By Seth Daniel
The late Victor Bailey, a world-renowned jazz musician and painter, will be honored on Dec. 9 at the final show in the Spencer
Lofts Gallery. Bailey was a resident of the Lofts for about two years before passing last year.
It’s only appropriate that Victor Bailey would close down the Spencer Lofts Gallery.
The world-famous jazz musician, who passed away last year from complications related to MS/ALS, once lived at the Spencer Lofts while working as a bass professor at Berklee College of Music. After taking up art as well as music, he had a great collection of works that were expertly shown in the gallery when it re-opened two years ago. It drew a major crowd and was a highlight for the long-time gallery in the loft building.
“He passed away in November 2016 and lived here about two years ago,” said Dar DeVita, who coordinates the gallery and announced this week that Bailey’s fundraising show would be the last show there. “He was a lovely man and everyone got along great with him here. He was always so happy and loved it here. He really loved that people in the building knew him for his painting, and not just his jazz. After we had closed the first time, he was our re-opening show. Now, sadly, he will be our last show before we close again.”
The fundraiser will benefit Bailey’s estate through the proceeds from the many works that remain in his family’s possession. Bailey’s paintings will be on display in the gallery and will be available for purchase. Proceeds will benefit the Victor Bailey Estate and the Berklee College of Music.
The time will take place on Saturday, Dec. 9, from 4-8 p.m. in the Gallery at Spencer Lofts. Parking is available on site.
Additionally, several of Bailey’s colleagues from Berklee will be on hand to play live jazz music throughout the evening – which will be a tribute to not only his music prowess, but also his artistic abilities.
Born into a music family in Philadelphia in 1960, Bailey attended Berklee and launched a hugely successful jazz career, while also writing many well-known R&B songs for major artists.
An accomplished bassist, Bailey was an Associate Professor of Bass at Berklee College of Music. He performed and recorded with Sonny Rollins, Lady Gaga, Miriam Makeba, Madonna, Mary J. Blige and many others during his long, notable career. He also recorded with Chelsea’s own Chick Corea from time to time.
Bailey was the bassist in two of the most influential jazz-fusion groups: Weather Report (he replaced the legendary Jaco Pastorius) and Steps Ahead.
Bailey drew up upon his jazz career for inspiration in his art career.
DeVita said it will be a bittersweet evening for the Gallery though, as it is closing down for good. Though many Chelsea residents have treasured its contributions to the arts scene in the city, DeVita said many of the residents in the building are not interested anymore.
“We are closing it down,” she said. “I’ve resigned as of Jan. 1 and there is no one taking over. The building doesn’t understand the value of the gallery and my time is up. I’m hoping the show will spark some interest in someone to take over. Maybe it will be a person in the building that will see the value of this and want to keep it going. If not, it will just close.”
The Gallery was a coup for Chelsea when the lofts were built more than a decade ago, one of the few arts locales in the City.
Reception and admission to the Gallery are free and open to the public. The Victor Bailey Exhibit runs through December 31, 2017. Gallery hours by appointment.
Accessible parking is available, as is on-street parking.
By Seth Daniel
Artist Allison Cekala never intended to be the spokesperson for road salt.
The Jamaica Plain resident, and Museum of Fine Arts School (Fenway) professor, only saw incredible lighting and interesting shapes in the Chelsea salt pile – located in varying quantities and in a very visible place right adjacent to the Tobin Bridge on the Chelsea waterfront.
However, the twists and turns of the constantly changing piles of salt – a landscape in miniature – that Cekala saw took her on her own journey that had twists and turns leading to a salt mine in Chile and to an understanding of road salt that few artists or Boston residents have.
“It’s like I’ve become the spokesperson for salt now,” said Cekala, 31, noting that people often question her due to some of the potential environmental negatives associated with road salt. “The salt is complicated. I don’t feel like I’m pushing it, but simply telling a story. People can take what they want from that. I always get questioned about the environmental degradation, but I encourage people to do the research on their own. This exhibit and project are about human ingenuity, globalization and the raw beauty of the salt. I only hope it sparks people’s curiosity or interest. I do care about the environment and I get a lot of pushback, but I’m used to that now.”
