Stable Ground 2.0

Stable Ground addresses the complicated relationship between chronic housing insecurity, its psychologically traumatic impact, and municipal housing policy through a participatory community-based art and cultural program structured to inform the work of the City of Boston’s Office of Housing Stability. This project allowed us to create a residency program that embeds artists, legal designers, and trauma experts into community settings that contribute to local visual/performing arts exhibits and art-making events. These events have included facilitated conversations among artists, residents, activists, organizers, experts, and municipal leaders, all structured to inform existing OHS services and those in development. The cross-sector team formed by the Stable Ground initiative was funded by the Kresge Foundation, and it represents a collaboration between four service-aligned organizations: NuLawLab, the Office of Housing Stability, Violence Transformed, and the Domestic Violence Institute. 

The Kresge Foundation made an initial grant of $200,000 to the NuLawLab in 2017. Through a recent renewal grant from The Kresge Foundation, we are now entering our third year of Stable Ground. This next iteration of Stable Ground will continue to develop knowledge that will inform cutting-edge policy and program development, all centered on addressing the unique attributes of the trauma that comes from housing insecurity. We believe in the power of the creative process to inform and directly influence policy. 

This renewal award will enable the NuLawLab and its community and municipal partners to continue to address the complicated relationship among chronic housing insecurity, its psychologically traumatic impact, and municipal housing policy through participatory community-based art and culture programming. 

Collaborations with local artists are central to Stable Ground. This coming year, through Stable Ground, the NuLawLab is engaged with three Artists in Residence (AIR), a Community Storytelling Curator, and is expanding its work with local artist, organizer, and educator Anthony Romero. The Stable Ground AIR program creates an opportunity for visual and performing artists to develop their social-based artistic practice to become engaged in a thoughtful, facilitated dialogue with community members about the personal impact that housing insecurity has on Boston’s residents. 

The 2020 Stable Ground Artists in Residence are: 

Ngoc-Tran Vu, a Vietnamese American multimedia and transnational artist whose practice draws from her experience as a community organizer and healer. She was born in Vietnam and grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts, where she’s currently based. Tran is involved with the resident-led group Dorchester Not For Sale, where she actively fights for development without displacement in her community. For more information, visit Tran’s website. 

L’Merchie Fraser, a public fiber artist, innovator, poet, and holographer, who is director of education and interpretation for the Museum of African American History, Boston/Nantucket. She has been engaged in highlighting and curating the museum’s collection/exhibits, in providing place-based education and interdisciplinary history programs, projects and lectures, most recently promoting STEM/STEAM education pedagogy, and in managing the successful Faculty/Teachers’ Institutes and its extension, The Cross-Cultural Classroom, a benefit marketed to independent education entities, municipalities, and corporations. She is an adjunct faculty member at Pine Manor College and Bunker Hill Community Colleges. She has served the artistic community for over 20 years as an award-winning national and international visual and performance artist and poet, with residencies in Brazil, Taiwan, Africa, France, and Cuba. As a lecturer and workshop presenter. Her audiences include youth and adults. She is a former board member of City Life/Vida Urbana, is on the advisory board of Paige Academy, and is an Art Commons Boston AppLab board member. She currently serves as Violence Transformed’s director of creative engagement.

Hakim Raquib has owned and operated Hakim Photography Studio for the past 38 years in Boston. His featured images have been highlighted and shown in exhibitions, billboards, catalogs, advertisements, and other publications for four decades. Notable clients include Polaroid Corporation, Xerox, The Boston Globe’s Globe Magazine, The Travel Magazine, The Bay State Banner, Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists, Museum of Fine Arts, Urban Arts Institute of Massachusetts College of Arts, WGBH Boston, Oxfam America, Partners HealthCare, Northeastern University, and Boston University. In addition to his photographic work, Raquib has served as an educational consultant for Urban Arts Inc., Wentworth Institute of Technology, and New Mission High School. In collaboration with these organizations, Raquib developed workshops that instructed inner-city high school students in the media arts.

In addition to the AIR program, during the 2020 season, NuLawLab Creative Director Jules Rochielle Sievert will collaborate with local artist and curator Glorettta Baynes to organize and curate Stories We Want to Tell, a Stable Ground storytelling project about displacement, resistance, and hope. Baynes, a Cambridge native and alumna of Massachusetts College of Art and is an independent curator and cultural consultant and the former assistant director and registrar for the museum of the National Center of Afro American artists. She is the former chair for the Registrars Committee of the Association of African American Museums. She is an exhibition designer for Community Creations, an annual exhibition hosted by the Gardner Museum.

As a result of our engagement with local artists, we have also created a formal program with artist Anthony Romero. Our Stable Ground: Anti-Displacement Lab is currently at the Institute for Contemporary Arts in Boston. This effort is one part of the lab’s long-term engagement with Boston-based artist, organizer, and educator Anthony Romero and Northeastern University’s Archives and Special Collections. Romero’s work, ‚Ķfirst in thought, then in action, to which the NuLawLab and Northeastern Law students contributed, is part of the ICA’s current exhibition When Home Won’t Let you Stay: Migration through Contemporary Art.

With Anthony, a series of community engagement events were developed in collaboration with the NuLawLab, an interdisciplinary innovation laboratory working to imagine, design, test, and implement pioneering approaches to legal empowerment and in dialogue with East Boston residents. We held a small number of community listening events and meals. At these events, residents will have the opportunity to share their experiences and to request a legal empowerment workshop. For example, residents struggling with housing issues may share their experiences at a listening event and request a know-your-rights and legal information workshop related to housing rights and law.