Common Exchange Exhibition

'Common Exchange' logo

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

Download a PDF of the Full Performance and Event Schedule.

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 place where we come together as a community— a place for conversation, a place for sharing ideas.

The series kicks off with performances and public art at the Common from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 13. Join an eyes-closed tour (pictured above) of the park to get a new perspective on the accessibility of our shared civic spaces. Fife and drum musicians will play protest songs. A choir will materialize from the edges of the park and come together in harmony at the center. Banners hung around the park will be printed with residents’ personal recollections of memorable moments they have spent there. To prompt thoughts on how traditional public monuments function, a boulder with a cork message board embedded in its side will be placed in the park for visitors to post their own public messages to the community.

Performances, temporary public art, and projects in which visitors can participate will continue over five months and include the work of 10 artists: Andy Graydon, Paul Ramirez Jonas, Carmen Papalia, Aki Sasamoto, Kelly Sherman, Xaviera Simmons, Allison Smith, Julianne Swartz, Lee Walton and Jon Rubin. Four editions of Common Exchange, a newspaper highlighting themes of the art series, will be distributed for free around the park and across the city. The publication was designed by the Lesley University College of Art and Design’s Community Design Studio and specially printed for the project. Download a PDF of the Full Performance and Event Schedule.

Developed to celebrate the park’s recent pathway renovations, Common Exchange is organized by guest curator Dina Deitsch and Cambridge Arts Director of Public Art Lillian Hsu. Through exhibitions, performances, installations, and the newspaper, it will reframe how we experience the historic Cambridge Common.


Common Exchange will launch its performance program in the park on Saturday, May 13, (coinciding with Cambridge Arts Open Studios) with live performances by Carmen Papalia (Vancouver), Andy Graydon (Cambridge, Mass.) and Lee Walton (Greensboro, N.C.) and Jon Rubin (Pittsburgh). Performances continue through the summer with pieces by Aki Sasamoto (New York City), Xaviera Simmons (New York City) and Allison Smith (Oakland, Calif.). A closing celebration will be held on Sept. 17, with performances by Sasamoto, Papalia, and Graydon.

The Common will be activated with live performances on the first and third Thursday evenings at 6 p.m. and weekends of each month. Download a PDF of the Full Performance and Event Schedule.

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 ShuttlePapalia 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 FireBeginning 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 RentalSasamoto 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.


Three installations by Paul Ramirez Jonas (New York City), Kelly Sherman (Cambridge, Mass.) and Julianne Swartz (Kingston, N.Y.) will dot the park from May 13 to Sept. 17, 2017.

Paul Ramirez Jonas's Publicar (2009/2017) is an interactive sculpture that stands in stark contrast to the existing bronze and stone monuments that characterize the Common, by replacing bronze plaques with a cork message boards embedded in a boulder. Visitors can post their own messages here to add their voices to 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.”

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.


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.


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

Download a PDF of the Full Performance and Event Schedule.

'Common Exchange' schedule.

In the News

An Interview with Allison Smith - Big Red & Shiny

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