The reason she’s used to it is because of Cekala’s recent photography project, which included following the trail of road salt from the Eastern Minerals mine in a remote coastal plain in Chile and onto a ship that travelled through the Panama Canal and up to the Eastern Minerals salt pile in Chelsea. Once in Chelsea, it is distributed to cities and towns all over the area, including Boston, for spreading on the roads and major sidewalks to the benefit of all drivers and pedestrians in storms such as the city has seen over the past week.
The end result was a montage of photographs and videos taken along the entire route and in Chelsea, with the final results being first displayed late last winter in the Museum of Science Gallery. That exhibit, which was very localized, gained such popularity that the Mayor’s Gallery in Boston City Hall decided to feature the work this winter for another exhibit. That refined exhibit is up now on the fifth floor of Boston City Hall through Feb. 29. Cekala has also participated in Chelsea’s Art Walk last summer with the exhibit, showing it on the site of the salt pile last summer in an industrial container. She hopes to be part of that effort in Chelsea once again, and to participate in other such exhibits as well.
Cekala’s focus has been centered on salt, and so much so that now she can tell the variety of salt and the origin of the salt by sight – such as a wine connoisseur can do simply by observing and tasting a type of celebrated vintage. Even with the focus on that one thing, it was the idea of tracing back a common product to its source that intrigued Cekala.
“I love the idea of finding where things come from,” she said. “It’s been really incredible doing this and investigating one piece of material ubiquitous of the landscape and tracing it back to the source. It makes me wonder about other things we use – the pens we use and the paper we write on. Salt is a good subject for this because it doesn’t require a lot of refinement or processing. It comes from the mine and is shipped up here and used. Other things might be harder to trace, but the idea is very interesting…This project is so relevant in Boston and I hope to have people in Boston see it and be able to make that same connection through my work that I made when I was creating it.”
Salt came into Cekala’s life a few years ago when she was looking for strange urban landscapes to photograph. Cekala was born in Boston and grew up in Cincinnati. She attended Bard College and moved back to Boston to attend Fenway’s Museum School – specializing in photography and environmental studies along the way. As a professor of photography now at the Museum School, she has focused on photographing open, urban spaces with unique characteristics.
One day as she was out hunting for such rare areas, she crossed the Tobin Bridge, looked down, and found salt.
At first she photographed the pile close up during off hours, with its meandering and moveable mountains of crystal – which were interesting on their own. Some time after that, she came back during working hours and approached the supervisors, who were all too happy to help her.
Soon, Eastern Minerals owners Shelagh Mahoney and Joe McNamee had befriended Cekala and given her access not only to their business, but also to their family. Cekala’s journey then became more than just the beauty of salt, and expanded to the trail of salt and the company that produces it.
Soon, she had travelled to Chile, to a remote desert plain that stretches for hundreds of miles into Bolivia and hosts several salt mines. The mine she visited is owned by Eastern Minerals and has been for decades, with the company aligning its operations years ago from beginning to end. Cekala watched the workers mine the salt, observed the blasting of the large deposits (which are simply petrified ocean salt deposits from the ancient past), and the transport of it to the nearby coastal port.
“The salt deposit goes as far as you can see,” she said. “I was wondering about that before I went. I wondered if they were taking all the salt and that we could deplete the resource. That isn’t the case. The deposit goes all the way to Bolivia.”
From the mine, Cekala watched workers transport the salt nine miles to the port, where it was loaded on a ship for the two-week journey up to Chelsea. While she was able to observe the loading and board the ship at port, security restrictions didn’t allow her to travel on the ship.
“It was a surprising how many people were involved in the process, how many are in the mine, driving to the tankers and working on the ships,” she said. “It’s an exact and precise process. More of the operations in Chile are mechanized than they are in Chelsea. Still, there is someone always watching the operations. Everything just has to keep going. Also, it was notable to see how this huge quantity of minerals traveled from one continent to another continent, 4,500 miles and through the Panama Canal and up to Boston. The entirety of the process is incredible.”
The company said they are very pleased with how Cekala has seen their company. While they observe the operation as a business, it was out of the ordinary to view it through the eyes of an artist.
“Allison did a great job,” said Mahoney. “To me it was great to see our business through the eyes of an artist. We know how the business works, but we are amazed by what she did to portray this business. I know where it comes from and the operations of it all, but to see it how she portrayed it was an amazing look at what we do.”
