New Green Line Stops Bring New Public Art to Medford, Somerville, and Cambridge

Domino Frame in Tension, by Nadir Tehrani
Domino Frame in Tension, by Nader Tehrani, will be a sculpture of aluminum foam and steel rising over the new East Somerville station. Courtesy of the MBTA.

New stations for the Green Line Extension north of Boston won’t just provide platforms for trains – they’ll also be platforms for several new pieces in the MBTA’s public art collection.

Contractors are beginning to assemble the new stations on the Green Line Extension (GLX) in preparation for its opening later this year, and during the project’s February Community Working Group meeting, the officials shared images of how the new artworks will fit into the new stations.

In a statement, MBTA officials wrote that “this GLX Art Enrichment Program seeks to contribute to the vibrancy of the GLX communities by investing in the success of local artists… The goal is to enhance existing station elements to create a warm and welcoming environment in key areas experienced by the riding public, to both unify and differentiate stations, and to enhance the connection between the station and the community.”

The new public art was commissioned by the MBTA in conjunction with the Somerville, Medford, and Cambridge Arts Councils.

The following is a preview of what we can expect to see, going north from Lechmere towards Medford:

Lechmere: Field Notes by Randal Thurston

Field Notes, by Randal Thurston
A rendering of Field Notes, by Randal Thurston, to be installed at the new Lechmere MBTA station in 2021. Courtesy of the MBTA.

Randal Thurston is a Boston-area artist known for his installations of cut-paper silhouettes.

“Inspired by the terrain that exists just beyond Lechmere Station, Field Notes takes its name from the practice of observation and reflection that naturalists use to understand the world. By taking and keeping records of the migratory patterns of birds, the river’s ebb and flow, and the cyclical rhythms of flowers and trees, we develop both knowledge and memory of a place and its inhabitants,” according to Thurston’s artists’ statement furnished by the MBTA.

“These vignettes feature the flora and fauna found in North Point Park throughout the year. In the background are excerpts from the notebooks of William Brewster, a 19th century Ornithologist who spent his life studying the birds of Cambridge, Somerville and the surrounding area.”

Union Square: PASSAGE by Matt Trimble

PASSAGE, by Matt Trimble
PASSAGE, by Matt Trimble, a 3-D printed polymer sculpture, will straddle over the entrance to Union Square Station in Somerville. Courtesy of the MBTA.

“The project is a celebration of travel and the space that exists between modes of transportation and their territories in the city,” according to Trimble’s artist statement. “It is composed as an asymmetrical arch, or an arch in transition, which conforms its gesture toward the flow of people moving in and out of the station, and toward lines of sight that help visitors connect with those waiting for them across the plaza… The arch is wedge-shaped in plan, giving the portal two faces: one that aligns with persons passing through from the plaza, while the other aligns with persons passing through from the train.”

East Somerville: Domino Frame in Tension by Nader Tehrani

Domino Frame in Tension, by Nadir Tehrani
Domino Frame in Tension, by Nadir Tehrani, will be a sculpture of aluminum foam, steel rising over the new East Somerville station. Courtesy of the MBTA.

Nader Tehrani, a Boston-based architect, describes his sculpture for the East Somerville station “as a landmark for the Somerville community and a way-finding device for the Green Line Station,” according to an artists’ statement provided by the MBTA. “The change in scale and orientation from base to top make for a variety of readings from the many approaches to the structure – a flat billboard from one orientation, and a needle pointing to the sky in another.”

Magoun Square: Unfolding Light and But A Name by Aaron Stephan

Unfolding Light, by Aaron Stephan
Unfolding Light, by Aaron Stephan, will be a sculpture of solar-powered light fixtures framing the entryway to the new Magoun Square station in Somerville. Rendering courtesy of the MBTA.

Aaron Stephan, based in Portland, Maine, has designed a colonnade of streetlamps that will illuminate the entrance ramp from Lowell Street to the train platforms below.

“Train stations act as significant portals between community and travel. Unfolding Light celebrates this transition while anchoring your arrival and departure. Each individual pole is bent in a way that results in a graceful and organic transition running the length of the ramp. Reminiscent of a tree canopy, or a light-filled tunnel, it marks your arrival and departure from Somerville with a welcoming and beautiful experience,” according to Stephan’s artist statement.

For the platform itself, Stephan has also designed porcelain enamels inspired by nearby graffiti art.

“But A Name… is an imagined wall of tags by iconic artists like Frida Kahlo, Jasper Jones, and Lee Krasner,” according to a statement furnished by the MBTA. “As an art student in New York in the early 90’s, Aaron was immersed in beautiful, often fleeting street art that spoke directly to the community. This posed a dynamic contrast to the established canon of artists he was learning about… This work brings these two traditions together in a celebration of their shared ideals and exceptional impact on our daily lives.”

But A Name, by Aaron Stephan
Porcelain enamel panels on the Magoun Square platform will feature additional artwork by Stephan, inspired by the graffiti at a nearby paper factory. Courtesy of the MBTA.

Ball Square: Tour Jeté Series, by Christine Vaillancourt

Christine Vaillancourt, an artist from the Fort Point neighborhood of Boston, has created a series of paintings inspired by “the neighborhood’s colorful shingled houses adorned with angular rooflines and railed porches” to adorn the glass panels on the Ball Square Station’s elevator tower:

TourJetéElevator_ByChristineVaillancourt_BallSquareTour Jeté Series, by Christine Vaillancourt
Christine Vaillancourt’s Tour Jeté Series will adorn the printed glass panels on the Ball Square Station elevator tower, pictured above, and continue on several enamel panels on the station’s platform. Courtesy of the MBTA.

 

“The work illustrates her style of geometric abstraction with dancing motifs reminiscent of machinery, automation and movement,” according to an artist’s statement provide by the MBTA. “The transportation industry is part of Christine’s family history: two great-grandfathers designed or built horse-drawn carriages in Amesbury, MA, and her grandfather, father and uncle all designed automobiles and airplanes in Detroit. With her first public art project at Ball Square Station, she is delighted to continue her family’s connection to transportation through her art.”

Tufts/Medford: Waggle Dance and Speeding Green Line, by Nancy Selvage

Nancy Selvage, a local sculptor whose work explores issues of sustainability, is building an installation of two printed glass panels that will be layered on top of each other like a transom above the station’s main entryway, facing Boston Ave.

“Each layer of the 22’ long image has thin, transparent vertical lines replacing 40% of the solid image. As the viewer walks past and towards the layered panels, the image visually vibrates in a way that suggestions horizontal motion,” according to the artist’s statement. “It was inspired by the visual blur of foliage when viewed from a speeding train, the name of the ‘Green Line,’ and the dearth of landscaping opportunities on the station plaza.”

Another series of artworks by Selvage, titled “Waggle Dance,” will adorn panels on the station platform.

Waggle Dance by Nancy Selvage
Waggle Dance by Nancy Selvage, to be installed at the new Medford/Tufts MBTA station in 2021. Courtesy of the MBTA.

The artwork consists of “warped and collaged photographs of (Selvage’s) perforated metal sculptures to create images suggestive of honeybees flying off to find food, foraging on flowers, returning home laden with supplies, and waggle dancing to let hive mates know where to find more,” according to the artist’s statement. “Locating these images on a train platform establishes relationships between honeybees and the local humans engaged in commuting, work, exploration, pollination, and community service.”

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