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Shade is Social Justice


Music Performance at Lafayette Square

Jill Brown-Rhone Park, a heat spot in Central Square


Cambridge Arts and the City of Cambridge are looking for three artists or interdisciplinary teams to create temporary shade structures that also serve as places for community gathering. For our Shade is Social Justice program, we're seeking projects that provide cooling for people in our warming world and use the power of design to prompt imagination, community-building, and action addressing climate change in cities. Each approved project will receive a budget of approximately $27,000. Apply by April 24, 2023. If you want to learn more about this opportunity, join us at an online information session on April 10 at 6 pm, Registration Required: https://cambridgema.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_aYpo8dqMS6Cs78-3qGpFtQ#/registration

Shade is Social Justice is funded by an Accelerating Climate Resiliency grant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). It is one of the innovative ways the City of Cambridge is building climate resiliency and preparedness—and using the power of art and design to shape perception, strengthen communities, and find solutions.


Imaginative solutions: Artists are uniquely skilled at cross-disciplinary responses to complex challenges that also engage a multi-generational public. Shade is Social Justice is an opportunity for artists and designers to explore imaginative solutions to the problem of heat islands throughout the city, particularly in areas with the highest risks. Because we know that social connection increases preparedness and resiliency, we are looking for solutions that combine reasons for gathering with cooling.

Material science and Engineering:Shade is Social Justice is also an opportunity to investigate material science and engineering to identify ways in which sustainable material choices and methods of fabrication can best serve the mission of the project.

More Than Shade: Shade structures are not effective unless they are used. Shade is Social Justice is an opportunity for artists and designers to consider how to incorporate interactive attractions in a shade structure, such as playful elements, data collection, lighting, educational messaging, or misting. Seating will be an important part of the design. Programming will further the impact and promotion of the project.

Social Justice and Replicability: Climate change is complicated to communicate, heat is invisible, and heat risk is unequally distributed across the city. The problems and the solutions around climate change go beyond any one municipality. Shade is Social Justice aims to offer replicable designs for shade structures that could be used in multiple neighborhoods and by other municipalities.


  1. Jill Brown-Rhone Park, also known as Lafayette Square, in Central Square 
  2. Donnelly Field, near Frisoli Youth Center and King Open/Cambridge Street Upper School complex 
  3. Russell Field and playground, off Rindge Avenue 


Cambridge map with site locations



  1. Selected artists or teams will create a proposal for detailed design, fabrication materials and methods, installation method, and other aspects. Artist(s) will work in consultation with city departments (e.g. Community Development, Arts Council, Public Works, Public Health, Human Services Programs 
  2. The city will provide site information and other ongoing support throughout the project - during design development, community engagement, and installation. 
  3. Concepts will need to integrate seating into the overall design. 
  4. Structures must respond to the site context. City staff will assist and connect artists with site history, current activity, and relevant neighborhood information and resources. 
  5. Additional shade structure features can include lighting, misting, and playful or interactive elements. Data collection and educational information are encouraged (e.g., temperature sensors, visitor counters, etc.) 
  6. The city will seek designs that are replicable for other neighborhoods or by other communities. The city is also interested in the potential to adapt the temporary structure design for future permanent solutions. 
  7. Selection of three proposals for three sites will be a public process, including review by the Public Art Commission. 
  8. The city, in partnership with the artists, will program community engagement activities to gather neighborhood input, showcase finalists’ proposals, and promote the projects.


  • Experience creating art projects responsive to public spaces and welcoming to visitors of all backgrounds, abilities, and ages. 
  • Experience creating artwork that is in scale with its site. 
  • Experience managing time and budget for a public art project. 
  • Experience collaborating with members of the public and project stakeholders. 
  • Availability over the course of a two-year project. 
  • Preference will be given to artists or designers based in the Cambridge area. 


The City of Cambridge is taking a variety of actions to create a resilient city and address the impact of a warming climate.

Neighborhoods across Cambridge are experiencing hotter summers and more severe heat waves. Average summer temperatures in Cambridge are expected to increase 6-10 degrees Fahrenheit by the 2070s. Extreme heat exposure is a health risk and has a disproportionate impact on communities of color and lower income levels. Increasing development, use of building materials that retain heat, loss of tree canopy, and socio-economic factors contribute to heat risks for residents, workers, and visitors. The city is actively addressing these factors through efforts such as green building requirements, promoting reflective roof materials and green roofs, urban forestry planning, and numerous programs to strengthen community cohesion and individual health. Finding ways to stay cool and safe, both at home and outside, is more important than ever.

Cambridge map with an overlay of ambient temperature

Estimated Ambient Air Temperature

Improving access to open space and increasing tree canopy and shade are key priorities of the Resilient Cambridge Plan. Locations identified for this project are places of community interaction and work and play activity, offering opportunities to expand social services. Social connection, a key ingredient in building community resilience is critical to ensure that people have access to services or spaces that are, by design, resilient to extreme heat.

For more information see:


  1. Interested artists apply through our Public Art Registry on SlideRoom. 
  2. An Art Jury will recommend six artists or teams based on qualifications, which we define as past work and experience. 
  3. A panel composed of city staff and community members will conduct interviews with the six artists or teams. City staff will assist artists to prepare for interviews. 
  4. The panel will select three artists or teams, one for each of the three sites. 


The budget for each commissioned artist is anticipated to be approximately $27,000. Budget is inclusive of all costs, including, but not limited to, artist’s fee, community engagement, engineering, fabrication, insurance, installation.


March 20, 2023   Announce call for artists and designers.

April 10, 2023  Information session for interested applicants. Register here

April 24, 2023 Final date to submit qualifications on Slideroom (visuals and biographical information)

May, 2023  Review of applications

Late May- Jun, 2023  Interview 6 finalists and award contracts to 3 artists or teams

Summer-fall, 2023  3 selected artists/teams develop proposals in collaboration with city staff and community members

Fall 2023-winter 2024  Community engagement, detail design development, review/approval process, fabrication

Spring-Summer 2024  Installation of Shade Structures, public programs

Fall 2024  Community engagement and evaluation


We invite you to submit images of past work and biographical information to be considered for this project. We are not requesting proposals at this time. 

Submit images of past work and biographical information at http://cac.slideroom.com

If you are not in our artist registry, registration is free and easy – upload digital files of past work samples and complete the form for artist information. Once you are in our registry you will be considered for this project as well as for future public art commissions administered by the City of Cambridge.

If you are already in the registry, you must email Claudia Zarazua, Arts and Cultural Planning Director, at czarazua@cambridgema.gov, to express your interest in this specific project, Shade is Social Justice. We also encourage you to update your portfolio on SlideRoom. To make updates, you must send an email to request access to your portfolio. Email Claudia Zarazua, Arts and Cultural Planning Director at czarazua@cambridgema.gov.

For technical support using SlideRoom, please email support@slideroom.com . For other project related questions, please contact Claudia Zarazua, Arts & Cultural Planning Director at czarazua@cambridgema.gov .

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