Seven years ago, Maria Molteni founded the NCAA. No, not the collegiate athletic association, though that isn't too far off. Molteni's NCAA stands for New Craft Artists in Action, an arts collective based in Boston, MA—a city that sure loves sports—that makes work focused on the intersection of athletics and art.
"Boston is a city that desperately needs more light and color," Molteni, a Tennessee expat, declares of her city. "I believe the power of color is greatly underestimated. It's like people don't notice its impact until they are presented with it." Her most recent work, Hard In The Paint, gives a formerly lackluster basketball court in Boston's Harambee Park a striking and vibrant rainbow makeover.
"A hue is never still or set," explains Molteni, an advocate for bright colors, civic art, and their respective ability to change public space. "It changes depending on what it's next to. It may hold its ground or adapt, changing its tune to the context. People behave this way too—how we interact with one another in our communities, how we hold space or hand over space, how we challenge or support one another. We should be aware of these energies and welcome diverse possibilities, aiming to strike a harmonious balance."
You may have seen Molteni's work before by way of her Net Works project, in which she and the NCAA took it upon themselves to knit replacement hoops out of yarn where chain basketball hoops had been lost. Part of their charm was in their irony; athletic spaces aren't often decorated with soft materials like yarn, if they're decorated at all. And basketball courts aren't often embellished with an almost cheekily feminine rainbow palette. This incongruity is purposeful.
"I want for athletic and recreational spaces to be more inclusive of all sorts of people who might not typically feel welcomed," Molteni offers. "I hope [the people living in the neighborhood] think about ways they can rewrite the rules of the game and reimagine recreation and athletics to reflect their own values and strengths... I want them to know that they are capable of shaping their own spaces and futures and that the hard work it takes to get there is so worth it."
Though Molteni doesn't really play sports anymore, she recalls basketball shaping her childhood in Nashville. "I used to tell people that I would grow up to be an art and basketball star... The audio-kinetic satisfaction of playing with a certain grace is tightly connected to aesthetics and the spirit of art for me."