After 12 years of hard work by WTS-Boston and their Public Art Committee, a new piece of art has been created to help raise awareness of women’s contributions to the transportation industry. The piece, titled NETWORK and designed by artist Ellen Harvey, is a 650-SF, hand-made glass mosaic. It wraps the interior of the headhouse entrance to Boston’s South Station at the northeast corner of Summer Street and Atlantic Avenue.
Ellen and her concept won over the committee during the artist selection competition. Ellen brings a clear passion for public art, a great interpretation of the theme Women in Movement, and experience with other installations in public transportation systems. Her ealy designs were monochromatic and would only wrap one wall of the headhouse. When additional funding was secured her design was expanded to wrap around the side walls creating an immersive experience for the passerby. She has also incorporated color into the piece enlivening the space. The images below show the early designs.
Today Boston’s South Station is the hub for a vast transportation network, encompassing not only the railways and subways but also the roads that link it to the rest of the country. The location of South Station however, reveals a not-so distant past where Boston Harbor and its rivers were the primary means of transportation. We take this transformation from natural to artificial networks for granted but it is the result of human action and human decision-making. We all travel within a hidden history of engineers, architects, surveyors, builders and politicians – many of who were women, as WTS reminds us and as we too often forget.
At present, travelers walking into the entrance into South Station are confronted by a massive blank angled wall under which they have to pass to enter. I propose transforming this wall into an abstracted map so that travelers can locate themselves within the greater Boston transportation network, providing a beautiful and thought-provoking moment as they descend the stairs. The monochrome colors of the map will echo the network of steel girders that make up the glass roof of the entrance.
NETWORK will consist of a hand-made glass mosaic map of the surroundings of South Station juxtaposing the three principal forms of land transportation (rail, subway and road) with the older water-based routes into the city. Each form of transportation is coded a different color – black for subways, dark grey for rail, light grey for roads and silver for water. As travelers descend the stairs, they move towards the ocean where a small mermaid inset in the silvery sea of Boston harbor surveys (literally) the land. NETWORK imagines a world in which the mermaid escapes her destiny of romantic frustration and temptation and decides to take on the land, just as perhaps now we need nature to lead our transportation decisions, rather than to be subject to them.
Ever wonder how all those tiny pieces of a masic come together? Find out how in the video and photos below! The WTS-Boston Public Art Installation was fabricated by master artists in Italy. Each piece was hand selected and placed to form the overall design. The completed mosaic was then shipped to Boston for installation on the walls of one of the MBTA South Station headshouses.
NETWORK Ellen Harvey, 2019; Mosaic fabrication at Miotto Mosaic Art Studios Inc. / Travisanutto Giovanni SRL; Photographs: Fabrizio Travisanutto.