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Public Art Walks

by Eden Marcus

Photography by Eva Gallagher

Big cities like Boston have so much to offer, and sometimes it’s hard to know where or how to start exploring. There’s always the power of Google, or the traditional and historical guided tours along the Freedom Trail and through the Commons. Don’t forget about all the little nooks and crannies of the city—the more unusual perks of such a diverse and talented city like Boston. The Boston Art Commission launched the first of many Public Art Walks in 2010, which feature a variety of art installations scattered through different neighborhoods of Boston. Neighborhoods range from Back Bay to Charlestown, from Fenway to the North End, totaling in 18 different neighborhoods.

The difference between the Public Art Walks from other tours of the city is the chance to get out into the city without an official tour guide. You download the map from their website, choose a neighborhood, and go. You can spend as much time at one installation or as little time in each neighborhood. You can tackle all of them or choose your favorites. It’s a personalized, interactive and individual way to explore Boston that you can take at your own pace

Christian Guerra, the Collections Coordinator at the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture, said that there are over 500 different permanent pieces of artwork throughout the entire city.

“I recommend that people new to the area start with their own neighborhoods because it is a good way to get to know where you live. Next, visit the art in neighborhoods you pass through day-to-day,” said Guerra. “The launch of these different neighborhood walks came from a change in administration, one that wanted to highlight the public art that Boston already had to offer.”

The artists responsible for the neighborhood art range from internationallyknown individuals to teams of local artists. According to Guerra, this is one of the amazing benefits Bostonians have in the city. These artists are passionate from the moment they submit an idea. The historical art pieces give a taste of Boston, but it’s when they are coupled with the contemporary pieces that it’s possible to get a complete feel for the city.

City art speaks of the people, those who make the city what it is today. Art can highlight history or ideas the city is proud of. Neighborhood art tells viewers something about the current residents and the city that it’s difficult to get from textbooks or traditional tours—who they are, what they like, the issues that matter most.

Gabriel Ben-Jacov (CAS ’20), a freshman from California new to the area, spotted the “Allston Directional” sculpture in Packard’s Corner, right off of campus.

“I enjoyed how it really blended into the city’s surroundings,” he said.

The blue sculpture, made up of moving, square pieces, welcomes people into Allston. The artist, Peter Brooks, installed the piece in 2005. According to the Public Art Boston website, the “Allston Directional” sculpture was chosen from 60 competing artists.

The website’s description of the piece reads: “For Allstonians, Packard’s Corner is the gateway to Allston. So they sought a public artwork that would mark the site and contribute to their neighborhood’s identity…Erected on a traffic island at the intersection of Commonwealth and Brighton Avenues, Allston Directional plays with the concept of the highway traffic sign and raises it to high art…Within its frame, each panel is free to rotate on its vertical axis.”

Pieces like these truly encourage residents to fully take in their surroundings. The public art throughout Boston adds a level of sophistication and encouragement for involved citizens—and maybe even a unique scavenger hunt through a city you thought you already knew.

Check out the interactive map for yourself.

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