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Boston’s public art gets a lift

Winners include an interactive tidal vibraphone.newurbanmechanics.org

Public art in Boston got a boost last week when the mayor’s office announced the nine winners of the city’s first Public Space Invitational. The contest drew 72 entries in three categories: the streetscape, City Hall, and random awesome design (or RAD, for “ideas that defy classification or location”).

What was most cheering — aside from the shot in the arm for Boston’s often moribund public art scene — was the sheer variety of objects and ideas presented. The winners include “Seat Light Control,” which reimagines vertical street light control boxes as attractive public benches; “Portable Reading Room,” which would create a library setting on the Rose Kennedy Greenway; the “Tidraphone,” an interactive tidal vibraphone on the waterfront; “Rhodes,” a life-size live-stream video connecting Boston with another city; and two installations that promise to enliven the gray interior of City Hall, including a 51-foot ceiling sky mural in the building’s lobby. The contest required that all projects fall within a $1,000 to $4,000 construction budget and be implementable within six months.


The affordability and efficiency of the projects are key. The Public Space Invitational may or may not produce any artistic masterpieces, but with it the Walsh administration has sent a message to the community of artists, designers, and engineers that Boston is a place where creative ideas about our common spaces will be nurtured and rewarded.