The Sirocco Fab 5 is still working on a series of articles on Cambridgeport and the story line is quite simple: our winding journey from the base of Magazine Street at the Charles River, up to Central Square. The base of Magazine Street features the original magazine where artillery and gunpowder was stored.
If we’ve understood the narrative correctly (more research coming), that original magazine—an important storage facility for the war of 1812—was actually accessed by bridge only. Magazine Beach was also accessed by bridge and, as one looks towards Back Bay at the bend in the river, the entire area on the Cambridge side, close to the magazine was marsh.
After aggressive river cleaning efforts, Magazine Beach is once again a popular summer hangout.
On a unseasonably warm February afternoon we tried to purposefully get lost in the neighborhood, moving from the base up in search of our next story (actually, we have built study abroad programs around this activity), Jacob, SB lead facilitator, stumbled across a very interesting local art gallery, Gallery 263.
We continued on to a bodega on Brookline Street (it feels like one of the porthole-vortexes in a Daniel José Older novel), while Jacob mused the edifice.
Gallery 263: if it were a café, we’d be there daily, writing and doing word-image projects. Two beautiful windows look out onto Putnam Ave, one of the most traversed streets of Cambridgeport, moving across Pearl, Brookline, Magazine, Western, and River streets. It runs parallel to Memorial Drive in some areas, depending on the river bends. Yet this corner feels like the crossroads where the most local of local activities and artistic searches—the changes in the pulse of the neighborhood—must be somehow registered. Despite development in Cambrideport, this particular part of the neighborhood seems to scream for the past to join it and so Jacob entered, not sure what he was getting himself into, perhaps feeling a bit like Riley (it’s an Older thing).
As our founder gazed at one particularly Sirocco-esque image by (we pledge to return and find the artist’s name on our next visit), the planners for the annual Magazine Beach events strolled in. When Jacob heard one of the planner-participants talking about the use of small liquor bottles left on the street and around the old magazine to mix paint for artwork, he was hooked. Once again, Sirocco Blue found itself at a pivotal joining that connected gallery space and community events.
As the ideas were shared for summer programming (some sounding quite lavish, like Great Neck, Long Island nestling itself into the grassy knoll of the Charles), Jacob’s mind raced and, post-meeting, he shared what the Fab 5 saw last summer at Magazine Beach: kids running from the pool area to the beach; the delightful sound of Spanish, Portuguese, and Crioulo; classic Cumbia, Salsa and Merengue blasting on boom boxes; the wonderful smell of good home-cooked food, recipes hailing from Ponce, Kingston, Port-au-Prince, Puebla, Fogo, Bani, and Medellín… That is our perspective on an “audience” for a community event and the groups of people we think of building around, mostly because that way of enjoying the magazine seems so natural and those families will already be part of the celebration with or without an event.
And thus the paradigm emerges, one that we will be exploring as the summer programming for Magazine Beach and public activities in Cambridgeport are mused:
Especially in the context of an expansive gentrification process—and one which reaches into the past, seen clearly in restorative techniques on the beautiful homes, images below—how do organizers build with the people who have been using and continue to use the neighborhood’s public parks and facilities? If Magazine Beach is so used—a July and August Sunday is already an event in its own right if you find a way to enhance it—what becomes of the people who use it when an event comes through? How do you build programming around the majority of the people who use the space, though from an outsider perspective as a newcomer to the area, described?
And then rushing through the porthole, certainly because World Music is hosting an incredible Flamenco series in March, came the Radio Tarifa album concept (basically, an imaginary radio station positioned between North Africa and Spain, pulling in sound from all traditions) and the idea: Let the families who are always using the beach curate their own hybrid ‘Cambridgeport Station’ that begins at Gallery 263 as a series of visual declarations—accompanied by music—made by kids, parents, families, visitors. Call the radio station CambridgePORT. The families curate the music played for all, each family bringing their own boom box (and one guaranteed boom box already set up at the beach). If they want to bring in music groups, wonderful. If they want to bring in dance, even more wonderful. If they just want to share their radio dial, perfect. If Izzy’s, Dimitrio’s, Andala, Cesaria’s, and other venues want to join, give them the info! In that way, everyone’s sound contributes to the day and you build around the way people use the beach each weekend.
Gathering at Gallery 263 to create together. A parade to the beach, starting at Gallery 263, accompanied by boom boxes. Food. And as El Gran Combo would say, no hay ma’ na’: bien sencillito.