CHUCK: This is the Public’s Radio, I’m Chuck Hinman. Artscape producer James Baumgartner is with me today. James, we took a trip to New Bedford earlier this week.

JAMES: We did, we saw the latest exhibits put on by DATMA - the Massachusetts Design, Art & Technology Institute.

CHUCK: I’ve seen a few of their shows in previous years - there was wind, light, water and now this year they are focusing on shelter. There are literal shelters: places where people could live and the echoes of where someone has lived. 

JAMES: And there are exhibits built more figuratively around the idea of shelter. There’s an exhibit called “Safe Harbor: Building the New Bedford Hurricane Protection Barrier.” A shelter from the storm. And on the lawn of the New Bedford YMCA, there are three triangular displays, built to withstand hurricane force winds. DATMA’s executive director, Lindsay Mis gave us a tour of the Shelter exhibits.

LINDSAY MIS: This is a show called Safe Station: New Bedford’s Underground Railroad. And it’s contemporary local artists’ perspective of …their contemporary take on the Underground Railroad and New Bedford’s role in protecting human rights of African Americans.

CHUCK: And there’s also shelter from injustice. One of the panels links the abolition movement of the 19th century to the Black Lives Matter movement of today with a depiction of the 2020 protests done by Allison Wells.

MIS: There were always protests up at the corner of union and county. And it really looked like this. It just has that same energy that you felt as you either walked by or drove through that intersection. 

JAMES: On the corner of Purchase and Union Streets you can see a bright multi-colored dome through the display windows of the old Star Store. It’s the Star Lounge, created by Rael San Fratello.

MIS: it's a team over in San Francisco, and they try to find sustainable ways to create architecture. The point of this piece is to make it so you can download a file and then print a house using your desktop computer.

CHUCK: The Star Lounge looks similar to a geodesic dome, about 12 feet high and 15 feet across. It’s made up of small hexagonal pieces that were printed using a consumer-grade 3-D printer.The two thousand seventy-three P-L-A plastic hexagons are joined together by rivets that you can get at the average hardware store.

MIS: They want to try to make printing materials, printing files and tools as accessible as possible. They're using design in a smart way to solve a serious problem which is the housing crisis. So it takes making really weird projects like this the star lounge to maybe start to think out of the box and ask better questions about how we can be more thoughtful about what we've got left on this planet and how we want to use it.

JAMES: You wouldn’t be able to live in the Star Lounge dome, but it’s a step in the process of designing more accessible shelters. And it’s a compelling piece of art as well. It catches your attention from the street and brightens the small art gallery that it’s in.

CHUCK: And visitors are encouraged to step inside of it.

MIS: The sound, the sound in here, everything changes. And, you know, when you're inside, it just erases the entire environment around you and just gives you this cascading color and sound effects.

CHUCK [ax]: It does appear to be moving… or I am.

CHUCK: It was a little disorienting to be inside the dome, but in a fun way. Down the hall from the Star Lounge, there’s another small gallery featuring the works of Do Ho Suh.

JAMES: There’s a large structure in the middle of the gallery, made from a mustard-colored cloth. It’s part of Do Ho Suh’s ‘fabric architecture’ series.

CHUCK: At first glance, it just looks like the outlines of a structure: the doors and the entrance foyer of a home. But when you get closer to it, the details are finely, intricately rendered.

MIS: So you could just imagine coming in and putting your shoes in the closet, then shutting the door behind you and seeing these intricate hinges with the screws sewn on. I mean, there is no detail that is ignored here. It's it's really amazing the sort of attention to just remembering and illustrating that place. 

JAMES: There’s a video in the gallery showing Do Ho Suh’s process in creating the fabric architecture where he covers every square inch of a room in paper: every outlet, every brick, every knob on the stove. He then goes through the room with colored pencils, rubbing the paper where a detail of the home stands out. It reminds me of taking a rubbing of a gravestone, like he’s bringing out the ghost of the place where he once lived.

MIS: And he talks about why he is making these incredible structures, you know, these are shells of places that he's lived. He poetically speaks about how, you know, each space that we all ever live, has these shadows of memories of people that have lived there before you. So when you're walking through these beautiful structures as he's creating, this is almost like a moment in time, but also a shadow of all of the memories that came before.

CHUCK: You can see Shelter for free in New Bedford now through September 14th. 

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