Community mural created by local artist, LGBTQ+ youth

Through a generous grant from the Arlington Cultural Council and the Arlington Center for the Arts,  the Mystic LGBTQ+ Youth Support Network (Queer Mystic), an organization dedicated to providing services and support to the area’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer/questioning youth, and Bren Bataclan created a mural for the Housing Corporation of Arlington to display at the Arlington Food Pantry at 117 Broadway.

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Anticipation is high as youth from the Mystic LGBTQ+ Youth Support Network prepare to unveil this new community mural

A public unveiling on Friday, June 3rd at the Arlington Food Pantry at 7:00 pm allowed community members to celebrate this piece of community-minded artwork.

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The mural is unveiled!

Local artist Bren Bataclan,  who is known for his “Project Smile,” a series of public-art installations encouraging people to smile at one another more often, and the gorgeous murals he has painted in several schools around the world, held two workshops with LGBTQ+ youth to design the mural together.

Bren with mural in progress

Bren Bataclan, in the early stages of painting.

The portable mural’s theme is “A Sharing Community” and was developed by the youth who attend a drop-in night every Friday at Arlington Center for the Arts.

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Youth prepare ideas and sketches during one the Mystic LGBTQ+ Youth Support Network’s Friday Night Drop-In sessions!

Bataclan used the ideas and sketches that the youth created to make the layout for the final design. Elements of the design include a giant rainbow, happy carrots holding hands and pretzel love.

Jeannette, Bren, Mykael at mural unveiling

Bren Bataclan with Jeannette and Mykael Hawley, members of the Steering Committee for the Mystic LGBTQ Youth Support Network.


Thanks to everyone who made this community-minded mural possible – especially the Arlington Cultural Council, Bren Bataclan, and the wonderful youth of the Mystic LGBTQ+ Youth Support Network.

View Bataclan’s Project Smile here >> 

See his video blog “Beanie and Bren,” which teaches painting techniques, here >>


Developing Perspectives in Moshi, TZ

I arrived in Moshi, TZ last March for a much-anticipated visit with my sister. I was greeted by her smile, hugs, and a blast of heat, the extreme of which challenged every fiber of my Bostonian being.


My sister, Meritt, is spending a year working in Moshi working with Building a Caring Community (BCC). One of the first projects that she conceptualized when she got the position was for me to come and run a basic photography lesson for the older children and  to produce subsequent exhibit. With love for all aspects of such a venture, I was thrilled.

After a mere 36 hours to recover from jetlag and adjust to my new surroundings, Meritt, job coach Patrick Mangowi, and I found ourselves standing in front of some very excited kids with boxes of disposable cameras. The young adults of BCC are the most engaging and endearing group one could ever meet.

The stigma of their intellectual disabilities has historically kept them apart from society. But with the advent of BCC and its Young Adult program, they have found a wonderfully supportive community. They spend their days playing and learning together. Some days they make recycle paper to make beautiful handmade cards. Others, they work in their vegetable garden, growing food to feed the other children in the BCC program and for profit. With these vocational training programs, they are contributing financially to their families for the first time.


These kids love photos and cameras. A digital camera or smart phone means hours of entertainment for them. So for each of them to have their own camera and the chance to take their own photos brought each of them true joy. I instructed each of them to begin by thinking of things that made them happy, or made them sad, things that are important to them. Then they each chose their favorite place around the center to be the subject of their first photo. From there we walked through the village and visited one of the students’ homes.

They were so excited by the simple cameras that in an effort to slow them down we decided not to show them how to wind the film. They ran to us after each picture in order to have it reset so they could snap another. The basis of my ‘lesson’ was trying to help them to hold still before taking the photo.


After everyone had exhausted their film, and themselves we walked back to the BCC center. I had a child holding both of my hands the entire way. Mostly our conversations were one or two word exchanges and involved lots of hand gestures.  They taught me animal names in Swahili and they smiled and giggled encouragingly as I learned to pronounce the words. One of the boys pointed to himself and then to me and with a huge grin, repeated,“African”, “American.” And then he would point at both of us again and say “rafiki” (friend), with an equally big grin.

