Shared ownership issues fully exposed at Boston Common

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The latest piece of public art to take over Boston Common, deservedly, explores what we have in common.

The work “What do we have in common? By Brooklyn-based artist Janet Zweig is a massive wooden cabinet placed near the Parkman Bandstand. Both sides contain 200 blue markers with laser-cut questions meant to inspire conversations about collective property, or things that “belong to everyone, anyone and no one,” Zweig explained. Who owns the moon? Who owns the Green Line? Who owns the leisure?

During the day, weather permitting, 12 ‘guides’, dressed in overalls and pushing wheelbarrows, set up markers in the ground and engage people in dialogues on Boston Common, the larger idea of ​​a common good. and what they may have in common with passers-by.

“I don’t expect them to come up with answers,” Zweig said in an interview. “I hope everyone takes away a bit of all of these layers of meaning.”

“Who owns the community? Is one of many questions etched in blue markers scattered around Boston Common as part of a public art exhibit hosted by Now + There.Dana gerber

On either side of the cabinet is a donation library, which distributes six books a day, all on the theme of shared resources.

The work, which is on view until October 24, was commissioned by the Friends of the Public Garden to celebrate their 50th anniversary. It was then organized by Now + There, a nonprofit public art organization.

Liz Vizza, president of Friends of the Public Garden, said the organization was looking for an article that would put people in front of the responsibility of what it means to “own a place in common, like the Boston Common, [and] how to take care of it builds community.

“As we come out of this difficult time, which has forced us to take some distance in many ways, the importance for us is to know what are the things that bring us together? Said Vizza. “The wisdom and magic of parks is that they ask us to come together for their care. “

Although the guides are not there at night, the cabinet and markers glow in the dark.

To highlight the diversity of the population that uses the Common every day, 32 of the markers are in languages ​​other than English, including Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. Now + There has also recruited a diverse set of guides and many speak two or more languages, Executive Director Kate Gilbert said.

“I hope the public sees themselves as more than just the public that passes through the Common,” added Gilbert. “That we see ourselves as individuals, recognizing the differences within and being more tolerant and open.”

The artist also noted the circular purpose of the room. “I released it to the world and now it belongs to the public, which I think is appropriate for this play,” Zweig said. “It belongs to you.”


Dana Gerber can be reached at [email protected]


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