Gertrude Howes Park Civil Rights Tribute: Public Art Project in Boston
The public art project in Gertrude Howes Park celebrates Civil Rights. Our tribute is envisioned to result in the installation of an abstract work of art dedicated to the movement rather than a representation dedicated to individual persons or events. The Civil Rights Tribute honors the many individuals who have contributed to improving living conditions and social equity for all since the beginning, intended as an affirmation of the struggle and celebration of citizen participation and ownership.
The location of Gertrude Howes Playground in the Moreland Street Historic District has deep meaning to the residents of the surrounding Roxbury neighborhood near Dudley Square. Rev. Michael Hayes, the first African-American member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives was pastor from 1964 to 2004 at near-by Twelfth Baptist Church. As a young minister, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King preached at the church’s prior location on Shawmut Avenue in Roxbury. In later years, Dr. King stayed in the neighborhood on travels to Boston. Reverend James Reeb, killed in Alabama in 1965, preached there and Malcolm X grew up in the area. Many other local activists from the African-American, Caribbean and other ethnic communities fought for a betterment of lives, general conditions and society during their lifetimes. The Civil Rights Public Art Tribute project is intended to recognize these efforts.
The project is a collaborative effort between the City of Boston's Edward Ingersoll Browne Trust, Boston Parks and Recreation, the Boston Art Commission (BAC); the Vine Street Community Center; the Friends of Gertrude Howes Park; the Boys and Girls Club of Boston, Roxbury Path Forward; the Mount Pleasant, Forest and Vine Streets Neighborhood Association (MPFVNA); the Art Selection Committee and community members. The Urban Culture Institute is facilitating the art selection process.
Gertrude Howes Park, 68 Moreland Street, is located in the heart of the Moreland Street Historic District of Roxbury. Established in 1930, the Park is energized by a diverse neighborhood community and by the revitalization of Dudley Square. Howes Playground provides 1.8 acres of passive and active areas with a children’s playground, sprinkler plaza, gazebo, benches, and picnic tables. Formerly contained within the Weld Estate in the mid-1800s, the park is the only large open land in the area that is still intact. The center of the park highlights a display of original Roxbury puddingstone outcroppings that were once surrounded by apple and pear orchards, farmlands, and pastures.
The designated site for the Civil Rights Tribute sits on a natural pinnacle in the center of Howes Park (see attached site photos). Currently a grassy area, the location offers visual drama because it is next to an eye-catching, elevated puddingstone rock outcropping surrounded by a stand of deciduous trees. The rocks serve as a natural foundation for the planned tribute. A plaza and spray fountain south of the rock formation is framed by a semicircular retaining wall, which is occasionally used as an amphitheater stage for small performances. The park offers a rich array of outdoor events and activities for children, youth and adults, including summer festivals, a playground and a popular spray fountain, yoga and fitness classes, music, picnics and more.
The Gertrude Howes Playground received an $850,000 facelift in 2012, completed by Ray Dunetz Landscape Architecture. The park was “named for former teacher, child lover and leader in school garden work, who made playground possible.” (Tribute Paid Late Gertrude Howes at Dedication of New Playground. Boston Globe, May 27, 1932). During World War II she established a Victory Garden at the Hemenway School, which provided fresh vegetables for school lunches. Many of her students later served in the military. Ms. Howes lived at 104 Winthrop Street.
The project is anticipated to be funded in part by the Edward Ingersoll Browne Trust Fund, a public charitable trust administered by the City of Boston Trust Office. The total anticipated all-inclusive budget for design, fabrication and installation is $200,000-250,000. The Civil Rights Tribute Committee is committed to raising funds for the project. Finalists receive a $2,500 honorarium each for initial concept development and presentations.
An open competition resulted in 91 entries. Following the art selection committee's thorough review four artists from New England and the New York region were invited to develop site-specific schematic proposals. The finalists are
Vinnie Bagwell, Douglas Kornfeld, Destiny Palmer and Antoinette Schultze.
Schedule of Public Meetings with an Open Invitation to Participate
The public is invited to a series of public presentations and discussions, and to provide feedback on the Civil Rights Tribute as follows:
Saturday, June 17, 11:00 a.m. | CREATIVE DIALOG with Finalist Artists
Howes Park walk-through, 68 Moreland Street, Roxbury MA
Walk the park and look at the site for the Civil Rights Tribute, followed by our
Creative Lunch Roundtable, 12:30-2pm
Roxbury Boys and Girls Club, 115 Warren Street, Roxbury
Finalists listen and talk about ideas for an abstract sculpture. Lunch provided courtesy of the Dudley Cafe. Download the flyer.
Saturday, July 29, 10:30 a.m.
Roxbury Boys and Girls Club, 115 Warren Street, Roxbury MA
Four artists present public art proposals celebrating Civil Rights
August, dates TBC
Public Comment Period – Invitation to comment
Saturday, September 23, July 29, 10:30 a.m.
Roxbury Boys and Girls Club, 115 Warren Street, Roxbury MA
Revised proposal presentation.
• Download the full RFQ which includes additional documentation, such as
select civil rights timeline facts, a bibliography and a list of project-relevant
Moreland St. Historic District neighborhood community organizations.
• Facebook page with park activities.
Summary of General Criteria for the Project
• Celebrate the civil rights movement of Roxbury and Boston with an innovative
public art installation and/or landscape design
• Sought is intimacy, warmth and neighborly self-worth
• Create new space to gather and socialize, knitting neighborhoods together
• Serve as a community service project, as well as an educational destination
• Design will offer a sense of place
• Appropriateness for the site, including scale and safety
• Low maintenance, permanent materials
• Apply sustainable design methods and principles.
• Adhere to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guidelines as appropriate
How to Get Involved
The Civil Rights Tribute Committee is seeking volunteers to get involved and to assist with fundraising.
For additional information please email Christina Lanzl.