Taking Advantage of Boston’s Art Scene

Whether you are an art connoisseur or not, Boston’s art museums are a must see. Beautiful exhibitions are scattered all throughout the city and admission is free or discounted for all of them if you are an Emerson student! Here is a quick look at some of the great things these museums have to offer:

Museum of Fine Arts

Admission: Free with your Emerson ID

Must see: Egyptian Art Exhibit

One piece of advice: Plan to spend an entire day at the MFA…maybe even two. The MFA is the most classic museum experience on this list, showcasing a wide variety of artistic styles and classic paintings from different time periods. This museum offers art collections from all across the world to really put into perspective the vast array of artistic styles that exist. There are also photography exhibits, prints, drawings, musical instruments, and jewelry scattered throughout the museum.

It can be overwhelming how much content is inside the MFA, but each room deserves as much attention as the last.

Pottery at the MFA. Credit: Flickr.com

For all sports fans looking for something interesting…there is an exhibition all about David Ortiz that is open from now until September 4th. Tickets must be bought to view this gallery, but anything is worth it for Big Papi, right? Ortiz’s 2013 World Series MVP ring will also be on display, so get a close look while you can!

A rainy day is best spent at the Museum of Fine Arts, or multiple rainy days in a row!

 

ICA – Institute of Contemporary Art

Admission: Student discount with ID

Must See: Nari Ward: Sun Splashed

The ICA is a great place for college students to explore. The exhibits are fun, modern, and sometimes interactive. Each exhibit is important to view, many often presenting social and political issues in unique mediums.

This museum really makes you think about what you are seeing and how it can be interpreted to convey a bigger message. There is also a new exhibit by Dana Schutz being put up right now, set to open July 26th…even more new art to check out!!

ICA at night. Credit: Flickr.com

The large glass building overlooking Boston Harbor could not be more picturesque if it tried, and you could easily spend a whole day enjoying the incredible views. Aside from the amazing art, the ICA also holds outdoor concerts every Friday in July and August. These fun outdoor events feature new DJ’s every week and certain themed events to keep things new and interesting. The ICA always keeps me guessing, and I cannot wait to see what fun thing comes out next.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Admission: Student discount with ID (or free if your name is Isabella!)

Must See: Portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is like something out of a movie. The minute you step inside the museum it feels like you are taken back in time, admiring all of the beautiful paintings and scenery. The inner courtyard is breathtaking, and visible from every angle of the museum.

What makes this museum unique is that Isabella Stewart Gardner actually used to reside in the building before it turned into a museum, and still resembles a home in many ways. The tall ceilings and wooden floors add a homey feel to the artwork which is something you do not see everyday.

I highly recommend reading up on the Gardner heist before visiting, as it adds excitement and a bit of spookiness to your visit.

A great addition to the museum is the modern wing, which is the only part of the museum with changing exhibits. Set aside from the original building, this modern room showcases beautiful artwork and sculptures to add a modern twist. Next to the modern room is also the Gardner Museum’s incredible concert hall, which must be seen in person to truly admire. Isabella Stewart Gardner had a passion for music and this hall keeps her spirit alive in a beautiful space. The concert schedule and ticket options can be found on the museum’s website.

 

The Museum of Bad Art

Admission: Free museum passes can be requested.

Must See: “Dog” By: Unknown

After you have admired all of the famous pieces in the previously listed places…why not lighten the mood with this fun museum?? The MOBA gallery in Somerville is a private institution that is committed to celebrating bad art. Located in the basement of a theater, it is not the most glamorous of exhibits. That being said, it is definitely a memorable experience. It is a one of a kind museum visit and every piece of art is sure to make you chuckle.

Can’t get enough of the bad art? Have no fear, there is now a book available for purchase, “The Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks,” that showcases the worst of the worst, bottom of the barrel pieces of artwork.

Some pieces imitate famous works like the Mona Lisa, and with others it can be hard to decipher what is going on at all…

Quirky and humorous, the MOBA is Boston museum fun for all ages and a great way to lighten the mood after viewing maybe one too many gorey war depictions.

I hope this master list of Boston museum’s inspires you to view some new places and some very cool art.

 

Giphy.com

Learning the Forgotten History of Boston’s West End

When people think of neighborhoods in downtown Boston, they think of the North End, the South End, Chinatown and Beacon Hill. When I heard of the “West End” of Boston, I wasn’t even sure if it existed.

Because it doesn’t.

Of course, the area of land that is the West End still exists, but there is no longer a neighborhood. Instead, the space is home to complexes that take up vast tracts of land, such as the Mass General Hospital and the TD Garden.

