelly Sherman: April 24 - June 30
Andy Graydon: July 17 - September 8
Carmen Papalia: September 18 - December 15
Visit Gallery 344’s page for updates and details. 


Common Exchange, the special edition newspaper: The Lesley University College of Art and Design’s Community Design Studio, led by designer Rick Rawlins, is creating a 4-issue newspaper operating as a printed ‘commons’ for the public art projects and the community, including contributions by the artists, curators, members of the public, and City staff, alongside historic material related to the Park and its projects. The newspaper will be available on display racks at various public locations, and distributed at events. Visit the website for locations. 


Additional information about Common Exchange can be found on our website, on Facebook @cambridgeartscouncil, on Twitter @cambridgearts, and on Instagram @cambridgearts. Posts will be tagged with #CommonExchangeCambridge and/or #PerformingTheCommon.

Stylized map of the Cambridge Common

Common Exchange is made possible through multiple partnerships and sources of support, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the Cambridge/Agassiz/Harvard Community Culture and Recreation Fund, the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, the Artists Resource Trust Fund of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, the Community Design Studio of LUCAD, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the VIA Art Fund, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, First Church Cambridge, Holosonics, and the City of Cambridge.

Logos for Cambridge Arts Council, Art Works, Mass Cultural Council
VIA Art Logo

For additional information please contact:
Lillian Hsu, Director of Public Art and Exhibitions, Cambridge Arts; 617-349-4389