ArtWatch: Mass. Politicians Announce Bold New Public Arts Initiative

Author's post-note, 4-2-11: If you haven't figured it out by now: Duh, happy April everyone!

Just a quick update from your friends at Urban Canvas as we wait eagerly for warmer weather...if you haven't seen the articles in the Boston Globe or the Boston Herald, we've got the latest news on Beacon Hill's new "Take Back the Streets" program, which will significantly increase funding for street art. Read on for more, but suffice it to say that this is really, really good news for Urban Canvas, and indeed for all artists who have too long been neglected...

Photo Courtesy Adam Pieniazek -
Above: Menino (left) and Governor Deval Patrick thank a crowd of citizens who gathered in awed appreciation to watch the two men cover Dorchester Avenue with butterflies, abstract drawings, and hopscotch courts.

BOSTON, MA - Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick have announced a joint effort to open up Commonwealth streets exclusively to street art. The focus of most of the groundbreaking $11 million earmark: sidewalk chalk.

"For too long have we reserved the use of our streets for such banal uses as vehicular traffic and pedestrian mobility," said Menino at a joint press conference with Patrick and Senior Senator John F. Kerry. "I promised to put a stop to traffic snarls years ago, and by golly I'm going to do it."

Dusting a stray smudge of chalk off of his necktie, Menino then led the assembled reporters outside to Government Center plaza, which a team of top city officials had covered with colorful flowers, bumblebees, and several impromptu four square courts.

While the announcement -- which permanently closed off such popular thoroughfares such as Storrow Drive, Massachusetts Avenue, and Interstate 93 -- caught some drivers off guard, most seemed to take it with a grain of salt.

"I can't even get my car out of the driveway anymore," said West Roxbury resident Bill Sokowski. "But those colorful drawings are just so pretty. And I've got to admit, drawing is a lot more fun than commuting." Sokowski then grabbed a stick of chalk and ran off giggling to add more fish to his aquatic-themed chalk creation.

Photo Courtesy Urban Canvas
Above: Menino assists a youngster on a large swath of pavement near Exit 20 on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Patrick seems to agree. "Me and [Attorney General Martha Coakley] have been playing hopscotch all morning. I even drew a big smiley face right on the front steps of the State House."

Menino and Patrick both agree that, while inconvenient for drivers, closing off every single last street, road, highway, and alley is "the right thing to do."

"People should be taking the subway anyway," said Patrick. "It's right there, and it goes, like, all sorts of places." Grabbing a bucket of chalk like a giddy schoolboy, Patrick then added, "Hey Tommy Boy, let's go cover the platform at Park Street with space aliens."

BostonSOS director James Cobalt, whose organization sponsors Urban Canvas, the region's foremost authority on interactive chalk art, was quick to applaud the landmark budget appropriation.

"I've got to admit, I was a bit shocked," said Cobalt. "I was driving up Route 1 when a bunch of state troopers pulled up behind me with their sirens and ordered us all off the road. By the time I had abandoned my vehicle on the lawn in front of Hilltop Steakhouse, they were already all out of their patrol cars and sprawled on the pavement, chalk in hand. One of them was doing one of those cool 3-D pieces.  I think he was drawing a huge pothole.  It was amazing!"

If this pilot program is successful, Beacon Hill officials suggest that the initiative will be expanded to all Commonwealth driveways, front stoops, and even living rooms.  Across the harbor at Logan Airport, air traffic controllers are reportedly already busy diverting incoming planes so that runways and tarmacs can be prepared for a colossal chalk masterpiece.

"There's no fighting creativity," said Senator Scott Brown. "If there's one thing Massachusetts needs, it's more colorful pictures."

And that's, as they say, how we know Spring has truly sprung.

Below: (L-R) Menino, Patrick, and Sen. John F. Kerry address reporters after a marathon chalking session.
Photo Courtesy Office of Governor Patrick -

-Mopitus T.L. Adjessant Jr., Esq. III contributed to this report.
-Top photo courtesy of Adam Pieniazek (view original)
-Bottom photo courtesy of the Office of Governor Patrick (view original)

Author's post-note, 4-2-11: Duh, happy April everyone!