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State of the Art: Public Art in Boston


by Christina Lanzl

Many cities have successfully used art and culture as a vehicle for urban revitalization and pay special attention to neighborhood identity through public art programs. Boston is no exception to this development, although a number of initiatives are sponsored by private organizations.


The City of Boston revived its long dormant Art Commission in 2003. Originally established in 1890, it is the oldest municipal art commission in the United States. This body oversees the existing public art collection and reviews newly proposed works on city land. Both the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the City of Boston lack a percent-for-art policy. Although the Boston City Council voted in favor of such a measure in December 2005, the mayor’s ratification is still needed. Further, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) recently discontinued its Arts on the Line capital program after being the first public transit authority to introduce such a program in the 1970s.

Julian Opie, Julian walking, 2005. Installation on the Northern Avenue Bridge, sponsored by the ICA/Vita Brevis Project. John Kennard, Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery, London.

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