Rick Dimino

The Rose Kennedy Greenway parks are well-known as one of the best assets for Boston and its downtown business district. The space where the elevated Central Artery highway once stood is now a beautiful place to see and a valuable destination for workers, residents and tourists.

This year, the Greenway Business Improvement District (BID) plans to make these spaces more vibrant and exciting through the expansion of public art exhibits that celebrate the cultural vibrancy of Boston.

Publicly accessible art and free programming are the latest examples of how the private sector can benefit the public, activate the corridor and create an environment that helps support economic activity in Boston.

An Investment in the Economy, Too

Seven years ago, properties located along the Greenway created a business improvement district that established a long-term funding plan for the parks. This year, the commonwealth of Massachusetts, the city of Boston, private businesses through the BID and the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy united with specific annual funding commitments for the parks. This partnership is working, which is apparent by the appearance, appeal and continued success of the Greenway.

The Greenway BID includes some of the most prominent buildings in this region and these properties pay a small additional tax assessment that partially supports maintenance and horticulture costs of the parks, as well as new upgrades to the public realm. The BID’s mission is to create a first-class park in terms of quality and experience, which in turn helps add appeal to workers in many of these buildings.

For the first few years, the Greenway BID focused on capital enhancement projects, such as new lighting in Chinatown, a new park near the Bulfinch Triangle, and upgrades to park benches. Now for 2024 to assist with public activation, the focus will be on public art exhibits and public programming through a new series called “The ARTbeat of the Greenway.”

The Greenway ARTbeat series is not just an investment in public art; it is an investment in the reputation of Boston and the downtown economy.

The series will feature five thought-provoking pieces of public art located throughout that span the 1.5 miles of the linear park as well as over 50 free public programs, including live music, dance performances, community block parties, and food truck festivals. These events are designed to draw people to the area and should create a buzz about being in downtown Boston.

Builds Off Recent Success

With the recent success of public art exhibits in other areas, it is clear The ARTbeat program is addressing a demand from the public.

The “Winteractive” program initiated by the Downtown Boston BID last year generated national attention with the creative use of art throughout streets and along sidewalks, including a large, inflatable clown balloon installation that captured public attention. This proved there is a great potential for utilizing public spaces as a location for temporary art exhibits and how art can drive a narrative about business districts.

Under the leadership of Greenway Conservancy Executive Director Chris Cook and the leader of its public art department, Dr. Audrey Lopez, the Greenway is earning a reputation as a top place for inspiring and appealing public art.

Conservancy staff also deserve great credit for highlighting a diverse collection of artists who can properly reflect the diversity and different backgrounds of the entire Boston area. The most recent mural in Dewey Square from Rob “ProBlak” Gibbs drew rave reviews, and the first two exhibits from the ARTbeat series are the “Year of the Dragon” by Ponnapa Prakkamakul and “Far Away, From Home” by Zhidong Zhang.

Additional artists and works of art, including the next Dewey Square mural, will be announced in the coming weeks. Thanks to the financial support from the BID, these next six months should raise the bar for art and the spirit of this corridor. The Greenway parks are already a world-class public open space, and soon it is likely we will be talking about these parks as an outdoor museum.

The Greenway corridor has come so far over the past 20 years, to the great benefit of Boston and the entire economy of Massachusetts.  This transportation continues to be impressive and with the upcoming public art program, it can be a model for how to use public-private partnerships for creating a more vibrant, diverse and inclusive city.

Rick Dimino is president emeritus of A Better City and a member of the MassDOT board of directors.

Investments in Public Art Will Enhance Boston’s Greenway

by Rick Dimino time to read: 3 min