Fresh off its installation of Janet Echelman’s mammoth aerial sculpture “As If It Were Already Here,” the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy is betting heavy on the power of public art to draw crowds to the mile-and-a-half-long stretch of park, ushering in a free arts-based event series this summer as well as a new large-scale sculptural commission next month by the Korean-born artist Kyu Seok Oh.
“We’d like there not to be one major piece of public art on the Greenway but a number of them,” said the Conservancy’s executive director, Jesse Brackenbury. “It allows us to change people’s experience of the place, bring people to experience something new, challenge them, get them talking.”
The temporary exhibit, titled “Wandering Sheep,” will feature 10 of the animals installed on various platforms around Chinatown Park. Constructed of molded, handmade paper, the sculpture will be the third in Oh’s sheep series, which the Brooklyn-based artist has previously exhibited at the Dallas Art Fair and in New York’s Times Square. In Boston, the sheep will serve as the inaugural work in what the Conservancy says will be an annual rotational exhibit inspired by the animal signs of the Chinese zodiac.
“They’re made for outdoors, but they also have this really beautiful fragility,” said the Conservancy’s public art curator, Lucas Cowan, noting that 2015 is the Year of the Sheep. “This is kind of a fun curation, but it’s also deeply rooted in the community. They’re kind of jumping from platform to platform, referencing this idea of migration and this idea of moving as a population herds itself into different areas.”
Oh’s work, which will be installed the first week of June with an opening celebration at Chinatown Park on June 16, will be the third large-scale public artwork on the Greenway, joining Echelman’s recently installed aerial sculpture and Shinique Smith’s Dewey Square Park mural, “Seven Moon Junction.”
All three temporary exhibits will be highlighted in the Conservancy’s upcoming arts-based events series, INTER/SECTIONS. Organized by Cowan, the series will feature a new performance piece by Smith, artist speaker panels, and participatory projects for the public.
“It’s another way for the community to connect to the artwork,” Cowan said.
The inaugural INTER/SECTIONS event on June 19 will highlight Echelman’s work, which employs both cutting-edge engineering technologies and age-old nautical techniques. The event will feature the Brookline-based artist in conversation with Nicholas Bell, a senior curator of American craft and decorative art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum; and Mary Schneider Enriquez, an associate curator of modern and contemporary art at the Harvard Art Museums. Although the Conservancy is still working out the details, Cowan said the event will likely feature traditional knotting and lace-making demonstrations as well.
The series continues on July 24 with Oh in conversation about the roots of his work, which touches on themes of immigration, unpredictability, isolation, and belonging. Cowan said he’s still planning the event, but that it will likely include a papermaking and paper molding demonstration and workshop.
On Aug. 21, Smith will present “Gesture III: One Great Turning,” a performance piece related to the artist’s massive mural. Smith will also discuss her work, which draws on astrology, alchemy, and myth, with Courtney J. Martin, an assistant professor in the history of art and architecture department at Brown University.
Cowan said that the Conservancy would add new events to the series, which is funded by Bank of America and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, as other exhibits open on the Greenway.
“It fits into things we’ve been doing with public art,” said Brackenbury, noting that the Conservancy is planning new temporary exhibits later in 2015. “We’re in the business of beauty and fun. Not every piece is going to be beautiful, and not every piece is going to be fun, but it will give people a reason to come, to linger, and to come back again.”
The “Wandering Sheep” exhibit, which is funded by Forest City Enterprises and Hudson Group North America (which developed the nearby Radian building), will stand at the Chinatown site through December. Cowan curated the first installment of the annually rotating exhibition, but he said that going forward the Conservancy planned to ask artists to present zodiac-inspired ideas to a jury, which will in turn select each year’s sculpture.
“We’re all connected to this in some way or another, because we each are identified as a specific animal on the year we are born,” said Cowan. “Next year is the monkey, so God knows what we’re going to have.”