My sister tells me that the kids cannot fully understand the nature of this exhibit. But they are very proud and pleased that people are looking at their pictures in America and I am so very proud to be sharing their photos!


You can preview the Developing Perspectives exhibition here.  Please contact me at if you would like to purchase a photo remotely.  All proceeds from Developing Perspectives will go directly to Building a Caring Community.  The funds raised here will support physical therapy programs, medical care and outreach in the Moshi Community.  They will purchase much needed supplies, like orthopedic shoes, nutritional supplements, books, and school supplies for BCC students.


ACA visits the State House

State Representatives, artists, and community members alike gathered last Wednesday, July 20th, at the Massachusetts State House to celebrate the work of 11 Arlington artists, currently on display at the State House.


ACA and our amazing artists, along with Senator Ken Donnelly and State Representative Sean Garballey, at the Massachusetts State House.

The show was initiated, in part, by Senator Ken Donnelly, who contacted Linda Shoemaker, ACA’s Executive Director, about a special opportunity to exhibit work by local artists – and Shoemaker jumped at the chance.


ACA and artists touring the beautiful Massachusetts State House!

11 Arlington artists were featured in the exhibition: Adrienne Landry, Marjorie Glick, Pamela Shanley, Vicki Paret, Olga Yakovleva, Nilou Moochhala, Connie Chamberlain, Al Hiltz, Philip Young, Lorraine Sullivan, and Jessica Young.


From left: Al Hiltz, Pamela Shanley, Olga Yakovleva, in front of work by Connie Chamberlain

During the reception, we received a tour of the beautiful State House by State Representative Sean Garballey, enjoyed a surprise visit by the President of the Senate, Mr. Stanley Rosenberg, and celebrated the work of these amazing Arlington artists.


From left: Adrienne Landry, Stanley Rosenberg, Linda Shoemaker, Ken Donnelly, Sean Garballey

               Additionally, we would like to thank Hannah Buntich and Debra Woodman again for their continual efforts in encouraging and supporting ACA.


Hannah receiving a handmade card by local 5th grade student and ACA camper Keziah Schober


Debra receiving an ACA t-shirt as a show of gratitude!


Nilou Moochhala pictured in front of her work

The show is up until August 9th, so make sure to check out this dynamic and expressive artwork while it’s still on display!

Thanks to everyone who made this exhibit possible!

Behind the Scenes: ACA hangs Arlington art exhibit at the State House

We had a great honor and a great time this morning – hanging an exhibit of artwork in the Senate Gallery at the Massachusetts State House.  The exhibit showcases work by ACA studio artists, teachers and friends, and will be on display through the end of July.  A reception for the artists is planned & we’ll post the date as soon as we have it.

Artists in the exhibit include: Connie Chamberlain, Marjorie Glick, Al Hiltz, Adrienne Landry, Nilou Moochhala, Vicki Paret, Pam Shanley, Lorraine Sullivan, Olga Yakovleva, Jessie Young and Phil Young.

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Sarah Buyer and Pam Shanley labeling the artwork

ACA is honored to have been invited into the Senate Gallery by Senator Ken Donnelly, and couldn’t have done it without the fabulous Debra Woodman,Director of Administration at the Senate Office of Administration and

Pam Shanley, Debra Woodman and Sarah Buyer - what a great team!

Pam Shanley, Debra Woodman and Sarah Buyer – what a great team!

Finance, who runs the gallery program.  Our thanks also to Hannah Buntich for her help and good humor (and coffee!).  We’ll see her again later this month for ACA’s annual “Kids Images of Arlington” exhibit hosted by Senator Donnelly.



We thought you might enjoy some behind-the-scenes photos from the hanging…

The hanging crew was terrific and good-humored - even when we couldn't agree whether the paintings were hanging straight. Thanks guys!

The hanging crew was terrific and good-humored – even when we couldn’t agree whether the paintings were hanging straight. Thanks guys!

Pam Shanley, ACA Operations Director, seated beneath her own piece, "Ice Plant."

Pam Shanley, ACA Operations Director, seated beneath her own piece, “Ice Plant.”

