The Boston Cultural Council recently handed out more than $32,000 in Opportunity Fund grants with 33 artists and organizations receiving individual $1,000 grants. Local artist MAR, who leads Black Books Sessions -- a safe space for graffiti artists -- is often held at Spontaneous Celebrations in JP, was a recipient of a grant.
Paul Chapman, aka MAR, fielded questions from Jamaica Plain News about the organization, safe spaces for graffiti artists, Spontaneous Celebrations and more.
Q: The grant you received will go to a free event in Jamaica Plain -- please describe the event. When and where will it take place?
MAR: Black Book Sessions is an event previously held at AOA Supply pop up at 333 Salon & Barbershop on Huntington Avenue. Now we run it out of Spontaneous Celebrations in JP, every second and fourth Friday from 7 to 11 pm. B.B.S is a space where everyone is encouraged to bring their books, markers, pencils and whatever else they use, and practice their art and learn from others. B.B.S is nice because it allows everyone to collaborate and work in a safe environment. We also have live beats and cypher sessions happening simultaneously with local artists and musicians. It's a hub of urban culture and we are extremely proud to be able to provide such a space. With the grant we now can provide art tutorial lessons by local veteran artists to teach can control and other art techniques, fund art shows showcasing artists who have work to show and the event.
Q: Why in Jamaica Plain? Do you live in JP or are you from JP?
MAR: We chose JP for a few reasons. First, most of our team is from JP and Roxbury. Second, we already had a relationship with Spontaneous and appreciate what they do for the community, and thought an event like this would fit well in their venue.
This event is known to travel, we have ran it out of CityPop on Washington Street in Egleston Square before the building went under construction. Now we run it mostly out of Mass Apparel, a streetwear store that offers music, screen printing and studio time. We are there every Thursday from 8 to 11 pm. We chose to do it there because the guys at Mass Apparel are family, share our views on art and business and provide a safe chill environment where musicians, DJs, emcees, poets, spoken word artists can come to just jam out.
Q: What is Black Book Sessions?
MAR: Black Book Sessions is basically an artist session. We started with just graffiti artists, but now we have all types of visual and preforming artists come by to jam out. Black Book Sessions is kind of a reference to when graffiti artists would get up with each other and actually talk, trade art work and draw in their sketch books, a.k.a. the Black Book. We wanted to bring that back to life, because it was a forgotten practice with this era of graffiti artists. That being said we still appreciate the people who come that have no graff background at all, we have no problem being in a room surrounded by creatives, everyone learns something new.
Q: You go by MAR. What does that stand for?
MAR: I go by MAR, it's a name I feel I have earned with my art and is somewhat a basis for the way I live. Mar in English means to destroy, or ruin perfection. This was a play on the graff motto "destroy the streets," but also had a deeper meaning. To me, to Mar something is to leave your mark. I, like many want to leave my mark on this world. But just on the streets wasn't enough, I want to leave my mark on the people I can inspire through my art and actions.
Q: You have worked on creating safe spaces for graffiti artists -- are these spaces public? Because it would be awesome for people to see the art.
MAR: Other then the Black Book Sessions, the spaces we have used have been provided through donations by property owners, and are fully painted with murals and street art and we are always in search for more. One of the spaces was voted "Best of Boston 2017" by The Improper Bostonian. You can find The House covered in graffiti art and characters by local and out of town artist that have been invited, at 197 Green Street in JP. Down the street from that house at 3195 Washington Street we have work by more local artists covering the entire building and the parking lot. We always recommend the Legal Wall in the Central Square area in Cambridge for the artist who wants to try it out. One of our goals is to find more of these spaces and build some as well for artists.