Union Square at Work
Union Square at Work presents photographs and stories of people who work in Union Square — the oldest commercial district in Somerville, Massachusetts. Located immediately outside of Boston, Somerville is a three-time winner of the National Civic League’s All-America City Award. Union Square is home to mechanics, restaurants, salvage yards, non-profits, tailors, plumbers, schools, salons, bars and many other businesses. There is a tattoo studio and a clean technology incubator. An American Legion Post and a used record store. A glass services company and a puppet artist. Some businesses have been open for 20, 30, even 100 years or more, often run by the same family. Other businesses just opened last month. There are shops that specialize in Guatemalan, Brazilian, Korean, Haitian, and Indian goods. There are also artists and musicians who write, record, and perform in the Square (the project includes a playlist of 20 local bands). Union Square is anchored by the ever-busy Market Basket discount grocery. Far from representing all of the many Union Square businesses, this project represents a sample of working life in the Square.
This project was started as a way to explore the meaning of work and local business, not as a response to Union Square’s upcoming redevelopment. However, Union Square is on the cusp of a major change. An MBTA Green Line transit station is expected to open, connecting the Square with Cambridge and Boston. In addition, infrastructure improvements and over 2 million square feet of new development are planned in the city’s $1 billion Union Square Revitalization Plan. Understandably, there is both excitement and concern about the changes to come — who will gain, and what will be lost? What new opportunities will arrive and which will disappear? Already, a number of shops have moved, closed, or been knocked down to make way for the future. As we move into that future, we might pause and see this All-American neighborhood as it stands today.
Charan Devereaux grew up near Cleveland, Ohio. Once a center of American manufacturing and steel production, Cleveland has since faced economic challenges. As a photographer, she is drawn to urban transitions and the meaning of work, creating portraits of people in their work environments.
Devereaux currently lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, the most densely-populated city in New England and a former meat-packing capital. She has exhibited at the Massachusetts State House, the Somerville Museum, Harvard University’s Holyoke Center, Somerville’s Washington Street Art Center, Club Passim, the Griffin Museum of Photography’s 22nd Juried Instagram Exhibition, and the Harvard Kennedy School. Devereaux has received grants from the Somerville Arts Council/Massachusetts Cultural Council, and contributed photographs to The Boston Globe. She studied photography at the Massachusetts College of Art, the New England School of Photography, the Griffin Museum of Photography, and Harvard University.
Contact Charan Devereaux