Poetry installations brighten rainy days

June 9, 2017
By

By Beth Treffeisen

Special to the Gazette

On gloomy, rainy days, one usually doesn’t want to venture outside. But one art installation program is aiming to make those miserable days a little bit brighter.

In a partnership between the City of Boston’s Office of Arts and Culture, the Mayor’s Mural Crew, the Boston Art Commission and Mass Poetry, a new round of Raining Poetry has been installed in neighborhoods across the city.

Stenciled on Boston’s sidewalks with water-repellant spray, hidden poems emerge when it begins to rain. Depending on the foot traffic, the poems will last about six weeks on the sidewalks.

“The goal is to find ways to surprise the public with poetry,” said Sara Siegel the program director of Mass Poetry. “People don’t usually interact with poetry on a daily basis and this is a way to bring it into their everyday lives.”

The first Raining Poetry installation was launched in 2016 when the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture collaborated with Mass Poetry.

Since the program’s initial installations, Raining Poetry has been implemented by other cities and organizations across the U.S. and around the world including Houston, Charlotte, Vancouver, Budapest, and Singapore.

“We probably would have brought back Raining Poetry either way, but we got incredible feedback after the first time,” said Siegel. “We received e-mails from all over the world asking about it and how they can bring it to their own cities.”

Siegel said that the initial idea came when Julie Burros, whi is the chief of arts and culture for the City of Boston, first shared with the group the new spray paint she discovered. Together, with Mass Poetry they thought, “Why don’t we make it into poetry?”

This year Boston’s Poet Laureate, Danielle Legros Georges, selected the poems and assisted in identifying sites for them across the city.

The feature poems were selected based on their connections to the installation sites, and in support of poets with ties to Boston.

“There are wonderful poets in the area, and this project is a way to have their work seen by Bostonians in many areas in the city,” said Georges.

Lesley University students designed the stencils used for this year’s Raining Poetry installations as part of Professor Heather Shaw’s Typography II class. The students worked with Boston’s Poet Laureate to interpret the literary works through typographic expression in order to communicate each poem’s tone and message.

The Mayor’s Mural Crew then installed the poems using these stencils. As of Wednesday, May 24, 16 poems throughout the neighborhoods have been installed.

“We tried to get them in a really public locations but in a quiet setting,” said Siegel.

Funding this year’s project came from a grant from the Boston Cultural Council. The money went towards paying both the artists for using their work in the public and for the stencil artists.

“Raining Poetry brings the art of poetry directly to the neighborhoods,” said Burros in a statement. “The messages of the poets are invisible, unveiled only when it rains, providing a surprising and unique opportunity for individuals to interact with art in their everyday lives.”

Locations include:

–Mnemonic by Charles Coe at the Boston Public Library, Copley (both sides of the main entrance).

–Poems by Mary Buchinger Bodwell at the Temple Street Bus Stop in downtown Boston and Charles St./Boylston St. by Edgar Allan Poe Statue, Boston.

–Dia del Esplendor y la Abundancia by Rosario Castellanos near the Mexican Consulate at the corner of Franklin and Hawley Streets, Downtown Crossing.

–The Right Light by Liam Day at the corner of Mass Ave and Boylston Street, at the northeast corner (turnpike side) in the Back Bay.

–Give me That Light! by Mary Clare Powell at Curtis Hall, Sedgwick St, Boston Public Library, Jamaica Plain and the Boston Common crosswalk to the Public Garden, Boston.

You can see more locations at www.masspoetry.org.

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