We Were Here

We Were Here

A site-specific series of vinyl banners, hung from light posts in the Cambridge Common park.


Photo credit: Anthony Crisafulli

We Were Here is a site-specific public art project, presented by Cambridge Arts as part of Common Exchange—a unique suite of temporary public art projects, curated by Dina Deitsch that are in response to the Cambridge Common, a historic civic space.

As the Cambridge Common has transitioned over the centuries from battleground to playground, the important memories being created there are becoming less public and historic, and more private and personal. In an effort to honor these experiences, I collected memories about the Cambridge Common through online forms, in-person meetings, an open telephone line, and a gallery installation in the Cambridge City Hall. I have distilled a selection of these memories into concrete poems that echo the shape of the Civil War Monument at the center of the park. This series of banners throughout the interior of the park memorialize personal narratives in a poetic form, alongside the Civil War Memorial and the Revolutionary War monuments, questioning what we collectively value and memorialize.

The banner color palette is derived from colors found in early American design. The typeface, Miller, is based on the Scotch Roman style, which was prevalent in 19th century Massachusetts. It is the Boston Globe's dedicated typeface and was designed by Cambridge resident and type designer Matthew Carter.

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Boston Globe June 2, 2017
An inspiring reason to hold hands by Dugan Arnett

“I think that the Common means different things to different people,” says [Lillian] Hsu, director of public art and exhibitions for Cambridge Arts.

Cambridge artist Kelly Sherman collected real-life stories about the park, then turned them into banners featuring the stories in poetic form.

Improper Bostonian May 19, 2017
Uncommon Encounters by Jacqueline Houton

Kelly Sherman’s We Were Here – Memories of Cambridge Common memorializes locals’ recollections of the park in banners emblazoned with poetry. “People contributed things that were anything from being drunk at a protest in the ’60s to one woman’s really beautiful story about losing her daughter and going to the park and remembering her,” [curator Dina] Deitsch says. “She’s framing these personal narratives as [being as] important as these great historical narratives.”

[Says Hsu,] "the artists are responding to this idea that public space becomes public when we the public use it.”

Cambridge Day April 30, 2017
Summerlong public art project shows off $6M renovation of Cambridge Common by Chloe Reichel

Lillian Hsu, director of public art and exhibitions, wrote that the banner project “highlights the rich stories from ordinary citizens who have contributed to the civic use of a historical and important public space at the heart of the city.”