2021-22 Artist-in-Residence Chanel Thervil

Portraits of Black Arlington

ACAC’s 2021-22 Artist-in-Residence was Chanel Thervil, a Haitian-American artist who has been making waves and spreading joy in the Greater Boston area with her vivid and compelling mixed-media portraits of friends, family and informal community leaders. At a time when social and racial justice challenges are urgent around the nation as well as here at home, our goal was to work with Chanel to shine some light on the diverse Black folks who live and work in Arlington.
As it turned out, much of Chanel’s time was invested in bringing people together — many of whom had never met — and beginning to build a sense of community and connection during a series of conversations.  Chanel focused on capturing the likenesses and spirit of some of the people she met here – whether living, working, or going to school in the town – in a series of photographic portraits. Originally, she intended to develop multimedia portraits based on some of these photographs; health issues forced her to resign from the project before this final phase could be completed.  Originally intended as source material, the photographic portraits capture the beauty and spirit of a diverse group of Black community members; take a look here.
Jill Harvey, Arlington’s Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion worked in close partnership with Cecily Miller, ACAC’s Public Art Curator, to plan and implement this residency.  RepHAIRations, a welcoming storefront space selling Black hair products, locally made fashion items, and an outstanding selection of books on Black culture, also joined us as a partner; the store’s 3 co-owners helped with outreach and hosting activities.  We also thank members of the Arlington Human Rights Commission who participated in our conversations, invited others to join, spread the word about the project, and shared their portraits in our on-line gallery.

You can enjoy a short video Chanel made to introduce herself to Arlington here!

Chanel facilitated several gatherings in October and November inviting Black folks to gather and share stories of living in Arlington.  At the end, Chanel encouraged everyone to fill out a poster with the prompt “I celebrate my Blackness by: ____” Many of these were installed in the storefront window of RepHAIRations (1339 Mass Avenue in Arlington Heights), where two of Chanel’s mixed-media portraits were also exhibited.

More about Chanel Thervil

Chanel Thervil is a Haitian American artist and educator who uses varying combinations of abstraction and portraiture to convene communal dialogue around culture, social issues, and existential questions. At the core of her practice lies a desire to empower and inspire tenderness and healing among communities of color through the arts. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from Pace University and a Master’s Degree in Art Education from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She’s been making a splash in Boston via her educational collaborations, public art, and residencies with institutions like The Museum of Fine Arts, The Boston Children’s Museum, The DeCordova Museum, The Harvard Ed Portal, and Google. Her work has been featured by PBS Kids, The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, The Bay State Banner, WBUR’s ARTery, WGBH, and Hyperallergic. See some of her work here!

Chanel Thervil’s Artist-in-Residence is organized by the Arlington Commission for Arts & Culture in collaboration with the Town of Arlington Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Portraits of Black Arlington is made possible with funding from the New England Foundation for the Arts’ Public Art for Spatial Justice Program, with generous support from the Barr Foundation, and through grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. For more information contact: cecily.apa@gmail.com.