The Greenway has a new mural

–Amanda Hoover /

The Rose Kennedy Greenway’s latest public art installation has come to Dewey Square.

The new mural, “A Translation from One Language to Another,’’ is a piece by New York artist Lawrence Weiner, whose work with typographic texts has earned him international renown.

“Everything you look at is a translation,’’ Weiner told “The language is whatever you are looking at that you put together.’’

The simplistic, text-based mural is a departure from the past pieces that have graced the 70-by-76-foot wall over the past three years.

“Our mission is to present new and exciting works to the public in interesting ways, to be able to say, here’s a mural that’s text based, essentially for you to come up with your own translation,’’ said Lucas Cowan, the Greenway’s public art curator. “In a sense, this is literally a title and it’s up to the viewer to really come up with their own story. We’re giving you a thought.’’


Each mural on the Greenway space is temporary, as the Greenway Conservancy partners with different local art institutions each year to select art for the space. In the past, they’ve worked with the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Fine Arts. This year, they reached out to the List Visual Art Center at MIT to select an artist.

“We chose Lawrence because the three past projects were mostly visual, and we wanted to present something more conceptual,’’ said Paul Ha, director of the List Visual Art Center at MIT.

Weiner is based in New York, but this isn’t his first work in the Boston area. In 2008, he came to MIT to work on a permanent piece for the Ashdown courtyard walkway on campus.

While the work on this mural has reached an end, other public art on the Greenway is just taking off. Cowan said that this text-driven piece has inspired other public works he’s bringing to the area later this year.

“It’s going to start literally a conversation with other works that are going to dot the landscape that are semi-permanent or just there for two or three days,’’ he said.

The mural in progress last week. —Photo courtesy of the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy

The project was estimated to take four days and about 22 gallons of paint to bring to life, but was finished a bit ahead of schedule. The architecture of the space makes it stand out, and also provides an interesting challenge for artists like Weiner who encounter it.


“You become attached to it and put up with its imperfections,’’ Weiner said.

In addition to the wall’s architecture, Weiner had to think about the space and what the message would mean. It’s meant to make people think about how they perceive themselves in their current context and space, he said.

“You place things out into the world so people can use them as a means to determining their relationship,’’ Weiner said. “The realization that they’re in a situation where they can translate it into anything they want empowers people.’’

Cowan and Ha also hope that art be something that viewers can translate for themselves.

“What I love about art is that it can start conversations,’’ Ha said. “One of the things I’m curious is to listen in on some of the conversations that might happen. I was just down there asking people, ‘What do you think about this?’ Many of them answered, ‘The artist probably thinks everything needs translating in a way.’ I thought that was really interesting.’’

The mural was completed Sunday, and an official installation to unveil the piece is slated for Thursday evening. Festivities will include an appearance by Weiner, slam poetry, jazz music from Berklee College of Music students, and grub from local food trucks.

Going forward, Cowan, who took his position as public art curator for the Greenway about a year ago, hopes that the space will have the opportunity to showcase a variety of artists, styles, and institutions.

“People are confronted with this really immense piece of artwork,’’ Cowan said. “I want to continue this movement forward with this wall as a partnership wall.’’


The current mural will hold claim over the space for the next year, greeting Bostonians and visitors who flock to the Greenway. For an international city, it seemed like the right message to Weiner.

“I do hope that it functions within its space,’’ he said. “That’s all I can hope for.’’

Related gallery: More museums and art to see for free in Boston

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