The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum will have its final Neighborhood Night of the summer tonight, August 22, where the museum will come alive with the sights and sounds of musicians, artists, and other creators. The theme of the final night is “Map this Block Party,” and guests can enjoy free admission to the museum to enjoy the exhibits and take advantage of the interactive activities provided, including performances, art-making, food trucks, games and more.
Rhea Vedro, Director of Community Engagement at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, is also a leader of the Neighborhood Salon Luminaries, a cohort of artists that are chosen each year. “The Neighborhood Salon is a gathering of Boston’s select cultural leaders and tastemakers whose work and agency impacts and inspires the Gardner Museum and its neighbors,” according the Gardner museum’s website. A few of these Luminaries will be showcasing their work at the Neighborhood Night Block Party.
“We are about to invite our fourth cohort,” Vedro said, and current cohorts are nominated by past cohorts as well as nominations. In the past, Luminaries have included chefs, artists, painters, and community organizers, she said. The group of selected artists convene quarterly at the museum to talk about their work, collaborate, and get feedback, Vedro said. “Those collaborations and interests and talents inform the shape of community engagement programming at the museum,” she said. “It’s really special and lets us be a creative home.”
In terms of the block party, there is usually a luminary involved in one or more ways, she said.
This year’s party will feature sustainable fashion designer Nathalia JMag, who has been working on an exhibition of her clothing for many months, Vedro said. JMag has been working with groups like Urbano Project, Hyde Square Task Force, and Sisters Unchained. Her clothing will be modeled by drag queens and others that were selected by JMag for the event. After the block party, the clothing will be on display in Urbano Project’s gallery space throughout August.
“I chose to go into sustainable fashion because I felt like I didn’t have any other option,” JMag said. The fashion designer went to Framingham State University, where she said she switched around majors five times before settling on the fashion department, as she was drawn to those classes.
Outside of her classes, she did her own research on the industry and found things she liked and things she didn’t like about it. She said she liked that it is a trillion dollar industry and she would be able to make a living in it, but she found out just how bad for the environment clothing production can be.
“I could be just part of the solution,” she figured, and decided to major in fashion design and “figure out how I can do things the right way, not the conventional way,” she said. She took a class about zero waste design and upcycling, and still uses what she learned in that class today.
It also lead her to do more of her own research on the fabrics she liked using. “I was using a lot of faux fur when I first started designing,” she said, as she thought it was better than real animal fur. But she found out that even faux fur is not good for the environment as it contains petroleum. Some types of vegan leather are also not environmentally friendly, she said. She also liked to use a lot of upholstery fabrics, she said, but “a lot of them are harmful to wear because they’re sprayed with a lot of chemicals,” she said.
Instead, she learned that fabrics liokke linen, organic cottons, and hemp and bamboo fabrics are much better alternatives.
JMag has decided to take her education one step further and is in the process of completing a masters at Rhode Island School of Design in Nature, Culture and Sustainability, where she’s learning about where textiles come from and about natural dying. She’s applied natural dying to the clothes she sells on her website.
The collection that will be showcased at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Block Party will be her first 100 percent zero waste collection. She says it’s important for people to be aware of sustainable clothing because “it’s intertwined with every industry.” Typical clothing is made by a person who is making cents to the hour, she said. “It’s really important for us to start thinking about how what we’re doing and our purchasing is affecting the world,” she said, citing the cliche that “you vote with your dollar.”
JMag’s workshops with JP youth at Urbano Project, Hyde Square Task Force, and Sisters Unchained include teaching people textile dying techniques and how to print on fabric.
JMag describes her clothing style as “ethereal but also streetwear.” She said the designs are femme but she likes to take certain aspects of menswear and use them in her designs. “I want people to be able to wear my clothes to a party or dress it down for movies or a date,” she said, adding that her clothes are for “everyone,” and does not believe that clothing should have an age attached to it.
“I am most exited to see the event come together and see the textiles and the mini collection on display and just being there,” she said. “It’s really important o realize that we have power. If we collectively choose to make good choices we can really make a difference in the world.”
The Neighborhood Block Party will take place from 5:00-9:00pm, and JMag’s first processional will be at 6:15pm outside the museum.
Other Luminaries that will be a part of the event include DJ Real P, who will be deejaying the block party outside, and Josh Knowles, who will be playing electric violin and singing in the courtyard.
Other performers include youth step teams, dance teams, and percussion group Grooversity. A screening of Eternally Misunderstood, a documentary “that gives voice to how was incarceration takes its toll,” will be playing in Calderwood Hall at 6:00, 7:00, and 8:15pm, Vedro said. At the 7:00pm screening, there will be a discussion with director Vanessa Ly. “Im excited to see the culmination of this really exciting technical skill building that Nathalia has been doing with young people at Urbano Project, Sisters Unchained, and Hyde Square Task Force,” Vedro said. She’s also excited for people to “come on out and join us,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a really wonderful night.”