Artist Allison Cekala has followed the trail, and the aesthetic beauty, of road salt for an artistic exhibition about where road salt comes from before it lands at the Chelsea salt pile and onto the roads of Boston and surrounding cities. Her journey has taken her from Chelsea to Chile and back. The exhibition appeared at the Museum of Science last year and is now in Boston City Hall though Feb. 29. Cekala is a JP resident and a teacher at the Museum of Fine Arts School in the Fenway.
Cekala said she didn’t envision the project catching on the way it has, and even after the Boston City Hall show, she expects that it will continue – especially in the winter seasons when road salt is on the mind.
“I didn’t expect it would keep on going this year,” she said. “I’m realizing this will keep going and probably will be for a long time. I’m happy with that. I believe I will probably now do more work with salt of some kind.”
The Al Huda Society, based in Chelsea but having members in Revere, Everett, Chelsea and East Boston, held a forum on relations between the community and the local Muslim community last Friday night in Chelsea. The panelists were (left to right) Muhammad Ali-Salam, Father James Barry of Our Lady of Grace (Chelsea)/Saint Mary’s (Revere), Prof. Mohamed Brahimi,
Chelsea Officer Sammy Mojica, Pastor Tim Bogertman and Shannon Erwin.
One of the first speakers at a community forum in Chelsea on relations with the Muslim communities in Revere, Chelsea, Eastie and Everett, was a 10-year-old boy who summed up the hopes of everyone in the room.
It silenced the standing-room only crowd.
“I am an American,” he stated. “I really love both America and Islam. I wish one day when I turn on the TV, there will be no fights about Muslims and how our religion is.”
On Friday, Feb. 27, Al-Huda Society hosted a community forum in Chelsea, with local law enforcement and faith leaders to condemn the threatening anti-Muslim notes that were found in Revere last week. The meeting was an opportunity to assess, identify and address the concerns of different members from the community.
The panelists were:
- Muhammad Ali-Salam, U.S. Department of Justice
- Pastor father James Barry, Saint Mary’s Revere
- Prof. Mohamed Brahimi, Moderator
- Officer Sammy Mojica, Chelsea Police Community Liaison
- Pastor Tim Bogertman, First Congregational Church of Revere
- Shannon Erwin, Muslim Justice League
The panelists made it clear to the audience that any discriminatory acts against Muslims or any other minority groups have to be reported to the police and other government agencies such as the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).
“These acts are against the law,” said Ali-Salam. “You must report them so they can be documented and investigated by law enforcement agencies.”
Officer Mojica stated, “We don’t know who these individuals are (in Revere) but I can guarantee you that the law enforcement community will get to the bottom of it and will bring these individuals to justice.”
In an earlier meeting in Revere, Mayor Dan Rizzo expressed his outrage in an official statement saying, “Revere has grown more and more diverse over time, and the heart and soul of our community beats as one”.
At the same meeting with the mayor, Revere Police Chief Joe Cafarelli strongly condemned the signs saying they “will not be tolerated. Not on my watch.”
He further stated that the investigation is ongoing and those responsible will be prosecuted to “the fullest extent of the law.”
Rabbi Joseph Berman, Temple B’Nai Israel Revere, wrote a heartwarming email to the organizers of Friday’s event as it was described by the moderator. He stated in his letter that “an attack on your honor is also an attack on God. Therefore, it is an attack on our honor.”
Professor Brahimi emphasized to the audience that the message is very clear across the board.
“Your advocate does not have to be a Muslim,” he said. “We have people from across the spectrum of law enforcement and different religions telling you in clear words that they have your back and you don’t have to find refuge on your own. You can find refuge with anyone within the community.”
Many participants expressed their concerns about the demonization of Muslims by U.S. mainstream media.
Pastor Tim Bogertman of Revere’s First Congregational Church responded to their concerns by encouraging the participants to be more involved within the community and build relationships with local media agencies.
He said to start inviting them to the Muslim community events and sending press releases to local newspapers to build upon that.
Prof. Brahimi recognized the fledgling efforts of Zarah Magazine in trying to make inroads in the community.
“Perhaps the Muslim and the Arab American community could support this media experience that has demonstrated a high level of professionalism and make it a strong media project to support the community needs,” he said.
The full coverage of this event is available on Zarah magazine’s YouTube channel and it will be broadcast on some local TV stations.
Chelsea native Phil Skerry will return to the Chelsea Public
Library to discuss his second book examining the filmmaking
of Alfred Hitchcock, this time from a physics standpoint.
Skerry said he honed his love and passion for film by going
to old movie houses like the Olympia and the Strand when
he was a kid growing up in Chelsea.
