BOSTON (CBS) – Tory Bullock wants to get people talking and he’s using his creativity to spark conversation. The performance artist (who also works as an actor-educator at Urban Improv) is making a name for himself on social media. He and photographer Veronica Wells make videos—set in Boston—that touch on the myriad ways the city can improve.
His social commentary examines gentrification, racial bias, the housing crisis and more. His most-watched video is a high-energy rant about Boston’s obsession with luxury condos that many city residents can’t afford. As of mid-November 2019, the video had more than 566,000 views.
“People are talking right now,” Bullock explained. “Not only are people talking, but they’re talking and connecting in a way, due to social media and shows and music that they weren’t before.”
WBZ’s Lisa Hughes asked Bullock what happens as a result of those conversations. “Big picture, people are less afraid of people who don’t look like them,” he said.
Bullock also explores issues that affect Bostonians in their daily lives. The fearless squirrels on Boston Common and in the Public Garden are featured in his most recent video along with the rule-breaking Bostonians who feed the squirrels.
Another one of Bullock’s most popular videos examined urban barbershops. He had no idea the topic would hit such a nerve. He says he was simply exploring the correlation between a barber’s popularity and the lack of good service. “The better the barber, the longer you have to wait. There’s a long wait time…it was just something I posted because I couldn’t get my hair cut that day…300,000 views later I’m like, ‘People are really having real conversations about this!’”
He said the reaction to his videos is proof that while he focuses on Boston, many of the themes are universal. “I love posting a video about an issue that I think is important to me and then seeing it explode and seeing how important it is to everybody else,” Bullock said.
A common thread in Boston, he said, is the feeling—experienced by many people—of being unseen. “It’s a city on the build and everything is kind of being remodeled—destroyed to make way for this lovely new build. So you have all these groups of people who feel so disenfranchised who are—literally—being told to move out of their communities…white, black, whoever are all in the same boat of feeling like—wow, I feel unseen in the city,” he said.
Bullock is both a critic and an optimist. He calls out Boston institutions and leaders but genuinely loves the city. “But there are some things, just like a relationship where I’m like, you know…can you work on some things for me? I want to be committed to this. But can you work on some things for me?”
Bullock points to the infusion of energy from artists of all kinds as a welcome example of Boston’s evolution. He only wishes their contributions were more widely recognized and appreciated. “We’re kind of known as the baseball, Dunkies and gangster movie city. That’s a great part of who we are. But there’s so much more. There’s so many cool artists expressing themselves outside of that culture.”
Another way Bullock expresses his creativity is through games that he invites people to play throughout Boston. The games—fun, interactive and thought-provoking– are also designed to get people talking. With the addition of “Tory Tonight” his crowd-funded online show, Bullock is widening his audience and spotlighting other local artists. And he’s always thinking about what’s next. “I absolutely need my own studio space…because it’s starting to become bigger than me…I want to start more conversations and have a bigger reach. So maybe that’s even having a show on a network.”
He also expects that someday he will return to acting onstage. But right now, he says, his ability to connect with people on the street and online is gratifying in a way that even the applause at the end of a show can’t match.