Art for the Masses Blends Old and New

By Haliey Bryant

In terms of art, Boston is proof of the idea that the old and new works can not only coexist, but enhance each other. It’s a historic city, founded almost 150 years prior to the founding of the United States, and though the city has been constructed over and over again there are traditions and memories that the city still clings to.

There’s also no shortage of creativity in the city. Contemporary art is innovative and exciting – a tour of the city will show that.

A leader in Boston public contemporary art is the Rose Kennedy Greenway, which consists of six parks: Chinatown, Dewey Square, Fort Point Channel, Harbor Islands Pavilion, Armenian Heritage, and North End. Each park has its own unique modern artworks, which attract visitors.

“As If It Were Already Here”, an aerial sculpture by Brookline-based artist Janet Echelman, hovers over Dewey Square and will remain suspended until October. Shinque Smith’s “Seven Moon Junction”, the third in a series of abstract murals at Dewey Square, is also featured.

Places like Boston Common, which is the oldest city park in the country, exemplify the opposite. The area is full of statues and monuments commemorating men like Charles Sumner and George Washington, who are important but by no means underrepresented.

“[Boston Common] is a really important civic space,” said Margaret Dyson, director of

Historic Parks in Boston’s Parks and Recreation department. She emphasizes the importance of preserving historical places such as the Common: “Part of that history is the monuments and memorials there; they very much tell the story of that place.”

The process of exhibiting public art is complex. It’s more than just commissioning a piece and setting it up somewhere; thoughtfulness and care are crucial, said Mary Schneider Enriquez, who has been the Houghton Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art in the Harvard Art Museum’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art since 2010.

“One of the big issues is deciding what’s right for the setting,” she said. “It has to be something that is deliberately done in the context.”

The location as well as the evocation of a piece are important elements to take into consideration. “[Public art] makes the space more dynamic and enhances the art that’s here,” Enriquez added. “It’s important for people to experience art outside of a perfect, white gallery space.”

Though Boston is a city full of history, there is still room for novel ideas and artworks. “We have an extraordinary collection of public art in Boston,” Dyson said. “I think art can inspire and enlighten and engage. I think it’s wonderful that the city has both.”

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