Stumbled Upon Dougherty’s Stickwork Project in Salem, MA: Reminiscent of the haunting stories of witch trials

On a routine trip to Boston to visit family and reconnect with my northern roots, my family and I took a day trip to Salem, MA. Not really going with any particular agenda in mind, we walked the historic town and stumbled upon Patrick Dougherty’s Stickwork project, What the Birds Know, commissioned by Peabody Essex Museum.

The sculpture stretches across the radius of the Washington/Essex intersection in front of the Crowninshield Bentley House. The work, inspired by the gabled, shingled homes of Colonial-style architecture, has a haunting feel as the structures tilt and sway organically in multiple directions as if moving in the wind. These ghost-like forms include large circular openings that mimic howling or screaming (think Edvard Munch’s The Scream), another “spooky” visual element that hints at Salem’s infamous witch trials and the ghost stories that remain.

Although I’m uncertain about Dougherty’s intent to create haunting forms in this work, the installation unquestionably feels at home in this place.


The backside (not shown above but can be viewed here) mimics the European Turret, typically made of stone, found in Europe and the UK (think Medieval Castle towers). The juxtaposition of the different architectural styles represents the transition from the Old World to the New (Dougherty, 2015).

Later during our walk, prior to leaving for the afternoon, we made a special trip to the Salem Witch trials memorial, an incredibly moving site if you have not been there before. I have visited a few times and each time, I leave truly solemn and in deep reflection. Perhaps because the memorial reflects the persecution of a group of people who were different from the norm of society, living in a world driven by fear in a system that would not protect them (The Salem Award Foundation, 1992) — a story that unfortunately is not new or estranged in our history, nor extinct in our present.

Below is one of the twenty stone “benches” in the memorial. Each victim’s name is carved in all caps, old-style lettering – a simple, beautiful and direct solution to honor those that lost their lives unjustly. One stone bench is dedicated to each victim.


The memorial is realized primarily through stone and typography. The stones representing people, both the accused and the silent spectators, and the typography representing the protests of the victims.




Improving Communities with Art: Implementing Sustainable Design Thinking

As I move into my final thesis year at Georgia State, I can’t help but think about the work I’ve done the last couple of years and how I want to move forward with my research. I’ve realized that I have a strong passion for working with supergraphics, while helping community to connect people and place.

Currently, my thesis reads like this:
Repurposing abandoned buildings between ownership by means of visual, audio, and/or other supergraphic design implementations should increase community engagement and connect people and place while discouraging issues like crime, pollution, etc. that result from forgotten spaces.

Some really interesting civic projects that I have studied as case studies for my own work include Candy Chang’s work in New Orleans, Tyree Guyton’s work in Detroit, and the Highline in New York City. These projects are becoming more important, especially when the economy is down and abandoned buildings and vacant lots are rising. Communities become victim to pollution and crime when property owners can not take care of their lots. Buildings in particular quickly fall apart and decay when left alone.

Candy Chang’s Before I die…

Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project

New York City High Line Project


Candy Chang inspires urban development by enabling community

Candy Chang is an installation artist, urban planner, and designer whose mission is to make cities more comfortable for people. She is also a co-founder of Civic Center, a New Orleans based – civic design studio that strives to build helpful communities in New Orleans. Much of her current work is inspired from community insight of abandoned or lost buildings in the city. How could the spaces be improved for the people that live, work, and play here now?

What I have found interesting about Chang ‘s work is that she enables the community of New Orleans to voice their desires about urban planning in their city. How does she do it? That is a very good question. Many of her projects open up communication and create a public dialogue between designers and the community. Chang often poses what is seemingly research techniques as installation art itself in public spaces. Let’s look at some examples of her work.

How might a similar process for enabling community and providing a more comfortable city function in a city like Atlanta? It seems plausible that using a similar approach and technique as Chang but changing the city (to Atlanta) and changing the people (who live near the abandoned space) would in fact, vary the results of new design and urban planning drastically.

Spatial Interventions

Typographic Window Art Installations at GSU share simple everyday reminders to passerbys

In 2009, I worked on a project that utilized windows as canvases throughout the city. Each window would activate a written phrase. The project was called Take back the day and was inspired by artists like Jenny Holzer.