Katherine Moran


Art is not confined to painting or sculpture; it is a form in which thoughts can be expressed, people can be brought together and a mood can be created. The idea for projects and installations stems from the lack of awareness to an issue, or an exercise to unite communities. The process is typically a collaboration effort that brings people of varying backgrounds together in a neutral environment. In many cases, the completed project shines light on local history, and segregation surrounding the landscape, policies or people and brings it to the public's attention. Even in a city of busy and bustling people, it is hard to miss the vast amount of art that marks streets, walls and space all around. Art has a double function that makes areas prettier than before while simultaneously forcing people to face issues in the area they inhabit. This being said, art is often seen as strictly decoration rather than addressing its intention, origin and meaning. Some installations convey a lot clearer messages than others. Some art forms in the city of Boston are not static, but instead are dynamic with continual developments and changes being implemented on them. These types of sites are community centered, both creating communities within them and bringing contrasting communities together. The MFA and SoWa are prime examples of this concept. They both have self established communities surrounding them that creates a very specific dynamic within the establishments, adding to segregation. However, both of these places have been introspective enough to notice this as the case and use resources and take measures to make the community more welcoming to a broader audience. This is not to say that art is always beneficial for aiding segregation but it is often used as an aid to the issue.

To add to this, the interaction between people and the art is significant and is apart of the purpose, mission, or history of each site. Interaction during the conceiving of things, whether it be children with adults, rich with poor, black with white, or old with young, brings people of different backgrounds and dynamics together cohesively. To add to this, many art sites merge history with the present. Since history is where divides were formed, the visual interaction merging past and present that can be represented by art is informative and productive in bringing awareness to past issues that caused the state of an area today. This is apparent in the Celebration of the Underground installation at Park Street that highlights the history of train transportation in the city. Interaction during the viewing of art, people with common ideas who may be under very different social or economic class can be brought together through art.

From walking around I found strong contrast between sites in the Emerald Necklace and those in areas further from it such as Roxbury. From my experience with this project, I generally found that the Emerald Necklace was surrounded by areas that were better off than those far from it. The sites in or next to the Emerald Necklace were targeted towards beauty and bringing people from less well off areas to the space. For example, the wall at the MFA was meant to integrate people of lower societal class to the area. On the flip side, art installations in less well off areas were focused on spreading a message of their harsh past. Examples of this include the mural at Peter’s Park and the Roxbury Sunflower Project. With this being said, it is interesting to observe how the illumination of issues in places of strife can create oasis’ in run down areas that are more welcoming than comparable locations in wealthier areas.The Light Up the Bridge Initiative illuminated an issue of danger that was presented by neglection of the area and the awareness made the place much brighter and less daunting whereas the bridge at the Charlesgate, in the Emerald Necklace, is dark and unwelcoming.

When I traveled through the space I evaluated it based on the journey to and from the site as well as the general feeling that the site itself evoked. In many cases I conversed with people in the area to better understand the viewpoints of people who inhabit the space on a regular basis. For example at SoWa I conversed with one of the artists who owned studio space there which opened my eyes to the exclusivity of owning space there that I hadn’t previously felt from just walking around the studios. The journey to and from each site helps to illuminate where landscape divides exist and where they are in relation to each site which adds to the dynamic of the site. The situation of the Underground at Ink Block being under a highway system was a clue that its location was originally a division line and when viewing the space it was a confirmed theory however the opening of the space has blurred the once harsh line that it created before the renovation. I contrived an understanding of my sites both in their present states and in history from personal observation in and surrounding my sites as well as communication with others.

In the reading by Anne Whiston Spirn about MIll Creek, it highlighted how signs of hope, warning, destruction, beauty and more surround us all constantly but they go undetected without the reading of these signs. Mill Creek on the outside looked helpless and like its fate was sealed, when in truth the only thing holding it back from improvement and growth was the lack of understanding. No one had taken the time to read the landscape to understand it to then be able to improve it. Most people in a space don’t think to look closer at the place they are in to see the signs. Art is a means in which these signs can be illuminated which brings awareness to issues and promotes change in landscapes that can hopefully lead to integration of people and create long lasting connections. In another reading, Field Effects: Invisible-5’s Illumination of Peripheral Geographies by Emily Eliza Scott, the phrase “scenic highway” was used. The term implies that a highway is like a zoo; people use the highway and from it they can view the pretty nature around it but aren’t meant to interact with it at all. There is no physical wall or fence separating the highway from the surrounding environment but yet the word “scenic” implies the same idea; look with your eyes but don’t touch. Labels such as this have created boundaries in people’s heads that promote segregation as opposed to inclusion. Involving people in the integration of these structures that are seen as untouchable such as was done in the involvement of the Underground at Ink Block removes the zoo-like mentality and promotes integration.

For my StoryMap the intention is to highlight art in Boston that ranges from murals, hidden works, flower displays, museum projects, or sculptures that reflect significance to the community they reside in. The common thread between all of the places being that each art form was contrived, created and designed with the community in mind. I wanted to emphasize the unique ways each of the art forms can both unite and segregate people and places in public space in and around the Emerald Necklace, as well as in areas separate from it such as Roxbury and Dorchester. I was happy to find that in the cases of segregation that I observed, introspection was present and utilized the secluded community within as a tool and resource to reach broader communities rather than ignoring it and capitalizing on it. I hoped to connect the idea of art to the idea of community and collaboration in and around the Emerald Necklace both today and throughout its history.