Talk of the Town | Reflecting on our Pandemic Experience: A Public Art Project

Reflecting on our Pandemic Experience:

The Arlington Commission for Arts & Culture (ACAC) invited artist, designer, and storyteller Nilou Moochhala to be the town’s second Artist-in-Residence this Spring, 2021. ACAC Public Art Curator Cecily Miller asked Moochhala to develop her personal drawing project – “The Virus Series” – into something that could be shared with the community in a public space.

Moochhala was energized by the challenge and proposed to interview a diverse cross section of people who work or live in the town about their pandemic experiences. She developed 50 new drawings in response to their stories and combined these with 50 of her original drawings to create a large scale installation entitled “Reflecting on our Pandemic Experience.” 100 drawings total – transformed into meditation flags – are installed in a pine grove in one of Arlington’s jewels: Menotomy Rocks Park.

In this magical setting, light filters through the trees to illuminate strings of flags gently moving in the breeze. This small swatch of forest, miraculoulsy preserved so close to Boston, was essential for many people during the pandemic as a place to safely walk and reconnect with nature. Now it offers a peaceful, welcoming and inspirational place for healing and reflection. A second smaller installation is located outside the Kickstand Cafe in Arlington’s Cultural District. For this busy social space, Moochhala created flags with short “pull quotes” from 13 interviews paired with the corresponding drawing. The installations will be on view through October 2021. The ACAC board will be requesting the Menotomy Rocks installation stay up for a full year.

Moochhala interviewed leaders in town government including the Town Manager, Fire Chief, Head of Library Circulation and a Select Board Member. She reached out to front-line workers, teachers, medical professionals, local business owners, public housing residents, and inventor/engineers. Moochhala talked to the new parents of a “pandemic baby,” middle-school and college students, working parents and retired seniors. Some of the stories she heard were heart-breaking, but most were inspiring accounts of resiliency, compassion, and humanity.

The installation is inspired by prayer flags used by many cultures to promote peace and strength; it is traditionally believed that messages on the flags will be blown by the wind to spread compassion and peace into all surrounding space.

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This video was created in coordination with Arlington Community Media, Inc. in Arlington, MA. ACMi is dedicated to providing an electronic forum for the free exchange of information and ideas which reflect the talents, skills, interests, concerns, and diversity of the Arlington, Massachusetts community.

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