Somerville Street Art

It’s tough to know exactly what to call Somerville resident Tim Devin. Is he a street artist? A demographer? Or kind of a mix of the two? However you want to define him, Devin’s current project, BBC Broadsides, is making his neighbors in Somerville think a bit harder about the city in which they live.

Since March, Devin has been tacking up three different kinds of posters on telephone poles, walls, and bridges around Somerville: “Mappy Facts,” which depicts demographic data about poverty and crime; “Street Surveys,” which are pull-tab posters asking people if they relate to where they live; and poetry from Cambridge-based poet Paul Johns. Through the maps and surveys, he’s disassembled the standard census-style questionnaire and is instead having people consider the findings in their actual context. (As for the poetry, he says, it’s because he thought it would be “nice.”)

“I like to do things in public that are sort of interacting with people,” says Devin. “From where I stand, I don’t care if people think it’s art or not. The idea is to create a little bit of community and to give people a chance to interact, which everyone enjoys. It’s a way to encourage a different way of thinking about things.”

This is the latest of Devin’s projects, his most recent being “The History of Somerville 2010-2100,” a compendium of predictions from locals about what the future of the city will be like. In reality, Devin’s day job is neither artist or demographer, he’s a librarian, and in a way he says that his projects are an extension of that. “It’s not really me being out there as a sociologist and getting hard data,” he says. Instead, Devin is more interested in putting it out there to see what people think. “People complain about the lack of community and friendliness in the places they live,” he reasons. “But if you’re not putting yourself out there you’re not going to get anything back.”

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