School group visits ACA’s “Stereotypes” show

“[The photos] were all very powerful and eye-opening and they sum up all of the prejudices that people have about certain people,” said an Arlington High School student upon visiting ACA’s recent photography exhibit, “Stereotypes: A Conscious Look at Race, Faith, Gender and Sexual Identity.”



An AHS  school group visits ACA’s “Stereotypes” exhibit

The above student was just one of 14 students from Arlington High School to view this powerful exhibit at the Arlington Center for the Arts. The school trip, which visited ACA’s Gibbs Gallery on Monday, April 11, was led by Melanie Konstandakis, teacher of Race, Society and Identity at Arlington High School. Students were encouraged to view the exhibit and write down how viewing the provocative and challenging images impacted them.


The exhibit, presented by Arlington Center for the Arts and the Vision 20/20 Diversity Task Group, consisted of 15 black-and-white portraits of everyday people within and across the categories of race, faith, gender and sexual identity and was a personal project for photographer Kevin J. Briggs.


Kevin J. Briggs, Muslim Woman

Image by Kevin J. Briggs

Briggs, who is black, was inspired to create the collection after his own experiences with racial discrimination and bias. One instance in particular shaped his thinking about the exhibit; just a few years ago, while leaving his former office in Boston’s Financial District one night, he recounts being harassed by building security for appearing “lost.” Briggs, shocked, asserted that he worked in that office – but the not-so-subtle implication of the guard’s words, that he did not belong there, stung. It was further emphasized to Briggs that, despite how he perceived himself, the color of his skin meant that he was perceived, and treated, differently by others.

Each of the 15 photographs pictures a person or persons who are in some may marginalized or stereotyped by society at large because of their identity. Seated before a deep black backdrop, Briggs’ subjects gaze directly out at the viewer, while projections of derogatory slurs and stereotypes wrap around their bodies and hover around them, asking us all to consider the power and effect of these words on the daily lives of these individuals, groups, and, ultimately, on all of us as a community and society.  Comments by the subjects in question accompany each portrait, adding to the power and complexity of the narrative Briggs creates with this exhibition.


Kevin J. Briggs, Transgender

Image by Kevin J. Briggs

The photo exhibit offered powerfully personal narratives to underscore what students have been learning about and discussing in the classroom – namely, the intersection of identity and society, and how we treat those of differing backgrounds and identities than our own.



Students view the work on display and write down their reactions.

Below are some of the thought-provoking and moving responses offered by students who came to view the exhibit, explaining which photo was the most difficult to view and why:


“The photo with the African American Woman. I am an African American female and the words printed across the image are words I hear all the time.”


“The hardest photo to view is the one of the black man because I have been called some of the things on this photo and it angers me.”


“The photo of the black woman labeled ‘bitch, tramp, stupid’ because I feel associated with black women…” 


“The photos about the women because I hear those words frequently and it affects me and saddens me to know I could be stereotyped that way.”


“Stereotypes: A Conscious Look at Race, Faith, Gender and Sexual Identity” was on display in the Gibbs Gallery at the Arlington Center for the Arts from March 7 – April 15.


The exhibit was co-sponsored by: Arlington Board of Selectmen, Arlington Commission on Disability, Arlington Council on Aging, Arlington Human Rights Commission , Arlington International Film Festival, Arlington Police Department, Arlington Public Schools, Arlington Youth Counseling Center, Arlington Youth Health & Safety Coalition, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, The First Church in Belmont Unitarian Universalist Social Action Committee, First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington, Highrock Covenant Church, Housing Corporation of Arlington, ManKind Project of New England, Mystic LGBTQ+ Youth Support Network, Martin Luther King, Jr., Birthday Observance Committee of Arlington, St. Agnes Parish, Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is in Arlington


For more info, visit:!gallery/c8q5


Grenader to lend her creative gifts to ACA this spring

“I really enjoy the communal and friendly spirit of ACA,” says Luba Grenader, now entering her second semester this spring as one of ACA’s amazing art teachers.  “Between the students, teachers and staff, there is a great sense of creative aspiration and appreciation of art and the artists who make it.”

