With ‘Still Running: An Art Marathon for Boston,’ BU students hope to help the city heal through artistic collaboration

Two days after the bombings at the Boston Marathon, Boston University students Taylor Mortell and Luca De Gaetano were seated in painting class, their first since BU had resumed classes. But nobody painted that morning.

“We naturally formed a circle and were trying to talk about it,” Mortell says. “Everyone was very shaken up by what had happened. Out of this group discussion, Luca and I had expressed that we wanted to do something to help the community heal.”

Two days later the friends had created ‘Still Running: An Art Marathon for Boston.’ They put out a call for art through their contacts in the art community — as well as through various social media outlets including Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr — asking any and all to donate original works of art — inspired by the events at the marathon and by Boston at large — for the project.

“We hope to bring the art community and the general community of greater Boston together in an effort to give back and heal together,” says Mortell. “There are so many different art programs and art associations around Boston, and I think it would be awesome to see them working together on something. And, it is important to us to have the product of this cooperation be friendly and accessible to the general public. We want to show that each individual contribution matters, and that collectively, we could say something very powerful. We really like the idea of an art show for Boston, by Boston.”

And, as the name of their project suggests, it’s less a show than an ongoing community collaboration.

“We will be having a series of ‘Art Marathon’ events and smaller exhibitions in the year leading up to the 2014 Marathon,” says Mortell. “[At which point] we hope to have a larger final exhibition of these works and sell them to benefit local charities.”

A mixed-media submission by Mass Art student Alyssa Aviles

 

During this process, Mortell and De Gaetano plan to, in turn, give much of the donated artwork they receive as gifts of thanks and “gestures of kindness” to local police stations, runners, the injured, and anyone who was involved in the tragedy, in any capacity. They also hope to, eventually, raise enough money to be able to donate to the One Fund as well as other local non-profits that have aligned themselves with the cause.

To present their project to the public, and stimulate more involvement, they’re holding their first “marathon” this Saturday at BU’s 808 Gallery. To be clear, it’s not a show, but a participatory art event. It’s “confusing for a lot of people,” says Mortell. “We’re inviting all the different art communities of the greater Boston Area and the public to come together and make artwork together to kick off the Still Running effort. We are hoping to get a large enough volume of work from the event to get a small traveling exhibition going to continue to promote awareness and get even more people involved.”

The event is open to all, and Mortell and DeGaetano will provide all paper and art materials. Participants are invited to work from each other’s community portraits as well as to sketch sneakers and running shoes they’ll have on hand for inspiration.

“I think it would be interesting to have a collection of drawings of running shoes alongside drawings of shoes that people wore to the event,” says Mortell. “I personally like this because I think it puts an emphasis on the community aspect of the event while keeping the marathon theme relevant.”

Thus far, the project has received submissions and proposals from interested artists ranging in age from 7 to 89, a testament to the spirit of community both in this town’s art scene and Boston as a city.

For more information visit bostonartsmarathon.com.

The first Art Marathon is Saturday, May 25 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Boston University’s 808 Gallery, 808 Comm. Ave., Boston. The event is free and open to the public.