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The Boston Globe

Opinion

The Podium

Boston’s bold moment for public art

There is a lingering question in the Boston air about what makes a great American city. What is it, beyond our proud history of patriots, abolitionists, world class universities, our sports teams and a great mayor ending his long tenure? We have been singled out to define ourselves, as the city recovers from the deadly Marathon bombings. The recovery is taking place in public view, and our public spaces and public sculptures are part of the conversation about who we are. Sculpture, in particular, has the longest memory of all the arts, is a visible link to the heroism of the past and feeds our need for heroism in the present. In Copley Square, the beautiful, old buildings and the bronze sculptures from the last century stand sentinel, guarding the borders of the marathon bombing memorial. Great cities deserve great sculptures: Vivid acts of the imagination, enduring and transcendent, that humanize the sometimes anonymous and commercial urban landscape.

Now is a time for bold dreams and imagining. Step up, Boston. Embrace a big idea, a sculpture park worthy of a world-class destination. Let’s call it the largest urban sculpture park in the country. The open space is there and waiting. A sculpture park can offer a layered cultural history wide open to possibility. Sculptors use three-dimensional form to give the world metaphors, using modern tools, computers, laser technology , LED lights and hammer and tongs. They make visible and they make knowable the ineffable things of the spirit. They can bring wit and fancy and playfulness to the drab utility of public spaces. They can enliven with humor, invite contemplation, or tell stories that need telling.

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