Events & exhibitions


Hold Art Exhibition Rendering 2024
Rendering of HOLD. Courtesy of Gabriel Jean-Paul Soomar and Curry J. Hacket


Curry J. Hackett MAUD ’24 and Gabriel Jean-Paul Soomar MArch II ’24, MDes ’24
Polycarbonate panel, douglas fir, intermittent sound

Created by students for the Radcliffe Institute Public Art CompetitionHOLD acknowledges the complex relationship Black communities have had with enclosure. The installation both serves as a symbol of restrictions placed on Black mobility (including redlining, incarceration, and slavery) and highlights embracing spaces created by Black communities (such as the Black church, the front porch, and the hair salon). The artwork’s title references the cargo hold of a slave ship and the ways that many Black folks hold each other together in moments of celebration, solidarity, fear, and grief. 

In its form, HOLD resonates with and responds to existing Harvard architecture and the horseshoe-shaped motifs found throughout Radcliffe Yard, as well as a vessel’s hull and sail. HOLD creates a new outdoor site for reflection, welcoming all visitors and inviting them to engage with the work and to contemplate communities that may historically–or currently–be overlooked.

A soundscape adds layered resonance to HOLD’s sculptural form. A chime sounds each Sunday at 11 AM ET, the start time of many Black church services. It will sound at noon on other select days. The installation is also accompanied by rotating sound works, curated by Hackett and Soomar, that play daily at dusk.

Free and open to the public.

Read a GSD article about the work.

About the Radcliffe Institute Public Art Competition

The Radcliffe Institute Public Art Competition (RIPAC) offers matriculated Harvard students an opportunity to showcase innovative projects at the intersection of art, landscape design, and structural architecture, as well as to heighten the visibility of the arts at Harvard. Students across the University, representing a broad range of programs and disciplines, compete for a prize, funding for construction, and mentorship throughout the process of installing their winning artwork.

The competition and garden are made possible by a generous gift from Susan S. Wallach ’68, JD ’71 and Kenneth L. Wallach ’68, JD ’72, for whom the garden is named. The Wallachs are longtime champions and supporters of Harvard Radcliffe Institute and Harvard University.

Harvard Radcliffe Institute is also grateful to the members of the RIPAC review committee:

  • Anita Berrizbeitia, professor of landscape architecture, Harvard Graduate School of Design 
  • Bree Edwards, director, ArtLab at Harvard University 
  • Heather Hart RI ’22, interdisciplinary artist 
  • Jinah Kim, Johnson-Kulukundis Family Faculty Director of the Arts, Harvard Radcliffe Institute and George P. Bickford Professor of Indian and South Asian Art, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences  
  • Matt Saunders, professor of art, film, and visual studies, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences 
  • Malkit Shoshan, design critic in urban planning and design, Harvard Graduate School of Design

Soundscape: A Baptism Story

Curry J. Hackett MAUD ’24 
A Baptism Story,
TRT 14:40


“Part soundscape, part oral history, A Baptism Story is a haunting account between me and my mother that traces her recollection of her baptism in a creek in rural southern Virginia. Her story braids narratives of Black kinship, relations with land, and religiosity. Most of her dialogue is barely legible, as if distant and underwater, but becomes clear in certain moments—like the submerging and resurfacing of a baptism. Channeling Edouard Glissant’s writings on the “right to opacity,” this obfuscation protects the contents of an intimate conversation between mother and son while respecting the relationship between my mother and her spirituality. 

Sounds include my own field recordings from Boston (bell-like rings from a pile-driving machine on a construction site, water splashing in the Charles River, and walking through brush on the Charles’s riverbank), and processed loops from the conversation itself (my mom’s singing of hymns, and dial tones).”

—Curry J. Hackett

Soundscape Transcript

[A steady, bell-like ringing slowly grows louder, and is overlaid with the echoing clang of a repetitive, percussive impact and faint rustling sounds. A phone begins to ring.]

Female voice: “Hello?”

[The ringing phone, bell-like tones, and percussive rhythm continue. There is the rustle and crunch of walking through brush.]

Female voice, again: “Hello?”

Male voice: “You ready to talk to me?”

Female voice: [murmuring assent]

[The ringing phone, bell-like tones, percussive rhythm, and rustling brush continue at a slightly lower volume, and fade away to leave just the ring of the phone. Footsteps sound.]

Female voice, over the rustle of brush: “Alright, do you just want me to . . . just talk about it? Do you want me to hum anything?”

[Rustling sounds continue, along with the faint sirens of emergency vehicles.]

Female voice, over the sounds of rustling and water splashing: “. . . and I, at the age of nine, was baptized in a creek.”

[Splashes, like the sound of footsteps through water, and the low ringing of a phone.]

Female voice, over the sound of water splashing, and the echoing hum of a muddled, indistinct voice: “I’m 67 years old. And I grew up in a small rural town . . .”

[Her words gradually become incoherent, as if speaking from beneath the water. She continues to speak indistinctly over the sounds of footsteps moving through water and brush.]

Female voice, clearer now: “That’s the way it was—back in the day.”

[Splashing and indistinct speech continue, and fade to focus just on the voice, which gradually becomes clearer, but is still difficult to discern. Splashing resumes.]

Female voice, over the sounds of water splashing: “During the month of August, that is when revival starts in the country. There were five black churches . . .”

[Speech again becomes indistinct, echoing over the sounds of moving through brush. The bell-like ringing resumes.]

Female voice: “And well, it’s about that time . . . where you get religious, so to speak.”

[Murmured speech, sounds of moving through brush and water, and bell-like ringing continue. The ringing slowly fades.]

Female voice, clearer now: “A few weeks, days would pass, and then it was time for the baptism to take place.”

[Splashing, joined by the indistinct sounds of speech and a woman singing.]

Female voice: “. . . of Prospect, Virginia. And when you are entering the water, you don’t know what to expect. And you—at age nine—you scared. But you can feel the sand and the dirt under your feet . . .”

[Her words again become muddled, echoing over the sounds of movement through water and brush.]

Female voice: “. . . hold your hands together, as if you were praying. And they would say: ‘I baptize you in the name of the father, the son, and the holy ghost’—and down in the water you go! . . .”

Female voice, singing: “Wade in the water . . . wade in the water, children. Wake in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water. Wade in the water . . . wade in the water, children. Wade in the water . . .”

[Her words become indistinct. Ringing of phone returns and slowly becomes louder, layered over the sound of rustling brush and bell-like, rhythmic tolls, joined by a faint percussive noise. The singing faintly resumes.]

Female voice: “Hello?”

The singing, sounding over a ringing phone, slowly grows louder: “Wade in the water . . . wade in the water, children. Wake in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water. Wade in the water . . . wade in the water, children. Wake in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water. Wade in the water . . . wade in the water, children. Wade in the water . . .”

[Singing fades and splashing, bell-like tolls, and percussive rhythm returns. This layered sound fades to focus just on the bell-like ringing, which slowly transitions to silence.]

Female voice: “Hello?”

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