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First Look At New Public Art Proposed For South Station

Beth Galston of Massachusetts proposes an array of propellers for South Station. (Beth Galston)
Beth Galston of Massachusetts proposes an array of propellers for South Station. (Beth Galston)
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A wall of propellers or a wall depicting the faces of women who have made significant contributions to the transportation industry. Those are the two finalist designs—shared with the public for the first time Tuesday—for a planned, permanent public art project at Boston’s South Station aimed at honoring the legacy of women in transportation.

Beth Galston of Massachusetts proposes (pictured at top) some 350 stainless steel (“or similar durable material”) propellers, each about 5 inches wide, that would appear to have sprouted, “as if blown by the wind,” from the walls of a stairway leading to South Station's Red Line and Silver Line concourse. The propellers may or may not move—that's still to be decided. She aims for them to “symbolize various means of transportation and of the idea of movement in general” with “the metaphor of movement, evoking a sense of wonder and magic that enlivens the daily experience of transit users.”

A rendering of the South Station proposal from Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee of RE:site Studio in Texas. (RE:site)
A rendering of the South Station proposal from Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee of RE:site Studio in Texas. (RE:site)

Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee of RE:site Studio in Texas propose corrugated ceramic-steel panels for a South Station stairwell that, depending on which angle you saw them, would show photographs of pioneering women from the history of transportation (or just their names) and then the words “Land,” “Sea” or “Air.” “As viewers travel up and down the stairway, the composition shifts between the two images in a moving gradient,” Allbritton writes. “Movement is more than a major narrative theme of this project; the viewer’s own movement becomes part of their experience of the artwork.”

This South Station public art project is being driven by the Boston Chapter of Women’s Transportation Seminar International, “an international organization dedicated to building the future of transportation through the global advancement of women,” in collaboration with the MBTA and Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

The group invites public comments through March 11 via their website WTSBostonPublicArt.com or by emailing project manger Jean Mineo (jeanmineo@aol.com). “A WTS-led selection committee will make the final determination in the coming months,” the group says.

The group began looking for artists last summer, seeking proposals that would “embrace WTS’ mission by focusing on the theme of women in movement. The piece should reflect generations of women moving women upward and enabling movement of people and goods. It represents peers working to improve prospects for women in transportation, and as creators of infrastructure and services, responsible for transporting people and goods throughout the United States and abroad. WTS also considers ‘the spirit of community, inclusiveness, and mutual support… one of our greatest assets.’ To this end, the public art should engage viewers to understand women’s role in transportation. Furthermore, the piece should be dynamic and highlight its location within one of the most prominent transit hubs in the city of Boston.”

The group—lead by WTS Public Art co-chairs Lisa Brothers and Hyun-a Park, with project manager Jean Mineo—picked three finalists last fall from a pool of 195 artists. (The third finalist, Janet Zweig, withdrew a week ago, Mineo says.)

Greg Cook, co-founder of WBUR's ARTery, can be found on Twitter @AestheticResear or the Facebook.

Greg Cook Twitter Arts Reporter
Greg Cook was an arts reporter and critic for WBUR's The ARTery.

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