It took 117 feet of PVC piping, 100 feet of chicken wire, 22-guage wiring and a whole lot of passion – and compassion – for local artist Karyn Alzayer to make a huge Boston statement about the situation at the Mexican/American border.
Alzayer, who is currently the chair of the Everett Cultural Commission, is the artist behind the unsolicited protest art that she unveiled recently on the ‘Make Way for Ducklings’ statue on the Public Gardens in Boston.
Alzayer, making a statement about how children are treated while being held at the border, built and placed cages around the Ducklings recently early one morning to show that Boston’s most beloved babies would be in cages were they to be on the border.
“It was around the Fourth of July and I was so infuriated because I couldn’t understand how we could have fun while we have children in cages on the border,” she said. “I’m so angry about that and I saw the Ducklings dressed up with Fourth of July bonnets and stuff. They could be in cages. They’re Boston’s famous immigrant family. If they were to come to the country right now, they would be in cages. I knew right then I had to build this…If you would have told me 10 years ago I would be making protest art and speaking out, I wouldn’t have believed you. I would have thought I was too responsible. But that’s where I’m at now.”
Alzayer is well-known for coordinating efforts around the Everett arts community, and has her own arts business – attending numerous festivals in the area to do Henna designs. She and her husband, Daud, were long-time Everett residents who just recently moved, and she said she is a self-taught artist. (Side note: she has also been asked by the City to leave the Cultural Council, which she will do when a replacement is found).
So, about four weeks ago, Alzayer bough PVC pipe, chicken wire, straight wire and silver paint to begin making the cages that would go over the Ducklings.
“Each of them are five-feet long; they’re not small,” she said. “I have an art studio at home, but hey were too big. I had to make them on my back porch and in my kitchen…I cut all the wire by hand because I needed to feel the materials and wrestle with the materials. I still have cuts on my hands from the chicken wire. Chicken wire is brutal and sharp.”
One morning this month, Alzayer said they were read to place the cages.
Using two cars, with at least one large cage strapped to the roof of the car, they set out for the Public Gardens around 2 a.m. They placed the cages around the Ducklings, made a few adjustments, took some pictures and went home.
Around 7 a.m., Alzayer said she felt the push to go back to the scene, but once she got there, the cages were already gone.
“That just made me have hope,” she said. “We can free things from cages when we think it’s important. These cages were on the Ducklings only three hours and it was restored to normal…It really got rolled into the message of what we were doing and why is it we can’t fix this other situation on the border? Children are dying. There are seven to 10 confirmed deaths. It’s unconscionable. I needed to say something. I was only surprised someone else didn’t do it before me.”
One point of hesitation Alzayer had, she said, was as she left home to place the cages, she worried about taking away the true meaning of the Ducklings from the original artist, Nancy Schon, who lives on Beacon Hill.
However, like most of the comments, Schon reached out to Alzayer with very positive input – applauding her for making the artistic, and political, statement.
“She has reached out to me and gave me congratulations and thought it was brilliant,” said Alzayer. “We may be collaborating in the future. She offered her support. These are Boston’s babies and this is really happening to children on the border.”
Alzayer said she was glad she could make the splash, even if for three hours, and said the passion inside her could not be restrained.
“I had to say it,” she said.