Loebs on the Greenway

Janet Echelman (LF '08) will soon join Ross Miller (LF '93) as a featured artist along the Boston Greenway. According to today’s Boston Globe, Echelman’s floating sculpture will hover over the Greenway next year, suspended from neighboring buildings.

Miller welcomes the company for his sculpture Harbor Fog, installed in 2009. Created from granite blocks of a seawall uncovered during construction, the boat-shaped form has lighting, fog and sound that respond to activity in the environment.

In a recent conversation, Miller said the current evolution of the Greenway challenges the conventional wisdom of urban planning. Harbor Fog was created because, beginning in 2005, there were strong advocates for community art among the residents of Rose Wharf and Harbor Towers. But there were also projects proposed during planning that were never realized: the horticultural hall, the New Center for Arts and Culture.

“People were frustrated for a long time because this wasn’t an interesting public space,” said Miller, "but these things don’t happen overnight. The fact that this is happening now is because people were advocating 10 years ago for public art. We need to keep the energy going pushing behind the scenes because that work really does bring results.”

Miller feels that not having the Greenway programmed early on left space for the flourishing now taking place. “The frustration was valuable motivator. We’re now seeing a whole new commitment to public art with the intention of creating a memorable sense of place."

He also applauds the Greenway Conservancy for taking maintenance seriously, both for the landscape and the public art. Each spring when the water system for the sculpture is started up, they confer with him about maintenance requirements and the proper way to clean and care for the materials.

Says Miller, “It is through thoughtful and consistent maintenance of the public realm that we show respect for the user. The behind-the-scenes efforts to care for civic space communicate to people who experience that place that they are valued citizens of a democracy. Along with spaces to gather, green landscape to engage with and art to nurture the spirit, thoughtful maintenance is essentially linked to the meaning of our shared public places.”

Read “Grants bring whirl of public art for Greenway.”

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