Open front gate leading up to front door of historic house flanked by trees

Call To Artists: Tory Row’s Hidden Black History Project

About the Project

History Cambridge intends to install temporary public art on the front lawn of Hooper-Lee-Nichols House (HLN) in the Spring of 2022 to raise awareness of Black history in West Cambridge. All Massachusetts artists are encouraged to apply.

Massachusetts was a center of slave trading in New England as early as 1688 when African people were kidnapped by Massachusetts ship owners and traders to be sold as slaves in the American colonies or on Caribbean plantations. Some Cambridge families, including those in West Cambridge and the residents of Brattle Street (historic “Tory Row”), made their wealth through enslaved labor in Jamaica and/or they enslaved people at their homes and estates in Cambridge. The owners of the HLN House (c. 1685) were complicit in this economy. You can read more here.

This history has rarely been researched or shared. Instead, current-day Brattle Street is seen as a quaint historical parkway filled with architectural gems that once housed important citizens. The people whose labor built and sustained these buildings and properties are purposely excluded from the historical record. They are not mentioned, acknowledged, or remembered.

History Cambridge believes that ignoring this history is a disservice to Cambridge. Without a full understanding of this place and its people, we cannot move forward and be a better Cambridge.

Our goals for this project include:

  • By working with an artist, in collaboration with the Cambridge Black History Project, we will be engaging the vision and reflecting the experiences of those historically excluded 
  • By honoring the memory of the enslaved people whose presence on Brattle Street has not been visible, we celebrate and affirm their presence in a historic era in which they are often overlooked or ignored
  • We are involving our neighbors on Brattle Street through our Tory Row Anti-Racism Coalition, changing the lens through which one of Cambridge’s most traditionally “Historic” areas is seen, both for those close by and for Cantabrigians from other parts of the city, some of whom may not have felt connected or comfortable in this space
  • By presenting this history through an artistic lens, we will be making these narratives accessible and engaging to new audiences. Contemporary art and Black history are both unexpected on Brattle Street. The project will make a strong impression on passersby, creating awareness for both the artist and this history
  • Additionally, it will be accessible throughout the day and evening to anyone–Cambridge resident or not–for three months, and documented/shared in perpetuity on our website
  • Inspiring Cambridge to feel surprised, reflective, and curious
  • Starting/contributing to individual journeys toward becoming anti-racist, as well as furthering the anti-racism work of History Cambridge
  • Reaching a wide and varied audience through History Cambridge outreach efforts (social media, mailing list, press outlets, etc.) and via heavily-travelled Brattle Street.

Call To Artists

We seek an artist who lives or works in Massachusetts and is sensitive to the connected history of Massachusetts and plantations in the Caribbean. The artist will create a site-specific, temporary piece of installation art to be publicly displayed on the front yard of the HLN House through the Summer of 2022. The artist will give a public presentation on their work in June or July.

To be considered for this project, please submit:

  • 2-3 paragraphs of textual description
  • 2-3 sketches or visual renderings
  • A rough budget
  • Timeframe for completion of work
  • A brief artist bio, C.V., or list of any relevant previous work or projects
  • The proposed medium(s) and dimensions of the work
  • List of any proposed collaborators or fabricators you plan to enlist.

Please submit proposals to Marieke Van Damme, Executive Director, at by March 14, 2022.

Stipend: $5,000

Funding for this project comes from an Art for Social Justice Grant from Cambridge Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council


March 14       Deadline for submission of proposals

March 15-25      Review of proposals, creation of shortlist, artists notified

April 4-8       Presentations and interviews; artist chosen by March 28

June 15-30        Installation

June/July           Public program with artist

October             Deinstallation

Questions are welcome! Please contact Marieke Van Damme, Executive Director,