Conceived in 2017 by social practice artist, Stephanie Benenson, Harbor Voices is a socially engaged public art collective.
We collect stories and connect people.
Initially funded by grant money from the Rhode Island School of Design, Harbor Voices quickly caught the attention of nonprofit art and community organizations as well as other artists, designers, musicians, and writers, becoming an extensive collaboration between the creative community, nonprofit organizations, and community members. Harbor Voices is a living and growing art piece.
We believe that Art, particularly participatory projects, has the ability to bring people together and impact communities. Social collaboration and storytelling strengthen family and community bonds, creating resilience in our youth and increasing connectivity and social activism within diverse populations.
By collecting immigration and origin stories, both ancestral and recent, we help connect people to causes meaningful to them, offering opportunities for resource-sharing which can promote social change.
Everyone has a meaningful story to tell.
Every story from the past relates to the present.
Individual and collective action determines the future.
The storytelling propels action.
The actions become art.
Stephanie Benenson, Artist and Founder
My grandfather, Martin Ahearn, was a Cape Ann artist that ran a gallery in downtown Rockport, MA. The largest piece he’d ever painted hung in the center wall of the small shop for years. The subject was an old fisherman fixing his nets in a shack on the harbor- not unlike a painting all of us artists painted at one time or another on Cape Ann. But this one featured a shack on a cerulean blue moonlit night and the glow of the fisherman’s lantern from inside the shed took your breath away. Come to think of it, the fisherman in the painting had an uncanny resemblance to my beloved neighbor and captain of the Eleanor O., Pat O’Reilly. My father, also a painter, was shocked that my grandfather declined to sell the painting a few times. Dad said that is was because my grandfather feared he would never paint something so large and grand again in his life. The piece made such a beautiful connection between artist and place, labor and man, solitude and light.
The connection between the artists and fishermen of Cape Ann is indirect. It is an arranged marriage, perhaps of necessity, although painting doesn’t need fishing to exist and the fishing community has no need for artists, really. We were married because we gave each other a voice. In the cast of a net and the subsequent stroke of a brush, meaning was made between us. The arts created an opportunity for voice and meaning to manifest, which is the ultimate goal of Harbor Voices.
Colleen Andrews, Designer
My grandmother, Grace Andrews, was a textile artist and an active volunteer at her local thrift store and numerous other community organizations. Her mother, Eleanor, born in 1901 to immigrants from Alsace-Lorraine, was a painter and an elementary school teacher. Neither woman can now be found in an online search, nor can their work be viewed in a museum–though it is displayed in the homes of their children and their children’s children. Foremost mothers, wives, and homemakers, both women were perhaps unresolved in their artistic endeavors. Yet there is no doubt that their creative spirits, reverance for education, and desire to aid their communities has been passed down, along with their artwork.
Our Growing Artist Collective
Jeff Barnett-Winsby, Photographer and Social Practice Artist
Jacob Johnson, Sound Artist
Andrew Dranetz, Laser Artist and Technician
Nina Goodick, Ceramicist
Maury Vincent Burke, Education Advocate
Colin Griffiths, Producer