Pam Dipasquale

Tile image

Age when this tile was made: 11

Where did you live when you made this tile?

I lived on Irving Street, outside of Davis Square.

Where else have you lived in Somerville?

I spent my entire childhood on Irving Street. When I was in graduate school I did live on North Street for about two years.

Where do you live now?

I currently live in Louisville KY, and am the education director for Kentucky Shakespeare Festival (another form of public art).

Do you consider Somerville your hometown? Yes

What is your earliest Somerville memory?

To me Somerville was always my home and I truly never identified with the city as being unique or different than other cities, until I was in the seventh grade: The regional science fair for the state was being held at Western JR High School, which was adjacent to Powder House Community School. I was a finalist in the fair, and was representing Western. I made many friends that day, children from all over the state. During a conversation, my new friends commented "can you imagine having to go to this school? It is such a dump! My parents almost didn't let me come to the science fair because it was in Somerville." Proudly, I let them know that I went to that school, then walked away.

It was in that moment that I realized that my home was not as safe, secure and comforting as I believed it to be. It was in that moment that I learned that being from Somerville might not be a good thing. I then had many more moments throughout middle and high school where my home town was unfavorably mentioned at academic meets, youth programs and college interviews.

How would you describe Somerville in the 1980s?

Did you ever walk around the property lines of Tufts University in the 80's? Did you ever notice that the grounds located in the city of Somerville were lined with barbed wire fence while the grounds located in Medford were lined with decorative wrought iron? To me that defined Somerville in the 80's. I never felt unsafe walking around, I never believed I got a second rate education, I never thought I was underserved or at-risk. I didn't think that the sidewalk in Medford deserved inviting open gates, while the side walks in Somerville demanded wires worthy of criminals, but the world surrounding me did.

In 1984, WCVB did a not so flattering documentary about Somerville High School, in it there was a scene that showed a group of unruly boys throwing things out a window during a class led by a frantic teacher. This teacher was one of the best teachers I have ever had, and it really infuriated me that they film makers chose to show this scene rather than one from that my AP History class, taught be the same teache,r in which the students were challenged and allowed to challenge back. Again, it was the perception the rest of the Commonwealth wanted to project on Somerville in the 80's, rather than the actuality. Two years later, I had an interview with Harvard University. The woman interviewing me lived two blocks down from Somerville High school and had seen that documentary. She came right out and told me thought the kids going to SHS were out of control and their education did not prepare them for further study at Harvard.

How would you describe Somerville today?

I love to go home and visit my parents, who still live on Irving Street. I love to go to a job interview in Connecticut and meet someone who lived in Davis Square, I love having a conversation 1200 miles away from Massachusetts and learn that someone I just met knows Somerville just as well as me! it is not only my home, but a common bond that I share with so many. Now, I don't know if those fences around Tufts University have changed, but Davis Square certainly has.

How has Somerville changed?

I think the Davis Square T station that houses the tiles that spurred these questions in the first place was the very reason why Somerville experienced the change it has gone since the early 80's. With the introduction of the T, Davis Square was instantly connected to Boston. The houses in the neighborhood were being bought up by young urban professionals, the Tufts students began to journey into Somerville to get to the T and realized it wasn't so bad, the once abandoned retail in Davis began to provided coffees for all of those commuters and the whole culture began to change.

I just have to say this: I remember distincly making that tile (or more precisely, the artwork that would become the tile). We were in art class and given all of the supplies needed to make the artwork that the artists would use to press into the clay. We were told that we would be able to experiment and the art we played with that day would not be used for the final tile. Unfortunately, the artists chose my art work to be one of the first five tiles made. And then used it as an example to show the other students. I was furious because I did not want that artwork to be my final piece! I argued with the artists and begged them to let me make another one, but no such luck and, there it still stands- for all the world to see.