Emerald Necklace Conservancy to Celebrate 20 Years with Art Exhibition

The Emerald Necklace Conservancy turns 20 this year, and to celebrate, they have proposed a 12-week art exhibition in the parks. This is one of three initiatives the Conservancy is pursuing to honor the anniversary.

Exhibition Curator and Project Manager Jen Mergel presented the proposal at a Boston Art Commission hearing on June 12.

Mergel said that they went through a review process last summer to choose the artist they thought would best represent Emerald Necklace designer Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision of these parks as a connected system.

They chose Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya, who, according to Mergel, describes her own work as “a conversation with nature.” Nakaya is known for her “fog sculptures,” which Mergel says Nakaya has created 80 times. Instead of art that can just be looked at, the fog sculptures can be walked through, breathed in, and touched. Nakaya has experience creating both temporary and permanent installations, and has done projects on the surface of water and in tree canopies, both of which are features of the Emerald Necklace parks. Nakaya’s work will heighten these natural features of the parks by interacting with the different facets they have to offer.

The project will be called Fog x FLO, for Frederick Law Olmsted. Mergel says that Nakaya’s “fog sculptures” are created from pure, potable water, and spectators are invited to interact with the artwork. To create the sculptures, Nakaya uses a series of hoses and pumps that are pressurized. She patented a nozzle for fog art in 1989, and Mergel passed around a sample of the nozzle to the commision members.

Mergel said that Nakaya has chosen five sites along the necklace parks that she hopes would connect people as Olmstead envisioned. People can travel from park to park and see all five installations as a connected experience. These five sites would also mark the five decades of Nakaya’s career.

Some of the sites include Leverett Pond at Olmsted Park, where fog would float and morph over the water, and Jamaica Pond Park, where the fog would encompass the bridge so visitors would be able to walk through the vapor.

Mergel said that Nakaya’s sculptures are the most popular with children and dogs, and there’s no need to worry about scalding because the water is at air temperature.

Nakaya has also created partnerships through performance in the past, according to Mergel. She has often collaborated with dancers and musicians to enhance her artwork and is looking to do the same with this project.

“We’ve been in dialogue with local artists,” said Mergel. The Emerald Necklace Conservancy hopes this installation will bring visibility to both Boston parks and Boston arts. Mergel said they’re also hoping to work with partners to create events to draw between 800,000 and 1 million people to the parks.

The committee reacted positively to this design, and “enthusiastically” voted to approve it at the hearing. The exhibition will run from August to October of this year.

The following pieces of public art were also discussed at the hearing:

A Father’s Lullaby, a sound installation in the South End, was approved by the Commission with the condition that feedback would be provided by the staff.

The Cocoanut Grove Memorial honoring the 492 people who died in the 1942 fire and those who responded to it was not voted on.

LandWave: At the May 8 hearing, the Commission voted to remove the two LandWave Sculptures at Peters Park. They have since received a letter from the lead artist who expressed requests for how to move forward with the removal and how to preserve the artwork in a different form. The Commission did not come up with a formal agreement at this hearing about what would be done, and said that they’d like to talk more with the artist about the future of the work so it can be handled appropriately.

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