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Oct 04, 2017

Deep in the game!

Densmore Bey header2

Header image: 2nd Annual Gala, Hobson awards. Credit: Ben Gebo.

As I write this reflection, it’s almost unbelievable how much the BSA has meant to me both professionally and personally. It started back in the summer of 2007. I had lived in Boston a full two years but didn't really know anyone, and wasn’t feeling very connected to the city. Then two very positive things happened that summer: I started working at Shepley Bulfinch; and met Diane Georgopulos FAIA at a meeting organized by a colleague. After a brief and pleasant conversation with her during which I acknowledged a reluctance (dare I say, ignorance) about the BSA she said “Let’s get you involved.” And the rest is history.

She connected me with then-executive director Richard Fitzgerald. When I expressed the particular interest in art, museums, and museum architecture and inquired if there was a BSA group I could connect with, he answered “No, but you can start a committee.” And thus, the Museum and Exhibit Design Committee was formed. Before that I hadn’t been at the head of anything and then suddenly I was: connecting architects and engineers with museum professionals; taking groups on back of the house tours at the Museum of Science and the ICA; coordinating visits to the African Meeting House, the Boston Atheneum, and more as committee chair for four years.

In 2008, I also got involved with Boston’s chapter of NOMA (The National Organization of Minority Architects). That year Boston and the BSA hosted the National AIA convention, which coincidentally, was the first AIA convention I had attended. It blew my mind to be around so many architects! Prior to joining the BSA, architecture was something I loved, but only practiced during work hours. I wasn’t part of a design community before. I’ve found that here, and it feels good.

People often have asked me, “What do I get for my membership?” to which I reply “You get whatever you put in it.” Over the years, I have probably served in almost every capacity possible within the BSA. I don’t think there are many members that can say they served on various committees, gave a seminar and volunteered at Build Boston (now ABX), co-hosted the BSA gala (twice!), produced a small exhibition during the opening of our new facility, AND worked at the BSA as a staff member! One could say I am “deep in the game!”

Throughout my membership I’ve enjoyed amicable relationships with each of the BSA executive directors. When the BSA was analyzing relocation to our new space Tom Keane asked me to serve on the Atlantic Wharf Task Force; I used to joke around with Margaret Wigglesworth; I love and miss Ann Fienman, and I just can’t say enough about Eric White, who is incredibly kind, supportive, and has always been gracious. I believe the BSA is fortunate to have Eric at the helm.

I am thankful to have made many wonderful friends through the BSA: Polly Carpenter FAIA, Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA, Mike Davis FAIA, Peter Kuttner FAIA; the list is endless. These awe-inspiring people, along with so many other members of the BSA, have been instrumental in shaping the city and the profession, from advocating for policy to best practices. Whether the issue is diversity and equity or education of youth, a wealth of knowledge exists within the membership, and is always at one’s disposal.

There are also many small things that I love about the BSA, like how there was always cranberry juice in the refrigerator in the Broad Street building, or how I always felt a bit like Norm from the television show Cheers, because every time I arrived someone would greet me warmly with an “Aisha!”. It’s little things like that which have made the BSA a home for me.

Being involved with the BSA has helped me to craft the career in design that I wanted through professional support, having hundreds of interesting programs, and opportunities to interact frequently with peers, mentors, and friends. The BSA Foundation provided the encouragement and resources for me teach the next generation of design talent all over Massachusetts and Connecticut through my design and college prep program Future Prep 101: How to Prepare Teens for Design CareersTM.

I can honestly say it’s been a privilege to be associated with such a rewarding organization; an institution which has helped me self-actualize. So now I shouldn’t spend much more time on this reflection, because I need to call the BSA and volunteer for something!

Aisha Densmore-Bey, principal, Aisha Densmore-Bey, Designer