2022 Julie Leven Artistic Project: Voices of Hope
Voices of Hope is series of short musical compositions based upon poems written by people experiencing homelessness in Boston, as performed by musicians from Shelter Music Boston, in collaboration with the Black Seed Writers. The resulting compositions will be performed by SMB musicians and recorded in videos that capture both the music and the poems on which the compositions are based.
Black Seed Writers Group Every Tuesday since 2011, homeless, transitional or recently housed people meet at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul for an hour and 15 minutes of free-writing. They are the Black Seed Writers Group. The writers' works are published in The Pilgrim, a literary magazine, and performed at readings at Brookline Booksmith.
Why this project?
People experiencing homelessness are often dehumanized
“Research by Harris and Fiske (2010) showed that many people don’t see homeless people as real human beings. Harris and Fiske made brain scans of regular people looking at objects and human beings. When looking at human beings, the medial prefrontal cortex was activated, which is involved in social cognition. When looking at objects, the medial prefrontal cortex didn’t light up, and the same happened when they saw pictures of heavy marginalized groups like substance dependent or homeless people.”
“Often people fail to respond to those in need. Why? In addition to cognitive and perceptual processes such as oversight and diffusion of responsibility, a motivational process may lead people, at times, to actively avoid feeling empathy for those in need, lest they be motivated to help them. It is predicted that empathy avoidance will occur when, before exposure to a person in need, people are aware that (1) they will be asked to help this person and (2) helping will be costly. To test this prediction, Ss were given the choice of hearing 1 of 2 versions of an appeal by a homeless man for help: an empathy-inducing version or a non-empathy-inducing version. As predicted, those aware that they soon would be given a high-cost opportunity to help the man chose to hear the empathy-inducing version less often than did those either unaware of the upcoming opportunity or aware but led to believe that helping involved low cost.”
“For the many households that had to tap savings or go into debt to cover lost income last year, the impacts of the pandemic will linger well into the future. A Joint Center review of surveys conducted over the past year found that about a quarter of the renters with COVID-related job losses reported that they had substantially depleted their savings, another quarter had borrowed from families and friends, and a tenth had turned to payday or personal loans. Even assuming they regain their financial footing, these households will have fewer resources to draw on whether for everyday needs, emergencies, or for a downpayment on a home. Recovering from the devastating effects of the pandemic will be harder yet for those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 or are themselves suffering from the long-term debilitating effects of the virus.”
Music has been proven to activate parts of the brain responsible for empathy and compassion
Short compositions and stories through poetry can engage audiences and consumers in a saturated world of information
Art can embrace complexity of human experience that can remove stigma of people experiencing homelessness
A joint collaborative process with people experiencing homeless fosters and the artists can foster relationship building and a more cohesive, compassionate community
Why Shelter Music Boston?
Shelter Music Boston (SMB) has had an eleven year track record of delivering high quality classical music concerts to audiences experiencing homelessness
We have created innovative programming centered around collaborative composition projects (i.e. Water for My Soul), amplifying the voices of diverse composers and identities (i.e. Voices from the Land, The Florence Price Opera)
SMB has a developed network of partners in both the social service and arts sectors and will continue to be a leading organization in creating interdisciplinary, collaborative work in Boston