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‘No Evil’ to Live on at Museum

December 6, 2018

Hundreds of faces of Fitchburg residents -- 424, to be exact -- now line the hallway of Fitchburg Art Museum’s Community Room as part of the “No Evil Project.”

The project began in 2011 by creator and executive director Troy B. Thompson to challenge stereotypes, and it has grown ever since.

“My whole thing is, people are so paranoid talking about differences,” Thompson said. “They’re afraid to offend someone. But by not talking, you then go by stereotypes, which make everything worse. I wanted to find a way to make that awkwardness a little easier and make these differences not a big deal.”

The museum, at 185 Elm St., will hold an opening reception for the project Saturday, from 2 to 5 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Along with seeing the new exhibit, there will be discussions, a fundraising silent auction and more.

The Fitchburg installment is the project’s largest exhibit at more than 20 feet long and 7 feet tall. It is also the first exhibit set up in an art museum.

“We basically wallpapered that hallway,” Thompson said.

Thompson started the project in 2011 as a way for people to see others they disagree with as individuals instead of in terms of “us versus them,” or “good versus evil.”

He takes three pictures of people posed to “speak no evil, hear no evil, see no evil.” To go with the pictures, people write three labels they identify with and a good deed they’ve done. Topics that have been brought up include race, religion, politics, mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, ageism and more.

Thompson originally photographed a few friends for ArtsWorcester, which is known for its juried exhibits of local art. After that, “it just went crazy.”

“Everyone really liked it when they saw it, and there was kind of this energy about it,” Thompson said.

The No Evil Project officially became a nonprofit this spring. Up until then, it was Thompson’s personal art project.

“I figured after photographing over 8,000 people, it can’t be a hobby anymore,” he said with a laugh.

Thompson said for one event he photographed at a high school, the students discussed serious topics, like depression and drug addiction.

“They said they wanted other students in the school who may be dealing with the same issues to feel like they weren’t alone, and they were using this project to have a voice, tell their story and use it as a support system,” Thompson said. “After hearing that, I knew we needed to do more of this. My silly little art project is helping people on that level. That’s the main reason we became a nonprofit.”

The project has been done in colleges and high schools, in corporations and at festivals like pride parades and tattoo conventions.

“We have the awkward conversations -- we go there,” Thompson said. “These kinds of conversations can be uncomfortable, but it’s important we work together.”

For the Fitchburg exhibit, Thompson photographed all people who live, work or play in Fitchburg. He went all over the city to get a variety of people involved, including Fitchburg State University, the Public Library, City Hall, the Fire and Police departments, a local mosque and a Unitarian church.

“It really turned into, it seems, a sense of pride about Fitchburg,” he said.

Organizations and individuals donated items for the silent auction to raise money for the project. There will also be a panel discussion featuring leaders in the community to create conversation.

“I want people to see the exhibit, but more than that, I want to know what do you do after you see this,” he said. “What do you learn about differences and challenging stereotypes?”

The exhibit will be on display for two months. Thompson said if anyone wants to support or take part in the project, they should email info@noevilproject.com or visit noevilproject.com .

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Meet Santa

Meet Santa Claus at Fitchburg Airport, 563 Crawford St., on Sunday. He will arrive via helicopter by 1:15 p.m., to pose for pictures. There will also be music by the Nashoba Valley Concert Band and Christmas treats. Unwrapped toys will be collected for Toys for Tots. The event is free and runs from 1 to 3 p.m.

Festival

Enjoy a joyful, holiday-themed afternoon in downtown Fitchburg for the second annual Memories on Main Street event Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be a holiday market filled with arts and crafts, activities for children, music, baked goods and live street theater.

Puppets

The Drawbridge Puppet Theater, 1335 Massachusetts Ave., Lunenburg, will feature “Santa & The Christmas Trolls” every weekend in December. This original holiday story features string and shadow puppets (including Santa and Mrs. Claus) and is appropriate for ages 3 and up. Showtimes are Saturdays and Sundays at noon. Tickets are $7 per seat, and reservations are recommended. For more information or to make reservations, visit www.drawbridgepuppets.com or call 978-582-1578.

Music

The Colonial Band’s 29th annual Christmas Concert is Sunday, from 2-4 p.m., at Leominster City Hall, 25 West St. The 35-piece ensemble, under the direction of Steven Piermarini, will feature music by Bernstein, Leroy Anderson, Rodgers & Hammerstein and other show-stopping Christmas music. The show is free.

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