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An art tour of MIT and new Belmont bookstore

A Frank Stella mural in an MIT conference room.

John Horner

A Frank Stella mural in an MIT conference room.

The MIT tour

In Cambridge 24/7, one can wander around sculptures by Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, Louise Nevelson, and Pablo Picasso — but you have to know where to find them. A new guide to MIT provides a map and a brief hi story of each sculpture.

“MIT: An Architectural Tour” (Princeton Architectural) by Douglass Shand-Tucci is divided into two sections. The first part is a history of the institute stretching back to its founding in Boston’s Back Bay in 1861.

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The second part examines how MIT’s campus in Cambridge embodies the university’s principles — and that’s where the public art comes in. Since 1968, MIT has required that there be an art component to the construction or remodeling of buildings on campus. Shand-Tucci outlines eight walking tours. Most focus on architecture. One called the Indoor Muse highlights a Sol LeWitt mural that Boston Globe architecture critic Robert Campbell has described as “[e]cstatic and jazzy” and a trippy Frank Stella mural that covers four walls of a conference room.

The public art walking tour is a good introduction to works by Moore, Nevelson, and Picasso. “The most interesting art at MIT is the work of artists trained ALSO as engineers,” Shand-Tucci tells us. Exhibit A is Calder’s 33-ton “La Grande Voile (Big Sail),” with its intersecting steel forms. (Calder was trained as a mechanical engineer.)

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Also on the tour is a memorial to slain MIT police officer Sean Collier by the Boston Marathon bombers. The artist is J. Meejin Yoon. The structure is made of gray granite held together without concrete or steel to reinforce it. Computer models by an MIT professor were created to prove to skeptics that the sculpture posed no safety hazard. Shand-Tucci writes, “The structure represents the perfect coming together of art, architecture, and engineering.”

New bookstore in Belmont

The town of Belmont is getting a new bookstore in March. Belmont Books will be a full-service bookstore and cafe. Co-owners Chris Abouzeid and Kathy Crowley announced on their website, Belmontbooks.com, that they have signed a lease for two floors of space in the former Macy’s building at 79 Leonard St. in Belmont center. Abouzeid, currently a bookseller at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, is author of “Anatopsis” (Dutton), a young adult fantasy novel. Crowley, a physician at Boston Medical Center, is writing a mystery. The married couple live in Belmont. Instead of longing for a bookstore to open in town, they decided to take matters into their own hands.

Bakery hosts author reading

It makes perfect sense that Louise Miller, pastry chef at The Union Club of Boston, will be reading from her debut novel at Jamaica Plain’s new bakery, La Rana Rosse. “The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living” (Viking) is about pastry chef Olivia Rawlings who leaves Boston for small-town life. Rawlings finds the life she’s looking for when she decamps to rural Vermont. Miller, an alum of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program, will read from the novel, answer questions, and sign books at 7 p.m. Thursday. Tickets are $5, available through sponsor Papercuts JP.

Coming out

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 “Boxing Cuba: From Backyards to World Championship” photographs by Katharina Alt, text by Michael Schleicher, (Hirmer)

 “Pablo Escobar: My Father” by Juan Pablo Escobar, translated, from the Spanish, by Andrea Rosenberg (Dunne)

 “A Great Reckoning” by Louise Penny (Minotaur)

Pick of the Week

Annie Philbrick of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn., recommends “Daredevils” by Shawn Vestal (Penguin): “Set in 1970s Arizona and Idaho, this superbly crafted novel gives readers a look into the world of Mormonism. A teen girl married off to a Mormon who already has a wife makes a break for freedom.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.
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