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Museum of Fine Arts plans Memorial Day free weekend

One of the works slated to be on view at the Museum of Fine Arts is “Northeaster.”Museum of Fine Arts

After last month’s Boston Marathon bombing, tributes to the city poured in from around the world. At Yankee Stadium, “Sweet Caroline” boomed through speakers. In London, runners stood in a moment of silence. And in a gesture of solidarity revealed Tuesday, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art made an offer the Museum of Fine Arts could not refuse.

The Met gave the MFA a list of prized works it was willing to lend as a show of support. The resulting three-painting loan and an MFA trustee’s donation have led to what the museum has dubbed the “Boston I Love” Memorial Day weekend, ­announced by the museum Tuesday.


Over the three-day weekend, May 25-27, the MFA will waive its $25 admission fee and will host special exhibitions to honor the city and the victims of the bombing.

In one installation, hundreds of quilt squares from around the world, created to ­offer support and promote peace, will be tied together and strung across the Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Family Courtyard, like Tibetan prayer flags.

The installation, “To Boston With Love,” is being organized by a pair of quilters who connected on the Internet, Berene Campbell of Vancouver, British Columbia, and West Newbury’s Amy Friend, a quilter with a popular blog, “During Quiet Time.”

“I think everyone responds to tragedy differently,” said Friend. “We create to make ourselves feel better and others feel better. It just seems natural.”

She pointed out that a similar ­effort took place after the Newtown, Conn., shootings, with many contributing decorated pillowcases and snowflakes.

Museum visitors can express themselves during the free weekend by creating their own pictures in the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art, where museum staff will provide materials and supervision. Those creations will be added to a growing collage over the weekend.

Underscoring its outreach to the community, the museum hung giant banners from its front facade Tuesday proclaiming the words “Boston Strong.”


Typically, the MFA is free on Memorial Day, but not on the Saturday and Sunday before. Over the last five years, on average, the MFA has had 12,415 people visit over the three days.

MFA trustee Carol Wall will donate funds through her family foundation to keep the museum open. The MFA would not say how much Wall, who was not available for comment, is giving. She also contributed an unspecified sum when the ­museum waived its admission fee on the Tuesday after the Marathon bombings.

The night of the tragedy, MFA director Malcolm Rogers returned home from a trip to London and found an e-mail from Met director Thomas Campbell. He wanted to offer support and art.

“Great museums are places of solace and inspiration, particularly when tragedy strikes a community,” Campbell said in a statement Tuesday. “I hope the works of art we have lent will help the city’s recovery in some small way.”

Typically, loans and the transport of works can take months. Not this time. Campbell and the Met provided a list of available works, and Rogers made the selection.

Rogers chose “Northeaster,” an intense portrait of the Maine coastline by Winslow Homer; “Lachrymae,” a moody, melancholic work by Frederic, Lord Leighton; and “The Monet Family in Their Garden at ­Argenteuil,” a cheerful family scene by Edouard Manet. They will be displayed May 25 through July 7 on the second floor of the MFA’s Art of the Americas Wing in the Barbara and Theodore Alfond Gallery.


“The pictures — I think they make a very moving trio,” said Rogers. “I think you can see the movement of thought through the three paintings. The untamable force of nature, grief, and then the positive: the message of friendship, family life, the beautiful.”

Geoff Edgers can be reached at