Video Still from WATERMARK, 2022, 2 channel video installation

RIGHTS ALONG THE SHORE

Rights Along the Shore proposes a reconsideration of segregated swimming sites in Northern and Southern US locations, specifically the social transformation and social costs ignited by the NAACP-organized “wade-in” resistance at South Boston’s Carson Beach in the summer of 1975.

Rights Along the Shore is a conceptual and collaborative exhibition that examines the long-term effects of racially segregated swimming sites within the Northern and Southern United States. It follows the trajectory of Abrams’ and Strom’s series titled “Wade Ins,” research-based projects that employ participatory practices to examine recreational segregation in the South and de-facto segregation in the North. 

It begins with water. Bodies immersed stretch and float. A reduction of gravity is unleashed, taking a load off. Freedom in water.  Body of water.  Bodies in water. Joy from the release of weight. Water can also be tempestuous, violent, impossible to control. Beaches. Pools. Restriction. Regulation. Confronting racial segregation. Land and water made public for all.

To produce this project, Abrams and Strom have had the honor to be in conversation with many neighbors, organizers, activists, writers, and educators including:

  • Leon Rock, Journalist and NAACP Youth Affairs Advisor, 1975
  • Michael Patrick McDonald, writer, educator and activist author of All Souls: A Family Story from Southie and advocate for survivor families in Boston’s anti-violence movement
  • Alicia Baez, former Roxbury resident who attended South Boston High School
  • Caitlyn Murphy, South Boston resident, educator and youth advocate; and leaders and participants in South Boston Neighborhood House’s after school programs, among others. 

Rights Along the Shore is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Margaret Rose Vendryes.

  1. Washington Evening Star Photo Archive: Pool manager Kermit Stewart looks over the drained Anacostia pool after it was closed in June 1949. Performance and video from WATERMARK: ANACOSTIA POOL 1949-2022 by Danielle Abrams and Mary Ellen Strom
  2. Performance and video from RIGHTS ALONG THE SHORE by Danielle Abrams and Mary Ellen Strom. Boston Globe Photo Archive: 1975 picnic protest to desegregate Carson Beach, photo by George Rizer, Globe Staff, The Boston Globe.
  3. GEORGE RIZER, GLOBE STAFF/THE BOSTON GLOBE, Mounted police dispersed crowds on Carson Beach in South Boston on Aug. 10, 1975, when a peaceful demonstration by Black residents asserting their right to use the beach devolved into a violent melee.

Weird Sounds Podcast, Season 1, Episode 2: Danielle Abrams and Mary Ellen Strom


Colloquium: “Freedom in Water, Body of Water, Bodies in Water”


Exhibition Catalogue


About the Artists

Danielle Abrams and Mary Ellen Strom

Director Mary Ellen Strom, and Writer and Performer Danielle Abrams during shoot for Rights Along the Shore. Wareham Street studios.   

Danielle Abrams’ performances arise from the social tides that shape her mixed race and queer identities. She adopts personae that animate the dualistic relationships between racial and ethnic groups. Her work stages interactive encounters, and by using plays, puppetry, and monologues, she reimagines the narratives of art history, civil rights, and popular culture. By rearranging time periods and juxtaposing clans, Abrams’ performances build a radical social vision. Intimate dialogues, homespun lore, and sass are Abrams’ syntax, which liberate the scripts of the past. Abrams has performed and exhibited at the ICA Boston; Detroit Institute of the Arts; Bronx Museum of the Arts; The Jewish Museum, NY; Queens Museum; Grand Central Art Center; and at other performance spaces and galleries. She has received support from The New York Foundation of the Arts, Urban Arts Initiative, the Franklin Furnace Performance Art Fund, and New England Foundation for the Arts’ “Collective Imagination for Spatial Justice” Grant. Abrams is a Professor of Practice in Performance at School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University (SMFA at Tufts) in Boston. Danielle tragically passed away in April, 2022.

Mary Ellen Strom is an artist, curator, and writer. Strom’s project-based artworks are produced with community organizers, humanities and science scholars, environmentalists, local politicians, and cultural theorists. Her artworks have been exhibited in museums and galleries, and on farms, cattle ranches, on rivers, on trains, industrial sites, horse arenas, beaches, and pools. Exhibitions include: MoCA, LA; MoMA, NYC; ICA, Philadelphia; Contemporary Art Museum, Houston; MFA, Boston; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Wexner Center, Columbus, OH; Pompidou Centre-Metz, Paris; Satouchi Trienniale, Japan; Hayward Gallery, London; Nagoya Museum of Fine Arts, Japan; and Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne. Awards include: International Fulbright Scholar Fellowship, Bogliasco Fellowship, Creative Capital, Artadia, the MAP Fund, Warhol Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts. Strom is a Media Arts Professor of the Practice at SMFA at Tufts. She is the Projects Director for the Center for Arts, Design + Social Research and a co-founder of the public art organization Mountain Time Arts (MTA) in Southwestern Montana, U.S. MTA’s upcoming project “Yellowstone Revealed” features public artworks by Indigenous artists and scholars in Yellowstone National Park in August 2022.

Public Programs

Freedom in Water, Body of Water, Bodies in Water (Colloquium)
Friday, April 15, 1-4pm
Plaza Theatre at Boston Center for the Arts,
539 Tremont St.
Boston, MA 02116

The Master of Fine Arts program at School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) at Tufts University and Boston Center for the Arts (BCA)  present the 2022 colloquium entitled Freedom in Water, Body of Water, Bodies in Water. The colloquium features four esteemed speakers who will address the topic of spatial justice in public spaces, particularly the history and present-day experience at public swimming sites: 

  • Kim Janey, former Mayor of the City of Boston and former Boston City Councilor
  • Margarita Kuleva, artist and sociologist from St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Alonso Nichols, photographer and media artist
  • Leon Rock, journalist and NAACP Youth Affairs Advisor, 1975

Freedom in Water, Body of Water, Bodies in Water, looks at the history/ies of segregated swimming sites and the lived experiences of the people who participated in the sites’ recreation, demonstrations, rebellions, riots and advocacy for de-segregation. Pools and beaches were contentious sites because their desegregation resulted in the direct mixing of Black and white bodies.

In 2022, these waters are sites for reconsideration of the past, civic recuperations, reparations, and current assurances for safe social and physical engagement in public spaces for all. The colloquium is being organized by SMFA at Tufts Faculty Danielle Abrams and Mary Ellen Strom and Interim Associate Director of Graduate Program Kenson Truong in conjunction with the exhibition Rights Along the Shore at the Mills Gallery of Boston Center for the Arts. 

Following the colloquium, guests are invited to walkthrough the exhibition with the artists at the Mills Gallery, 551 Tremont Street, Boston. 


Opening Reception 
Friday, April 22,  6-9 pm.

We are shocked and saddened to learn of the untimely death of beloved artist and educator, Danielle Abrams. In accordance with her family’s wishes, Danielle Abrams’ and Mary Ellen Strom’s exhibition, Rights Along the Shore, will be on view in the Mills Gallery at Boston Center for the Arts until May 28 as originally intended. We hope that this will provide Danielle’s friends, family, and colleagues the necessary space to gather, remember, and reflect upon Danielle’s life and work.

*For more information, please contact Heshan de Silva-Weeramuni at heshan@bostonarts.org.

February 2022. Video shoot for Rights Along the Shore. From left to right: Director Mary Ellen Strom, Writer and performer Danielle Abrams, Camera Operator Billy Foshay, and Camera Operator Alonso Nichols in Wareham Street studios.