public art

Can Boston Be A Public Art City?

Yes—if we take risks, flex new muscles, and forge creative alliances

Despite its moniker, Boston is not the hub of the universe. Yet the city is ripe with potential to defy its own history and create a new model for connective experiences in our public spaces, one that transforms our landscapes and the ways in which we relate to one another as citizens in these divided times. Boston should fully embrace temporary public art as a catalyst for the cultural change we seek.

We have a ways to go. For starters, Boston must address its splintered cultural identity, funding structures, and fragile arts ecosystem that make it prohibitive for artists to thrive….

Continue reading this guest post for ArchitectureBoston.

Joseph del Pesco and Jon Rub. Monuments, Ruins, and Forgetting. Photo taken in July, 2019 while visiting  Counterpublic .

Joseph del Pesco and Jon Rub. Monuments, Ruins, and Forgetting. Photo taken in July, 2019 while visiting Counterpublic.

Demian DinéYazhi´.  Falling is not Falling but Offering.

Demian DinéYazhi´. Falling is not Falling but Offering.

It was frigid

FRIGID PHRASES: a game of outdoor mad libs poetry played with gloves, developed by Kate Gilbert and Emily Lombardo for the Rose Kennedy Greenway, Boston; Feb. 20, 2013

Frigid Phrases was submitted to the Greenway Conservancy’s Winter Lights call for proposals. Though it was rejected as light-based art, we were asked to develop it as an event “to bring warmth and cheer to the Greenway during the darkest part of the year”.


photo: (c) Connie SawyerFrigid Phrases turned out to be aptly named. Despite a wind chill temp in the twenties, approximately 125 people played with us and received free gloves. Participants included international tourists, businessmen, Greenway neighbors, parents and children on school break, artists and faculty from SMFA Boston, the contributing poets, and our hardy friends.


Many were initially unwitting participants, such as the pair of businessmen on their way home, or the family walking by after visiting the New England Aquarium. It gave me great delight when these passersby accepted my invitation to play and later proudly held their gloves saying SOUL CAKE or DENSE MIND.
Lessons learned:
  • There’s something magical about the combination of spontaneous play and free stuff when you’re not expecting it.
  • People like rules when playing a game; too structured and its not fun; without boundaries, we feel uncomfortable.
  • Participation is increased if one can directly affect the outcome of the work; poems were submitted by area-poets and they kept changing each time a participant swapped out a word glove.

FRIGID PHRASES poem during play; photo: (c) Connie Sawyer 

My intent for any work I create, be it event or sculpture, is that it have a life after its first display. Frigid has that potential, whether as a personal memory that one recalls looking down at your gloves, or the collective history that we created on Twitter and continue to create when we're asked, "Why do your gloves say WEARS COLD?"


If you’re interested in continuing the event’s life and hosting Frigid Phrases between now and April, please contact me. We have about 100 pairs of gloves left. We’re also interested in reinterpreting Frigid for warmer climates and seasons.


See FRIGID PHRASES gallery page for more images, the blog for more information on how the game was played. And Tweet us @frigidphrases when you see a pair!