**This article originally appeared on digboston.com**
Most people assumed that once Occupy Boston protesters were evicted from Dewey Square, the tents – the most visible tool of their public protest – would vanish; however, a group has formed within in the movement to make sure that this doesn’t happen, albeit on a much smaller scale.
The Tiny Tents Task Force is a group within Occupy Boston with a single, simple course of action: craft as many miniature tents as possible and place them around the city for people to find. Mallory Biggins, a 24 year old art therapy student at Lesley University, was among the group that came up with the plan which started when someone half-jokingly proposed putting mini ‘99%’ tents in South Station’s Christmas display. The idea started to gain momentum after the December 10th raid, which ended the movement’s 70-day long occupation of Dewey Square. “I proposed that we do this to remind people that we’re still here,” Biggins said. “I have a theory that all of the energy (Occupy Boston) was putting into camp drama has shifted and allowed us to explode creatively.”
Biggins’ theory has proven to be correct, thus far. The first Tiny Tents event drew scores of people to Enucentro 5 in Chinatown. The crowd was a mix of both seasoned occupiers and first-time attendees, including a number of children (and their parents) who were delighted to color and play with hundreds of small dwellings while sharing snacks.
So, what are members of a supposed radical protest movement doing playing with smelly markers and glue sticks? And how will hiding these tiny tents will raise awareness of income inequality and the other issues Occupy Boston has taken up? As a student in art therapy, Biggins says she has seen how the act of making art is helpful as a form of self-expression that can bring people together to create. Also, as a form of protest, “Miniatures are very non-threatening. A loud march with hundreds of people can create this ‘us vs. them’ mentality. It’s a very childish art form that makes you think about the logic and rules of space.”
“And even if you disagree with our message, can you really get mad at a tiny tent that says, ‘You Deserve a Better World?’” she added.
The main online portal for The Tiny Tents Task Force, tinytents.tumblr.com, shows the tents hidden in dozens of places around Boston: on the grass at Dewey Square, on top of the doorframe at Sweetwater Tavern, in the library of Harvard Medical School and in the bucket of a ticket machine for the T. The tents also made an appearance on the Christmas tree of City Life/ Vida Urbana, a community housing and tenant’s rights group in Jamaica Plain. Those tents were made out of fabric and framed by mutilated Bank of America debit cards
A number of tents were also placed inside a small grass planter, next to a Bank of America during a December march. Police arrived on the scene to ‘evict’ the tiny tent city. In a video captured during the confrontation, a Boston police officer tells the occupiers that they’re littering, and an unknown protester can be heard saying, “You’re calling our artwork trash? I take offense to that!” in response.
Since its inception, this idea has quickly spread to other Occupy groups. As of New Year’s, ‘Tiny Tents’ groups have sprouted up in locations that range from Terre Haute, Indiana to Melbourne, Australia. Photos have also been sent in from individuals in Salem, Mass; Des Moines, Iowa; and Newton, Illinois (where the tiny tent featured a picture of Mr. Van Driessenn from Beavis and Butt Head saying, ’Hippies need love too! Occupy Newton, IL’).
In the future, the group will be hosting events around the Boston area, both at Encuentro 5 and at Mobius art experimental gallery in Central Square. The event at Mobius will be hosted by The Institute For Infinitely Small Things, a Boston-based art collective. Forest Purnell, a 21 year old from Vermont who serves as a Research Assistant with the Institute, says that the goals of the Institute and Occupy Boston (and, more specifically, the Tiny Tents Task Force) are similar in that, “Broadly, [Occupy Boston] is like political art; it’s about creating situations out of everyday life that break our patterns and make us think.”
Although the Institute has gone so far as to organize a march for Occupy Boston in October, its role with regard to the Tiny Tent Task Force has been, in Purnell’s words, “mainly curatorial” providing venue for the Task Force’s January exhibition. Purnell personally has provided other logistical support, such as, “setting up the Task Force’s website and creating the instructions for Tent construction.”
Mallory Biggins hopes that the idea continues to catch on and grow, as a way of spreading the Occupy Movement’s message through the power of art and humor. In order to capture the attention of the 1%, she suggested hiding the tents in coat pockets at Barney’s, or peeking around the corner of a display in the window of Saks Fifth Avenue. “This movement can be divisive to some people,” Biggins explained, “but (Tiny Tents) can’t be.”
“Sometimes making people laugh can be a lot stronger than making them mad.”