A poster for Weiying Olivia Huang’s documentary film., “Art in Public.”

‘Art in Public’: Film explores the relationship between creativity and enhancing community

by Talia Franks

A poster for Weiying Olivia Huang’s documentary film., “Art in Public.”
A poster for Weiying Olivia Huang’s documentary film., “Art in Public.”

Many might consider art just a tool to beautify a space. “Art in Public,” a feature-length documentary film about Cambridge-based public art, illuminates ways art allows us to see the world differently. The arts not only serve to beautify, but to elicit emotion and allow us to understand and empathize with experiences outside our own. Art can also help us connect more deeply with others with whom we identify.

The film, with a premiere public screening Wednesday, illustrates the necessity of public arts and the community of artists who make it happen. The creative process, public space and community engagement are explored through interviews with muralist David Fichter, choreographer Wendy Jehlen, sculptor William Reinmann, mixed-media artist Pamella Goncalves and more.

Producer, editor and director Weiying Olivia Huang, with executive producer and composer of the film score Eric Benson Taylor, show how artists work with community members, students and volunteers to highlight the relationship between the arts and shared public space. Another important aspect of the film is how it captures the history of Cambridge through public arts that have been created and how Cambridge has changed over time.

History Cambridge is proud to have its current art installation, “Forgotten Souls of Tory Row” by Black Coral, featured in the documentary. Huang was onsite this summer during a public celebration in July to interview the artists and guests about their experiences creating and experiencing the installation. She later interviewed executive director Marieke Van Damme.

Huang is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Her “City as Canvas: Above the Free Walls” (2020) won Best Human Interest Documentary at the World Premiere Film Awards in 2020, was Best New England Documentary at the Shawna Shea Film Festival in 2021 and screened internationally at a dozen other festivals. Her previous documentary, “The Last Sacred Place of Poetry” (2017), which highlights the Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Harvard Square, has likewise been screened at many film festivals, libraries and universities. She holds a master’s degree in digital media from Northeastern University.

Taylor is the producer of the “City as Canvas: Above the Free Walls,“ “Turning The Page and “Art In Public and a multi-instrumentalist who has released music as The Dystopian Rhythms and performed on global stages from Paris to Belgrade, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco.

You can watch the trailer for “Art in Public” on YouTube.

“Art in Public” is supported in part by a grant from the City of Cambridge and Cambridge Arts, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

  • The free premiere public screening “Art in Public” is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Cambridge Library Valente Branch, 826 Cambridge St., Wellington-Harrington. Information is here.

This article was originally published in our “Did You Know?” column in Cambridge Day.