The Irish connection: Sculpture in our parks

March is famous in Boston for St. Patrick’s Day and the celebration of all things Irish.  The history of the Irish in Boston can be traced, in part, through public art on Boston Common, the Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall.

Patrick Collins Memorial 

Commonwealth Avenue Mall
 (Between Clarendon and Dartmouth Streets)

Patrick Collins was the second Irish-born mayor of Boston (1902-05). Born in County Cork, his family moved to South Boston when he was a child. He started in the trades as an upholsterer, became active in the trade union movement, entered politics and during his time in the state legislature he studied law at Harvard Law School.  Mayor Collins took office after a distinguished public career of four years in the State Legislature, six years as Congressman, and four years as United States Consul General in London appointed by  President Grover Cleveland.

In his first inaugural address, he said: “The chief trouble with commercial Boston is that it seeks to do all its best business in one square mile of land. The result is congestion, very high rents within that area, and somewhat ragged prospects beyond. More business centers of the first class…will make Boston a better and a greater city. For this purpose, I may be counted an expansionist of the most extreme type.”

He died suddenly while in office, and he was so popular that funds for his memorial were raised in just six days from thousands of small contributions given by the residents of Boston.

Continue reading “The Irish connection: Sculpture in our parks”

Behind the Scenes: Winter Park Work

These days our parks are quiet, often covered with a blanket of snow, the trees dormant and flowers having long disappeared…is the staff on vacation?  Not at all! The winter months are full of activity.  Friends Project Manager Bob Mulcahy, Collections Care Manager Sarah Hutt, and consulting arborist and soil scientist Normand Helie are hard at work planning for the year to come, and overseeing winter tree work.

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Norm and Bob diving deep into the tree inventory, checking and rechecking!

Sarah and Bob evaluate every piece of sculpture throughout the year, planning out the annual cycle of care and cleaning.  Together they prepare the budget, receive proposals from conservators, ready contracts for the proposed work, and notify Boston Parks and Recreation Department, the Boston Arts Commission and Boston Landmarks Commission about upcoming annual maintenance.  Once the contracts are signed and paperwork filed, Bob and Sarah will work with the conservator contractors to schedule when the Women’s Memorial, among many, will get the TLC they need.

Continue reading “Behind the Scenes: Winter Park Work”

African America History Month: Sculpture in our Parks

February is African American History Month paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American Society. Within the three parks cared for by the Friends, there are two important sculptures memorializing Boston African Americans.

Boston Common is home to the Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial, a bas-relief masterpiece commemorating Colonel Robert Gould Shaw leading the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the first all-volunteer black regiment in the Union Army.

Commonwealth Avenue Mall’s Boston Women’s Memorial honors Phillis Wheatley as one of three important women from Boston.  Phillis Wheatley was the first African American, the first slave, and the third woman in the United States to publish a book of poems.

Continue reading “African America History Month: Sculpture in our Parks”

Photos of the White Fountain Renovation

We’re thrilled to share pictures of the fountain renovation at the George Robert White Memorial in the Public Garden. And as of last week, water is flowing through the rams’ heads again. Many thanks to our generous supporters, without whom this project could not have been done.

Take a look at the project, starting with recent photos, all the way back to the beginning of the renovation in mid-September.

 

Successful 46th Annual Meeting

 

A record-breaking, standing room only crowd of almost 200 were welcomed to the 46th Annual Meeting of the Friends by board chair Anne Brooke and vice-chair Colin Zick.

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Attendees listened appreciatively to a powerful presentation by Liz Vizza, Executive Director, celebrating the Friends work in 2105 to continue the care and preservation of trees, sculpture, and turf in the three parks. Her remarks also highlighted the success in creating a dynamic park space at Brewer Plaza, continuing renovations of the Boylston Street border in the Garden, and the upcoming restoration of the fountain at the George Robert White Memorial.  Liz praised the hard work of the volunteer Rose Brigade and announced the creation of a new volunteer Border Brigade while reminding the attendees of the upcoming fun and engaging public programs, Duckling Day and Making History on the Common.  She shared that a Boston Common User Analysis survey will be taking place through the fall, providing real numbers about who, how and when people use the Common and what park users’ needs and issues are.

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Advocacy for the parks is crucial, the threats are real and involve public safety, proposed building development on Tremont Street that exceeds the zoned height limit and could set a dangerous precedent, as well as the need to increase funding for the Boston Parks Department.  Liz commended the Department’s hard work to keep the Boston Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Mall healthy and beautiful.

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The Annual Meeting served as the occasion to introduce the Henry and Joan Lee Sculpture Endowment in honor of the Lees’ legacy of commitment to the parks and their sculpture. The fund’s mission will be to provide for the long-term care for 42 pieces of public art in the Common, Garden, and Mall, the largest concentration of public art in the city. Regular annual maintenance prevents much more costly restoration.

In keeping with the sculpture theme, David Dearinger from the Boston Athenaeum gave a fascinating presentation about the Common, Garden, and Mall as “Museums Without Walls” and the history of the sculpture in the three parks.  Reminding the attendees about the legacy of outdoor art, Dr. Dearinger shared the little-known history of some of the important pieces of sculpture.

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The evening concluded with a reception where longstanding and new Friends enjoyed the opportunity to meet.

Photos: Michael Dwyer

 

Introducing the Henry and Joan Lee Sculpture Endowment

At the 46th Friends of the Public Garden Annual Meeting on April 13, Chair, Anne Brooke will announce the creation of the Henry and Joan Lee Sculpture Endowment in honor of the Lees’ legacy of commitment to the parks and their sculpture. The fund’s mission will be to provide for the long-term care for 42 pieces of public art in the Common, Garden and Mall, the largest concentration of public art in the city. Regular annual maintenance prevents much more costly restoration.  William Lloyd Garrison should never be green again.

David Dearinger, Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at The Boston Athenaeum will be giving a presentation “Museums Without Walls: The Sculpture Collection of the Boston Common, Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue Mall .”  The Annual Meeting is Wednesday, April 13 at 5:00 p.m. at First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough Street.  Reception to follow.  Kindly RSVP by April 6. 617-723-8144 or info@friendsofthepublicgarden.org.

 

 

 

The Boston Common Shaw Memorial Gets Some TLC

Thanks to the Friends Sculpture Care Program, master stone conservator Ivan Myjer was recently on Boston Common to perform general maintenance on the Shaw Memorial. Ongoing regular upkeep involved repointing of the granite walls, marble balustrade and base. Several areas that experienced a loss of stone were rebuilt and stains on the stone caused by the environment were cleaned. Myjer also applied sealant around the base of the bronze relief to protect it from moisture getting behind the bronze and causing damage. While the Friends has overseen regular maintenance on the monument, it was observed that over time, water has seeped into cracks between the stones causing displacement in several places. A comprehensive assessment was done on this treasured piece of art and recommendations were made for restoration work.

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Master stone conservator Ivan Myjer (right) and son repair Shaw/54th Regiment Memorial on Boston Common

The Shaw/54th Regiment Memorial by renowned sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens is the most acclaimed piece of public sculpture in Boston, and one of the most significant pieces of sculpture in the country. Saint-Gaudens was the foremost American sculptor of his day. After accepting the Shaw Memorial commission in 1884, he took almost fourteen years to complete the job. The enormous bas-relief depicts the mounted Colonel Robert Gould Shaw leading the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, the first all-volunteer black regiment in the Union army. Colonel Shaw, together with many of his men, died at Fort Wagner, South Carolina, in July 1863. Names of all 54th Regiment soldiers are listed on the Boston Common side of the monument.