Public Trust / by Sophie Peters-Wilson

“I promise to merge art and conversation” For the past three weeks, promises have circulated Boston. In an interactive local artwork titled “Public Trust” by Paul Ramirez Jonas, viewers are invited to make professional promises that are then plastered up on a billboard alongside daily headline promises from government figures, corporations, and celebrities. A rubbing with each person's promise is made as a basic contract. Participants are then asked to mark it either with their signature, thumbprint, or a drop of blood. The final step is confirming the promise by swearing on something personally sacred, among these options is the U.S. Constitution, the Bible, or a simple pinky promise.

“I promise to never again apologize for who I am"

“Public Trust” has travelled between three local places. After starting in Dudley, it then made its way to Kendall, and ultimately ended up in Copley Square in Boston. The promises made at each location were distinctly diverse. When I spoke with some of the volunteers, they mentioned a brief anecdote about a homeless man that participated in the piece when it was in Dudley Square. He powerfully promised to try and ‘change his attitude’ towards life and to become more motivated. The promises in Kendall were primarily from MIT students so they circulated around drastically different subjects. The same goes for Copley Square where mostly tourists visited the piece.

“I promise not to be a silent bystander”

The piece asks us to “consider the meaning of a promise during a time when words matter.” Not only is this something to consider in the context of the upcoming presidential election, but also with regard to so many other present global topics. While waiting in line to participate in the piece, I started to think carefully about the wording of my promise. The weight of my words truly mattered. My heart started beating so rapidly when I finally stepped up to the table. Though the promise was something that I had always held privately with the utmost intention, something about putting it out there, on a huge billboard for everyone to see, made my intimate vow so public. Hence the title, Public Trust.

“I promise to be more present”

This piece is not just about putting our trust in strangers around us. It is also about finding the confidence to embrace our own promises, however small they may be. The effect of Public Trust is almost therapeutic for both participants and observers. By embracing boldness and disregarding external judgment, we can open our hearts to both our local and global communities even more. This openness is especially important during a time when conversation matters most.

“I promise to manifest the love and kindness I wish for everyone”