Sometimes, viewing art can just feel too stuffy. And expensive. And indoors.
For when you want to see a Picasso without fighting lines for guided tour viewings, public art should do the trick. Our list includes sculpture, murals, architecture and other projects that can all be enjoyed while also soaking in the sun. There is a lot to learn from public arts as well, as director of the Boston Arts Commission Karin Longfellow says best, “public art is an important expression of who we are as a community, who are heros are, and how we are shifting as a city.”
And you seriously can see a Picasso outdoors. Read on to find out where.
1. Subway Stops
Running down the T station stairs just to see that you missed the train? Cheer up, as you might have a chance to enjoy some public artistry while waiting for the next one. For example, 15 out of the 22 stations on the Red Line have some sort of sculpture, mural or other installation on display. The dynamic, undulating kites at “Gift of the Wind” in Porter Square is a staple as well as the 31 granite chairs (who doesn’t love sitting on art?) in Central called “Situations.” The new Government Center station on the Green and Blue Lines has fresh “rock dove” murals by the Mayor’s Mural Crew.
Various MBTA stations
2. Mayor’s Mural Crew
For the past 26 years, the Mayor’s Mural Crew has been employing mostly high school students for the summer and giving them space to show off their creative sides. “This summer, we are working in Roslindale, Jamaica Plain and East Boston,” says director Heidi Schork. A circular, floral street painting has already been placed at the corner of South and South Conway streets near the Roslindale Village commuter rail station. “We also have a small, decorative piece coming up at the Arnold Arboretum and a mural on the side of a bodega in Roslindale,” says Schork. New paintings and projects can be followed on the Mayor’s Mural Crew Facebook page.
Various Boston locations
3. Peter’s Park Mural
Also funded by the Boston Art Commission, Peter’s Park Mural is a legal graffiti wall that has served as a canvas for the city’s artists since 1986. A request for proposal back in February selected Massachusetts College of Art and Design graduate Genaro Ortega to paint the wall’s next addition. Completed in May, his work is a stunning mix of geometric shapes and intricate spray painting depicting a black woman, swaddled in an American flag, being freed from her chains by several birds. A must-see when in the South End.
1277 Washington St., Boston
4. MIT Campus
Engineers can certainly get in touch with their creative side thanks to all the artwork around MIT. Viewing the dozens of pieces, including modern and traditional sculptures, is the perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon near the Charles. Notable offerings are “The Alchemist,” a steel tangle of letters shaped into a squatting person, and the modernistic “Aesop’s Fables, II.” Pablo Picasso’s “Figure Découpėe” is located in a courtyard near the Sloan School of Management.
77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge
5. Brattle Book Shop
Selling texts to Bostonians since 1825, the Brattle Book Shop’s outdoor sale lot is also home to what is arguably one of the most pleasant alleyways in the city. A huge mural featuring portraits of cherished authors sits above the expanse of bargain books on sale. Writers you can see include W.B. Yeats, Franz Kafka and Toni Morrison. Another mural, made up of the bindings of canonical reads like “Leaves of Grass” and “Moby Dick,” can only be seen after hours when the outdoor bookshelves are returned to their covered positions.
9 West St., Boston
6. The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway
This one and a half mile stretch of park space, coming upon its tenth anniversary next year, has played an integral role in crafting and redefining downtown’s urban identity. Anyone located in Chinatown to the North End can frolic in this oasis of shrubbery which also features several public art installations. Medhi Ghadyanloo’s “Spaces of Hope” mural dominates Dewey Square Park in size and beauty, while an Ames room optical illusion near Hanover St. allows viewers to literally step into the art. Also check out the interactive Color Commons where texters control the shades of the Light Blades.
Atlantic Ave. and High St., Boston
7. Boston Public Garden
We all know (and are probably sick of seeing) the Duckling Sculpture buzzing with tourists at the Boston Public Garden. However, a collection of other impressive statues, fountains and sitting areas can be appreciated while ambling amongst the willows and tulips on a summer day. For example, bronze statues of the abolitionists Charles Sumner and Wendell Phillips can be viewed near Boylston Street, and a 9/11 memorial includes the names of victims from Massachusetts as well as a peaceful place to introspect. A guide to “notable trees” can also be located on the garden’s website.
4 Charles St., Boston
8. Graffiti Alley
Take several steps from the Central Square station and then one big step into a completely different world at the Graffiti Alley in Cambridge. This showcase of ever-changing, lively spray paint art is tucked in between two unassuming buildings under a transparent awning. New pieces, ranging from simple tags to more expansive projects, are always popping up, so make sure to head over periodically to stay updated.
Graffiti Alley, Cambridge