Chelsea native Phil Skerry is no psycho, but he can certainly talk about any aspect of ‘Psycho’ and the methods of filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock.
This coming Friday, Oct. 25, at 2 p.m., Skerry will discuss and sign his second Hitchcock-themed book, ‘Dark Energy: Hitchcock’s Absolute Camera and the Physics of Cinematic Space-Time.’
His most recent book follows another title he completed a few years back about Hitchcock’s famous shower scene in the movie ‘Psycho.’ That book was called, ‘Psycho in the Shower: The History of Cinema’s Most Famous Scene.’
He said his latest book is an attempt to look at the way Hitchcock uses the camera to unite art and science.
“There is a physicist who talked about the two cultures of science and the humanities,” said Skerry. “He said that those two cultures don’t talk. In this book, I’m trying to see if they can talk. I wanted to see if I could bring together art – movies – and science so that one is co-existing with the other. I rolled with that and found all kinds of interesting things, I think.”
Skerry grew up on lower Broadway in the height of the cinema age, watching movies in old Chelsea theaters like the Strand in Bellingham Square and the Olympia on lower Broadway.
That, he said, is where he grew to love the movies and wanted to know more about how they were made and the thought behind them.
“My love of movies and what drove me to write these books came about going to the movies all the time in Chelsea as a kid,” Skerry said. “We would go to family films, Saturday matinees and the B-movies. It didn’t cost anything in those days. We didn’t have money, but we could afford to go to the movies and get a popcorn.”
And so Skerry – a 1962 graduate of Chelsea High School and a retired Emeritus Professor at Lakeland Community College in Ohio – grew up on film.
He became hooked with ‘Psycho,’ watching it with his friend Ralph Spinnelli in 1960 at the old Olympia Theatre.
He said the movie changed everything.
First of all, it pushed the envelope on everything, and it also did small things like make you arrive on time.
“I have to say that watching that movie was a seminal experience in my life,” he said. “It hounded me constantly. It was dormant for a long time, but I always thought of it. Seeing Janet Lee when I was 16 in her slip and then naked in the shower and killed by a knife-wielding maniac right before your eyes – that was very shocking then. We’re immune to those shocks now, I think, but back then people were mesmerized. They screamed in the audience all around me and it really affected people to see that scene.
“It even changed how people attended movies because Hitchcock had demanded that people show up on time for ‘Psycho’ or they wouldn’t be let in,” he continued. “You had to be on time for the movie. That was unheard of.”
After attending college at UMass-Amherst and doing post-graduate studies at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Skerry became an English professor and pioneered the discipline of film study in his department.
Years later, that continued professional study and his experiences in Chelsea, propelled him to write the ‘Psycho’ book – which was well received. Wanting to expand on it, he decided to look closer at Hitchcock’s camera techniques – which were innovative, mysterious and scientific.
Uniting the theory of ‘Dark Energy’ in the universe – energy that exists but is not seen – he attacked the camera work of Hitchcock, another energy that certainly existed, but was never seen by movie-goers.
After pitching the idea to his publisher, claiming he could address Hitchcock’s “absolute camera,” he didn’t hold high expectations for the project.
However, the publisher believed in the idea and Skerry was suddenly having to learn about science – that other culture that English professors don’t tend to talk with.
“I got the contract and I said, ‘Oh my, what did I just get myself into?’” he said. “I knew nothing about physics. I took an astronomy course at UMass and got a ‘C.’ So, there I am with a contract for a book where I have to go in depth about physics and Hitchcock. I spent a lot of sleepless night contemplating what to do.”
What he ended up doing was learning a great deal about physics very quickly, particularly through interviews with some of the leading physicists in the country.
That crash course turned out to uncover a wealth of information that made the 200-page book a great read.
“I found some very interesting parallels between Hitchcock and Einstein, believe it or not,” he said.
One of the more accessible parallels is the love of trains that the two had.
Einstein used trains in his theory of relativity to show the space-time relationship.
Hitchcock used trains to suspend time and limit space in some of his most popular films.
“Really, film is the perfect embodiment of that idea of space-time,” he said. “A strip of film is the perfect example of space and time together.”
Skerry will expand on that idea and many others related to Hitchcock and his filmmaking this Friday, Oct. 25, at 2 p.m. in the Chelsea Public Library. Don’t miss it.