Saturday, February 04, 2012

Kathleen Bitetti: An artist with one eye on public policy and another on her art.

(For You..., Dec 18th 2011: Airport site, performative action done on Dec 18th to commemorate International Migrants Day by Kathleen Bitetti)

Kathleen Bitetti: An artist with one eye on public policy and another on her art.

By Doug Holder

Like T.S. Eliot who wrote in his famed poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"--I have indeed "measured my life in coffee spoons"...and interviews I might add. So over coffee at the Au Bon Pain cafe in Harvard Square I interviewed artist, curator, Public Policy Advocate, Kathleen Bitetti. Bitetti originally from Quincy, Mass. is a slim, energetic woman who for over twenty years has been advocating and advising on the local, national and state level for the rights of artists. She also happens to be an accomplished visual artist in her own right.

She describes her work as "Conceptually based sociopolitical objects, installations and community based projects.” According to her website "Her work deconstructs the American Dream, fairy tales, nursery rhymes...her work also addresses race/gender assignments, the fragility of family dynamics, domestic violence..." Her art has been displayed in such venues as the permanent collection at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Mass. and the New Bedford Art Museum.

If that is not enough Bitetti is currently an artist in residence for the city of Quincy, Mass. through the Quincy Historical Society and was in residence at the Gozo Contemporary Art Museum in Malta.

Bitetti, who headed the Artist Foundation in Boston for many years, was a project leader for a fall 2009 report titled: "Stand Up and be counted--A Survey on Massachusetts Artists’' Work Lives, Socioeconomic Status, Access to Healthcare and Medical and Non-Medical Debt."

She described and brought attention to the many way artists were falling through the cracks. Even after landmark healthcare legislation was passed in the state, and later nationally, she found that artists did not have access to healthcare, as they are often freelancers and contract workers, with limited incomes and benefits. Bitetti told me: "We found that artists were often paid inadequately. And it seems that people expected that artists would produce work for free." (God knows I know how that works in the poetry world!) Through her strident activism she was appointed to the State House's "Creative Economy Council" in Jan. 2012 that will work to solve inequities in the Independent Contractor Law passed in Massachusetts in 2004.

Bitetti is also involved with the “Medicine Wheel" project in South Boston started by her friend, the visual artist Mike Dowling. Bitetti works as a curator for their art gallery. The program helps connect low income inner city kids with the arts, and artists through poetry, and other creative media to broaden their horizons and enrich their lives.

Bitetti is a rare bird--a talented artist with acumen for public policy. Usually, at least in my experience-the two don't often mix. As we were leaving the cafe Bitetti told me she would soon be leaving for Malta to continue her artistic work linking that country to Massachusetts.

Out on the street
I felt a blast of cold air,
I turned
-- and she was no longer there—
I saw her rushing figure blur and merge,
into the hustlers and bustlers-- of Harvard Square.

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1 comment:

  1. I've never seen such a glowing gold tint on the painting on the banner....