MBTA scraps Green Line extension public art projects

Eight artists had been awarded contracts.

The Green Line extension is planned to stretch past Lechmere Station, into Somerville and Medford. Aram Boghosian / The Boston Globe

If the new transit stations on the Green Line extension into Somerville and Medford are ever built, they likely won’t include previously planned public artwork.

Eight artists who had been awarded contracts by the MBTA to design and install public artwork at the stations were told Tuesday by email that their work “cannot continue.’’

“We had all hoped to see your visions implemented, but this cannot happen without an outside funding source,’’ read the email from Marggie Lackner, an MBTA official.

The Green Line extension is as much as $1 billion over budget, the MBTA said in August. The agency has been reviewing the project since. Officials have said the options range from rebidding the project to cutting back on amenities to even canceling it.


Next month, officials are expected to suggest a path forward to the boards that run the MBTA and the state Department of Transportation.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the artwork decision was based on the Green Line extension’s budget issues.

“Due to the projected cost overruns inherited from the prior administration, all aspects of the Green Line extension, including the public art element, are on hold while the scope and direction of the entire project is determined,’’ Pesaturo said.

Asked whether the artwork was on hold or had been cut, Pesaturo said it “would be fair to call it a cut at this point in time.’’

The artwork’s total costs would have been about $1.9 million, about $420,000 of which would have gone to artist contracts, according to Pesaturo. So far, $208,500 has been spent.

Randal Thurston, who had been contracted for screen and glass printing at the new Lechmere station in Cambridge, said he was “so disappointed’’ in the news.

“Clearly what’s happening is an attempt to deal with the economics of it,’’ he said in an interview.

Thurston said he does not believe the savings of less than $1.7 million will be worth the loss of art at the stations.


“We live in a state that should be visionary on these kinds of things, and I think it’s a missed opportunity,’’ he said. “It’s not that much financially to include.’’

The contracted work was part of an “integrated art program,’’ meaning the pieces were not freestanding works. Instead, they would have been incorporated into the seven new stations’ design and architecture.

The contracts would have paid each artist $60,000, except for two artists who split one station. Different artists had been paid different amounts based on when they had taken on the work. Thurston said he had been paid $45,000 since being selected by the T in April 2014. Nancy Selvage, who was working on the planned College Avenue station near Tufts University, said she had been paid $6,000 since last fall.

“It’s a huge setback for me personally, and it’s a wasted investment for the state,’’ Selvage said.

In the email to the artists, Lackner suggested the decision was partially based on a veto of a budget item by Gov. Charlie Baker requiring large construction projects on state land to include funding for public arts projects. But Pesaturo said the veto was not the reason.

“As part of the process, the MBTA had planned to take this fiscally prudent action regardless of any decisions made by the governor or the legislature,’’ he said.


What Boston public transit used to look like:

[bdc-gallery id=”56566″]


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