Sifting the Inner Belt

Art & Design

A year-long social performance and research art project bridging the Boston Center for the Arts and Berkeley Street Community Garden in the South End of Boston, MA. The project consisted of performances, potluck dinners, conversations and installations.

The “Inner Belt” refers to the ill conceived and never completed highway project from the 1948-1971 that would have created an inner beltway highway around downtown Boston and between the South End and Lower Roxbury. Perhaps the most significant Urban Renewal project in Boston’s history, the Inner Belt, and associated projects, resulted in thousands of families displaced, millions of dollars of land takings, and a legacy of “renewal” through displacement that still exists today. The term “renewal” lost its way in the 60’s and 70’s in the U.S. So much of the urban “renewal” actually destroyed thriving, functional communities. The verb “to renew” can yet be redeemed by returning to its roots defined often as “to make new spiritually” or “to re-establish on a new, usually improved, basis or make new or like new.” Sifting the Inner Belt is a social and creative approach to renewing “urban renewal.”

Project website at

My role in Sifting the Inner Belt focused on the Nail Salon Exchange Project in conjunction with Jeremy Chu. We hired manicurists from local nail salons from the South End neighborhood to give free manicures to the gardeners at the Berkeley Street Community Garden (and other gallery visitors). In exchange for a free manicure, we recorded their stories about living and working in the South End.