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So what happened?

A complicated but ultimately devastating political movement called “urban renewal” occurred in the 1950s, which explains why many cities in America look the way they do now. Urban renewal is “the redevelopment of areas within a large city, typically involving the clearance of slums.” Boston embraced this movement, particularly in two areas: the West End and Scollay Square (what is now Government Plaza). It’s hard to imagine what these places look like to what we immediately know; the equivalent of these neighborhoods is the North End, which was spared from the razing.

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By City of Boston Archives, “West End Urban Renewal Project sign”, https://goo.gl/uVuz5r

I had never known this chapter of our city’s history and always assumed things were just the way they were. Looking up pictures of the West End in its original form, I see a completely unrecognizable village, featuring the brick built homes that give Boston its character. Observing the before and after pictures of the urban renewal policies shows the scope of destruction. The only remnant of the “Old West End” is a single tenement. It stands at 42 Lomasney Way. 500 feet from the building is the West End Museum, a museum dedicated to preserving the history of the neighborhood. The exhibit I visited, “The Last Tenement,” tells the story of how an entire community dwindled down to a deserted flat.

by City of Boston Archives, "56-62 Leverett Street", https://goo.gl/M85JZq
by City of Boston Archives, “56-62 Leverett Street”, https://goo.gl/M85JZq

At the entrance of the room, the introductory sign asks its patrons a few questions. What makes a neighborhood and what makes a slum? What makes a community? How do local values and public policy interact with each other? How do cities come to make decisions? All of these questions are answered in the tragedy of the West End.

For most of its existence, the West End was a haven for Boston’s “undesirables.” These areas were home to lower-class Bostonians and immigrants: Irish, Italians, Jews and various nationalities from Eastern Europe all lived side by side. Something that was completely unknown to me was that the West End was home to a number of free black residents, starting in the late 18th century. Between the years 1876 to 1895, at least one black resident from the West End served in Boston’s community council. The information was enlightening, especially since the stories of black Bostonians are a component of the city’s history that are too often overlooked.

by the Boston Public Library, "West End Branch - story hour", https://goo.gl/3Ezyxo
by the Boston Public Library, “West End Branch – story hour”, https://goo.gl/3Ezyxo

The museum does its best to humanize those who were residents, to show that this was once a place where real people made their lives. Trophies from sports clubs are on display in a glass case, bulletins from the social clubs are framed and pictures of kids in classrooms are shown in grainy black and white. There is heavy emphasis on what makes a community: active church life, the importance of the corner store, a sense of belonging despite differences. One sign jokes how Greek Jews and Russian Jews complained about each other, while the Italian Catholics had their opinions on Irish Catholics; but when confronted with outsiders, they stood united in their shared West End identity.

by the Boston Public Library, "Christmas and Hanukah at the Boston Public Library's West End Branch", https://goo.gl/CljC0X
by the Boston Public Library, “Christmas and Hanukah at the Boston Public Library’s West End Branch”, https://goo.gl/CljC0X

Alas, they could not stand against the larger forces in the city and federal government that were determined to destroy them. While the process of urban renewal is perplexing and dense to tell, the museum manages to explain the neighborhood’s demise. Important historical events such as the middle class flight from the city, the Housing Act of 1949 and decaying buildings all contributed to the razing of the town. What surprised me most was that initially most West Enders did not fight the demolitions, because they had been promised housing in the “new West End.” Thus, there was no major protests or outrage from residents. Only when their tenements had been destroyed did they realize they would never be able to return home.

by City of Boston Archives, "[Unidentified location in West End, near Massachusetts General Hospital]", https://goo.gl/52A2xH
by City of Boston Archives, “[Unidentified location in West End, near Massachusetts General Hospital]”, https://goo.gl/52A2xH
Of course, Boston as a city has changed significantly over time since it was founded in 1630. Even the exhibit noted how the West End went from a collection of marshes, to Yankee townhouses, to immigrant settlement homes. Cities are ever changing organisms and should embrace their role of being places where transformations can flourish; whether they be technological, political or social.

Some may wonder at the purpose of such discussions when these issues are clearly a matter of the past. Yes, cities should embrace change; but the nature of how cities change should be decided by the citizens that call it home. These discussions are especially relevant now, in Boston and all over America, when gentrification is becoming a major determinant of change in urban life. Who gets to to be a part of the conversation and who gets left out? As the lessons learned in the West End shows, including residents in the process is absolutely vital to creating thriving cities and happy citizens.

The West End Museum is located at 150 Staniford St, Boston, MA 02114. It is open to the public from 12-5 PM Monday-Friday. Admission is free.