What We Brought With Us

North End Cultural Traditions

On the southeast side of North Square near Sacred Heart Church is the fourth sculpture in the series. Its theme is local feasts and processions and the North End as the gateway to the City of Boston for innumerable immigrant groups since the 17th century, most recently the Italians.

Outwardly, the sculpture is a symbol of the traveler: an open suitcase. Inside is a series of intersecting scenes with scale shifts and forced perspective, like a theater stage set. Together the scenes tell stories of the North End as a neighborhood into which immigrants have been importing traditions from their home countries for centuries. The scenes evoke Feast Days in the North End, celebrations imported directly from villages in southern Italy. A procession is in progress and the people carry the figure of a saint through narrow streets. One of the building facades inside the suitcase is of Sacred Heart Church, as it appears across the street from this sculpture.

Inside and outside blur in these scenes. Children playing in the streets are always under the watchful eye of others leaning out their windows on pillows propped on sills, a scene that resonates with anyone who grew up in the neighborhood. Coming around the back of the open suitcase, we see an older woman with her back to us. She’s at her window looking at ship arriving to Boston from her birthplace in Italy, and we are with her in her living room looking over her shoulder through the open window.

Inside the top of the suitcase is a sky with clouds and at the bottom, streets end at the harbor. The intersecting views and non-realistic use of perspective are like the views through the scopes of the Fantastical Historical Nautical Instrument on one side, while the facades of the different buildings echo 1798 North Square View on the sculpture’s other side.

The outside of the suitcase is covered with luggage labels drawn by students from local North End schools St. John and Eliot School, as well as the greater Boston Menotomy Rocks Homeschool Coop. Each luggage label refers to a place where residents of the North End have originated and where they come from today. The sculpture was also made in consultation with our Advisory Panel especially Thomas DaMigella, Richard and Bennett Molinari, Prof. James Pasto, and many community members.