• Isa Luzarraga

"We bring the light": how two local artists unite their community every winter

It took community artists Tova Speter and Emily Bhargava three months to replicate the vision for their next art installation: a five-foot tall wooden lantern, its windows covered in multi-colored scratch art designs. Strapped to a trailer pulled by a truck, the piece named “Brighter Revealed” has visited Boston-area schools and community centers since the beginning of December.


Speter had worked with the Jewish Arts (JArts) Collaborative previously, honoring the Jewish community’s strength through artwork celebrating Hanukkah. From setting up interactive exhibits in the Museum of Fine Arts to displaying collaborative pieces in the windows of abandoned storefronts, Speter embraces the word “brighter” for her Hanukkah tributes each winter.


“Art is always important, period,” Speter said. “But there are times when it can have even more power in bringing people together. We've been so isolated. Part of this is it's a beacon of light to welcome people back out.”


Speter and Bhargava’s work is grounded in direct community interaction. They held workshops for students, patients at rehabilitation facilities, and residents of retirement homes and asked every participant the same question.


What is the source of your inner strength?


Each participant then scratched out a design on their square of paper, symbolizing the people or things that empower them. Once finished with their art, over 70 people recorded an audio track explaining the significance of their work. The combined audio is played at every Brighter Revealed mobile art showing.


“It is very intentionally a light that shines during the darkest, coldest time of the year,” Bhargava said. “I truly believe that the collaborative art projects that we're able to lead can strengthen a community. [It] can help people feel ownership of where they are and where their art is being seen.”


After gathering the 320 individual scraps of art from each workshop, the two artists adhered them to the windows of the lantern, a carpentry project spearheaded by high school senior Manny Hutter.


“So much talent has gone into this,” executive director of the Collaboration Laura Mandel said. “We have community partners that are so excited to have [the lantern]. People are excited by what [Speter and Bhargava] have created, and it’s just incredible.”


Because of Brighter Revealed’s popularity, the JArts Collaboration is extending the lantern’s travel until the end of December.


“When we were thinking about what this next iteration [of the Brighter series] could be during the pandemic, I had this crazy idea, ‘I wonder if we could build it on a trailer.’ Most people would say that's too crazy and move on,” Speter said. “JArts sat with us and asked what that would look like. [We have] gratitude for JArts for recognizing and believing in something that's never been done before.”


After Speter’s truck rental expires, she said they hope to relocate the lantern to a more permanent resting place so it can continue bringing the light for days to come.





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