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Boston Strong? exhibit in Copley questions city's priorities

The purpose of the exhibit, titled "Boston Strong?," is to spark public conversation and debate about the meaning of the phrase, according to the artists.

Art installation entitled "Boston Strong?" by artist and photojournalist Jason Pramas. PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO  Art installation entitled "Boston Strong?" by artist and photojournalist Jason Pramas. PHOTO BY NICOLAUS CZARNECKI/METRO

Last night, a block at a community church less than a block from where two bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon finish line, three local artists held a free exhibit questioning the globally known "Boston Strong" slogan that sprang into popularity in the aftermath of the widely publicized 2013 terror attack.

The purpose of the exhibit, titled "Boston Strong?," is to spark public conversation and debate about the meaning of the phrase, according to artists Jason Pramas and Darrell Ann Gane-McCalla, both of Cambridge, and Shea Justice, of Jamaica Plain.

The artists said they are troubled by a disparity between media coverage of the victims of last year's bombing, many of whom are white and live outside Boston, and media coverage of the victims of ongoing criminal assaults around Boston, many of whom are people of color and live in the city.

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"Forty-seven people have been killed in Boston in the past year due to street violence, and there is no One Fund for them. We want people to take it more seriously than they do. After the bombing, there was a huge outpouring of support regionally and nationally. All the suburbs were suddenly activated," Pramas said. "So we decided to question, why is Boston Strong?"

When asked about the show potentially rubbing people the wrong way because of the sensitivity surrounding the bombings, Pramas said it's his job as an artist to spark discussions.

"I would expect that some people will [be offended]. People are angry, and very emotional as they should be," said Pramas, whose installation features the number of those killed by street violence painted over the familiar yellow and blue "Boston Strong" slogan, and about 50 multi-colored candles representing the dead. "I hope people take away from the exhibit that there is a problem with street crime in Boston, and we have to discuss it."

The exhibit also features charcoal sketches over newspaper collages, pen-and-ink drawings and water color paintings, and remarks from hip hop poet Ant Thomas.

Gane-McCalla said she believes the bombing received more widespread attention than acts of local violence for three reasons: the marathon bombing was a one-time event; people seem to care about terrorism when it is a bombing as opposed to street violence being a form of everyday terrorism; and because, she believes, not much value is placed on the people affected by street violence.

Justice emphasized that the point of the exhibit was not to take away from the victims, survivors and first responders.

"The important thing is that people don't have the impression that it's us verses those that were hurt [at the marathon]," he said.

Another "Boston Strong?" opening will be held on Friday, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Community Church of Boston's Lothrop Auditorium, though Pramas said he hopes to put on the exhibit elsewhere in the future.

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS

 
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