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Grenader, an accomplished artist as well as a seasoned teacher, is once again teaching “Afterschool Artists Club” for children in grades 3 – 5 as well as two hue-enhancing classes this spring: “Color Study” for adults and “Homeschool Class: Color Blast!” for children ages 5 – 8.

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Work by Luba Grenader

In “Color Study,” which Grenader characterizes as her “long-time favorite class,” she will help students to deepen their understanding and exploration of color through a variety of paints, watercolors, and/or pastels.  “I feel that understanding how color works and an ability to mix a variety of colors is essential for any painter working in any color medium,” says Grenader.  “Resolving this color mystery through knowing the basics but most importantly, through experience, allows one to relax and enjoy painting much more.”

In “Homeschool Class: Color Blast!,” students will experiment with endless combinations of colors using just a few paints – painting their memories, imagined worlds, and more. And in “Afterschool Artists Club,” students will spend their Tuesday afternoons drawing, painting, sculpting, and exploring – all the while learning about color, line, and texture. Grenader notes: “I believe in teaching kids how to draw, paint and create but also in the importance of expressing their imagination and ideas through art… In the end, it’s great to see the kids being engrossed in the creative process and leaving the class with their own original work of art, and smiles and paint on their faces!”

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Work by Luba Grenader

Grenader, whose journey to become a fine artist began with her love of fashion design and illustration, firmly believes in the transformative power of the arts – something ACA has long held as one of its core values. “Being an artist is not just something you do in your studio and then leave behind closed doors,” she says.  “It is something that defines you and your way of life because it is how you perceive the world, both inner and outer and it’s about a constant interaction with colors, forms, structures, ideas, concerns – everything really – that triggers your thinking, imagination, compassion and you just have to share it on canvas, in clay or in any other way.”

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Work by Luba Grenader

Her advice for her future students as well as aspiring artists? “Keep making art, continue to experiment, learn, explore and inspire your teachers!  There is quite a variety of exciting classes in the spring catalog. This community is lucky to have ACA in their neighborhood.”

Join Grenader for one of these creative arts courses this spring – we can’t wait to see what you create. To find out more about any of the classes mentioned above and/or to register, visit

Michael Clark Wonson to lead art explorations this winter

“The town of Arlington has been my home for over three years. In this time I have grown to fall in love with the community and the landscape. I wanted to give back on some level to the town, which has held me so closely and allowed me to fly creatively.”

So says Michael Clark Wonson, a creative new addition to ACA’s teaching faculty, starting his first semester as one of our amazing art teachers. Wonson, who is teaching “Budding Artists” for kids in grades K – 2 and “Drawing For Theatre: Rendering Scenes” and “Drawing For Theatre: Rendering Costumes” for adults, is eager to lead a number of art explorations at ACA this winter. “In my classes, I look forward to coaxing every artist out of their shell and equipping then with the tools to express theatrical ideas,” he says.

In “Budding Artists,” which began this past Saturday, students are learning about color and composition as they create their own fun and interesting art projects. “I’m looking forward to seeing my group grow in skill level every week,” Wonson says. “My projects challenge the student to learn and take risks.”


Wonson’s lighting work for a production of “Bat Boy.”

In “Drawing for Theatre: Rendering Scenes,” which began on January 19, students are learning how to design scenery and convey their unique artistic visions for a theatrical production. Wonson, a self-described “theatrical artist” with over 10 years of professional experience, is excited to delve further into a medium he loves: theatre design. “I’ve worked all over the country and 100,000’s of people have been entertained by my part in many creations,” he says. “There is a joy in creating temporary art which needs to be experienced to be understood. Art is something that we can share together in an experience.”


Wonson’s scenery design sketches.

Wonson will also be offering a course starting in March – “Drawing For Theatre: Rendering Costumes.” Running for 3 Tuesdays, from March 8 – 22, students will learn how to depict different types of fabric and clothing on a person’s form. Wonson notes that he’s eager to share his long-held passion for costume design with interested students. “I’ve always loved clothes. I find fabric fascinating and I love drawing. It was a perfect marriage.”

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Wonson’s costume design sketches.

Join Wonson and ACA for one of these creative arts courses this winter – we can’t wait to see what you create! For more info about any of the programs mentioned above or to register, visit our website at