“Katie Gradowski called them ‘displacement dollhouses,’ which I thought was kind of cute,” Somerville artist Dina Gjertsen tells me about the dioramas she’s been making lately.

At Martha Friend’s Friend-Smithsonian Tiny Museum—a display case situated on the lawn out front of 135 Highland Ave. in Somerville—Gjertsen recently installed her diorama “Conversion.” Models of P.A.’s Lounge, Reliable Market, J.J. Sullivan Plumbing & Heating Contractors and other buildings in Somerville’s Union Square are scattered in a jumble, crushed under a pristine row of bland condos.

“That’s just about gentrifying Union Square into condos,” Gjertsen says, “which I really hate.”

Dina Gjertsen "Conversion.” (Kelly Taylor)
Dina Gjertsen “Conversion.” (Kelly Taylor)

“Almost everyone I know struggles with low level anxiety with their ability to live—not just in Somerville, but anywhere—and what they’re going to do,” Gjertsen says. “Everything is changing. Who is it for? It’s not for us.”

“The first one I did was the condo across the street from where I live. A cherry tree is growing through it and it’s broken all the windows,” Gjertsen says. She was thinking of how abandoned buildings in Detroit have been taken over by trees. “I was thinking about ways of destroying these buildings without being excessively violent.”

Dina Gjertsen's model of a condo overwhelmed by a cherry tree.
Dina Gjertsen’s model of a condo overwhelmed by a cherry tree.

Over the weekend, she installed a diorama in an old phone box in front of Union Square Beer and Wine. It’s a model of the buildings you’re standing in front of—Brass Union, the liquor store, and three-quarters of the Independent. “Those three buildings with the phone box and a figure,” Gjertsen says. “It’s like a you-are-here 3D model. And it’s surrounded by condos. It’s called ‘You Are Here For Now.’”

“I have both an aesthetic aversion to the new construction and then also a political aversion because all the new construction is far, far too expensive,” Gjertsen says. “It’s just ridiculously expensive.”


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Dina Gjertsen's "You Are Here For Now" in Somerville's Union Square.
Dina Gjertsen’s “You Are Here For Now” in Somerville’s Union Square.
Dina Gjertsen's "You Are Here For Now."
Dina Gjertsen’s “You Are Here For Now.”
Dina Gjertsen's "You Are Here For Now."
Dina Gjertsen’s “You Are Here For Now.”
Dina Gjertsen "Conversion" at the Friend-Smithsonian Tiny Museum, Somerville. (Kelly Taylor)
Dina Gjertsen “Conversion” at the Friend-Smithsonian Tiny Museum, Somerville. (Kelly Taylor)
Categories: Activism Art Public Art