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Tribute To The Somerville Arts Council

Rep. Michael E. Capuano

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to the Somerville (Massachusetts) Arts Council and to Cecily Miller, who served as its director for fifteen years. Ms. Miller transformed a small, under-funded coterie of art lovers into a powerful community force. It is no exaggeration to say that Ms. Miller used art to forge community. Somerville has historically been a city of immigrants and working people. During the decade I served as Mayor, Somerville experienced some gentrification but no loss of neighborliness. Cecily Miller played no small part in-that achievement. To bring people together, she created ART BEAT, an annual celebration of arts, crafts, music, and dance that draws large, orderly, and animated crowds to our public squares.

In addition to the public festivals, I would like to cite three of her most imaginative projects:

(1) The Garden Awards--each year Somerville gardens are displayed in brilliant photographs, and the gardens are as different as our citizens. Some of the backyards are restrained and minimalist, some explode with flowers and vegetables bursting through chain-link fences. The photograph in my Longworth office shows an exuberant man, in ripe middle age, holding aloft dahlias. People have different ideas of the way they want their own yard to look, but no difficulty in recognizing the beauty of their neighbors'.

(2) The Illumination Tour--Somerville householders illuminate their homes and gardens for the winter holidays. Cecily Miller recognized these decorations as a genuine art form, and organized a trolley tour of the most spectacular installations. Again, she helped citizens to share and celebrate their neighbors' observances.

(3) The Mystic River Mural--a public housing projects abuts an inter-state highway that obscures the Mystic River. Cecily Miller raised grant money so that teenagers from the project could work with professional artists on a mural. They covered the barrier with imaginative approaches to the water. Now, instead of graffiti, we see a river and a riverbank: reeds, herons, people fishing, swimming, chatting. Most important, young people learned that they could transform an ugly scene into a thing of beauty.

I regret that Cecily Miller is leaving the Somerville Arts Council. I am deeply grateful for all that she has done for the people of Somerville.