The Greenway Mural: Controversy, Art, and Creativity in Boston

Cheers Boston

(Source: Rob Young)

About a month ago, I had an eye-opening discussion with someone I randomly shared a cab with. I was going downtown and, of course, the 57 was late. I checked my phone and saw that the next bus wouldn’t arrive for another 30 minutes. Annoyed and frustrated, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer and would simply take a cab.

There was an elderly man standing next to me in dirty jeans, a red sox hat and jacket. I assumed he was going to pick up his family after the game since it was already 10pm. I asked him if he wanted to share a cab with me. He happily agreed and off we went.

The guy was a Bostonian through and through. Accent, clothes, political views, everything. We chit-chatted a little and I asked him bout Boston. As a non-native, I was curious to see what his thoughts were. His reply surprised me.

“It’s not the same. It used to be a community– you know those dive bars? We’re known for them. Now, they’re only a few left. Everything’s commercialized…And no one lends a helping hand. Everyone is too busy. On their phones, its crazy. I can’t talk to anyone. Having a conversation like this with you, it’s a thing of the past.”

There was a lot more said (and mumbled), and while the conversation may seem a little clichéd, I had never experienced that personally.

Now, let me move away from that story (I swear I’ll make my point soon). At about the same time I was having that conversation, Boston had introduced it’s first-ever mural in Dewey Square. The mural was created by graffiti artists known as Os Gemeos, two Brazilian brothers (their real names are Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo). In conjunction with Boston’s ICA exhibition, the mural and art represent the brothers’ dreams and surroundings– making their art uniquely urban as well as fantastical.

Instagram Shot of Greenway Mural

(Source: Instagramer @Zeekal)

The mural immediately sparked controversy. Commenters said it looked like a “terrorist,” “a terrorist’s wife,” “a rag-head.” Others said it was “a ninja turtle,” “a boy in pajamas,” “a sneaky person trying to hide in luggage.” And some just labeled it as “plain ugly.” Overall, the feeling I got was that Boston did not want this in their nice little corporate space downtown. I mean, seriously… HOW DARE YOU? ART?! And right in front of my nice view too!

While I may not be from Boston, I have lived here long enough to know that creativity and art are sadly not an important aspect of the city. What’s in Boston? Sports, history, education, and politics. Oh and dive bars too , I suppose. To me it all seems very blue and antiquated. BUT, there is a ray of shining hope. With an emerging new tech scene, Boston has the opportunity to make the city stand out. Recruiting new talent means recruiting new diversity — something I believe it is in dire need of.

So, I applaud the ICA and the Os Gemeos brothers for taking the initiative to bring vibrant art to Boston. Some may not like it, but it’s stirring conversation and bringing a fresh perspective to my everyday (I work in the area and walk past it frequently). And isn’t that what art should do?

Or perhaps I’m wrong…Thinking back to the conversation I had in the cab — is Boston becoming too commercialized? Will it lose its sense of community? Will art like this make Boston a completely different city?

Or better yet — Are Boston’s conservative rules and Cheers-like attitude limiting its potential as a city? While I would like to think otherwise, I can only hope that Boston will embrace more art like this in the future.

What do you think? I would love to hear anyone’s thoughts on the topic! Share below, tweet at me, or send me an e-mail. 🙂


6 thoughts on “The Greenway Mural: Controversy, Art, and Creativity in Boston

  1. My senior year in college in Boston, a place called “The Bull an Finch Pub” was my favorite hangout. Then “Cheers” came along and transformed the place into a vapid tourist trap. 😦

      • Nope. Only lived there during college–too many Red Sox fans for my Yankees taste. You realize of course, that the Bull and Finch became Cheers…what a shame to ruin a good neighborhood bar.

      • I had no idea Cheers used to be another bar (again not a Boston native here). It’s weird to think it wasn’t always there– good to know! And I’m glad you weren’t eaten up by the Red Sox fans 😉

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