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Studios Without Walls: 28 Secrets To Discover 

Public artist Allen Spivack lets us contemplate values and secrets through his work.

By Jewish Arts Collaborative

Published May 29, 2024


Studios Without Walls is an annual public art walk that runs between Boston and Brookline along the Riverway, the iconic park designed by Frederick Law Olmstead.

As founder Bette Ann Libby says, “We make a gift to the community by lifting the spirits of those passing by with our art. According to Maimonides, ‘The highest form of charity is giving to those who you do not know and those who receive the charity do not know from whom it came.’

Studios Without Walls is a visual representation of Tikkun olam, justice, and we are so proud to feature so many Jewish and universal themes through this show each year.” 

Many of the artists who have shown in Studios Without Walls bring their Jewish identity into this show. These artists have been part of the program for many years, and you can see new works of theirs in the 2024 show.

One of the longest-standing contributors to Studios Without Walls in Allen Spivack, a conceptual sculptural artist who finds much inspiration in Torah and Jewish text. In his work, Allen explores memory and secrets are intertwined and inseparable, each the mirror image of the other.

Memories stitch together how we construct the outside world that others see, and secrets shape the inner life we conceal from others. When we bury some memories, they become our secrets. Artists depend so much on mining their memories and secrets, because they are a rich and indispensable reservoir for artmaking. The question is how much to reveal. 

His 2024 Studios Without Walls piece called 28 Secrets explores the secrets that animate our lives-deeply personal secrets, family secrets, societal secrets. Even God holds secrets that remain inaccessible to us. Our secrets imprison us, forcing us to navigate life with caution and trepidation so as not to expose confidences and sordid tales that might bring shame and derision on us or our family.

Our communities and society at large hold secrets too-preserving untruths and myths about who we are and how we’ve treated others; collective secrets that sustain destructive, dehumanizing beliefs and customs. For each of us, the challenge remains finding ways to bring some release from our secrets. As you consider 28 Secrets, what secrets impact and affect your life and what might need to happen to release you from their stranglehold? 

Having participated in Studios Without Walls for many years, Allen honors this 25th-anniversary show by including remnants of other sculptures he’s displayed within the cubes.  

With each cube representing a secret, here’s what Allen has shown and obscured for us in this piece: 

1.  DECAPITATED (golf club heads) hiding our secrets can feel like we’re missing a part of ourselves 
2. WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME (wood slats & doll) what happens when some hidden secret is revealed to you? 
3. LASHON HARA-GOSSIP (cables) the destructive consequence of spreading lies and untruths through gossip 
4.   ARTIST’S DILEMMA (ropes & Michelangelo) we explore our secrets for artistic inspiration and yet, how much can we disclose/expose? 
5.    BROKEN VESSEL (pottery shards) can we find ways to repair/restore what’s become broken? 
6.   WHAT ARE YOU HIDING (spikes & violin) the beauty we’ve created in our lives is often sabotaged by the secrets we hold 
7.   LOST LEGACY (flowers & jewelry) finding out that family memories have been buried as myths, lies and secrets 
8.     DON’T TELL ANYONE (plumbing fixtures) must we honor the obligation to remain silent? 
9.     SEE NO EVIL (pillow stuffing with head) how we have survived with the secrets we live with 
10.   NO ENTRY (keys and locks) guarding our secrets, so nobody ever knows (2021 SWW Show
11.   TRAPPED (rat traps & doll) feeling imprisoned and incapacitated by our secrets (2023 SWW Show
12.   LOSING IT…  (gloves) suffering loss and death from those closest to us (2019 SWW Show
13.   NOW I UNDERSTAND (electrical fixtures) an awakening to the consequences of our secrets 
14.   HE DIED (hangers & clothes) my father’s death left me empty and abandoned and seeking the truth 
15.   I CAN GET USED TO ANYTHING (mirror glass) family estrangement based on lies and misunderstandings (2023 SWW Show
16.   TAKE A BOOK, LEAVE A BOOK (books and locks) can we find the truths in books that might open us to a new understanding of ourselves? 
17.   MY FAMILY TREE (silverware & pill bottles) family violence is the most virulent hidden epidemic of society 
18.   HEAR NO EVIL (pillow stuffing and head) how we have survived with the secrets we live with 
19.   AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL (hanging guns) Americans live with a deep, dark secret that we are a compassionate, merciful country 
20.   SHROUD OF SECRECY (plastic hands and cloth) keep everything hidden no matter what 
21.   GARDEN OF A 1000 DEATHS (hands and flowers) remembering the victims of genocide, all but forgotten (2022 SWW Show
22.   25 CENTS PLEASE (gum machine with guns) Americans live with a deep, dark secret that we are a compassionate, merciful country 
 23.    BLOOD IS THICKER…  (glass decanter & blood) we’ve conjured sanitized myths about our allegedly ‘healthy’ family 
24.    JUST APOLOGIZE (table with objects) the risks and failures (and perhaps rewards?) of conversation 
25.    SPEAK NO EVIL (pillow stuffing and head) how we have survived with the secrets we live with. 
26.   IMMOBILIZED (two heads with saw blade) discovering truths about our lives may leave us incapable of action, even paralyzed 
27.   SEEKING GOD’S FACE (brown bottles and plastic tubes) God hides secrets too. God might offer us a way to escape ours 
28.   CROWN OF THORNS (head, arrows, and crown) our excruciating secrets make us suffer and suffer more 

See Allen’s piece and the rest of the Studios Without Walls exhibit in Riverway Park now through September 2, 2024.


JArts’ mission is to curate, celebrate, and build community around the diverse world of Jewish arts, culture, and creative expression. Our vision is of a more connected, engaged, and tolerant world inspired by Jewish arts and culture.


  • 1.

    Which of these secrets feels most complicated to you? 

  • 2.

    Allen uses art to share secrets and thoughts that can feel scary. What secrets feel too scary for you to share? 


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