“Pentalum” & Public Art at the Lawn on D

From the sidewalk it looked like King Koopa had decided to take a rest after a long day of trying to kidnap Princess Peach and conquer the Mushroom Kingdom.

From the moment I saw the Lawn on D’s announcement that “Pentalum” an inflatable interactive art exhibit would be open to the public from May 28 – 31st, my interest was piqued.  The Lawn on D has been a fascination of mine since it opened last summer, and after last winters Fire and Ice Festival I figured it could only get better this spring and summer.  Truth be told it just keeps knocking them out of the park.

Presented by the Architects of Air, and designed by Alan Parkinson, “Pentalum” is a luminarium which is similar to an enormous luminaria, or paper lantern, that people can walk through.  One of the few that are traveling the world, it uses only natural light to illuminate the colourful fabric shell which guests walk through.  The docent explained that the shell was the same thickness as skin, which seemed unbelieveble as it hardly seemed capable of containing all the people and air and people that were inside.  But sure enough it did.

Inside the dome was a maze filled with glowing emerald, magenta, turquoise and fiery orange light which accentuated the beautifully undulating curves of the interior.   For the visitors, wandering the colour drenched halls, it was a surreal and almost otherworldly sensory experience.  It was unique, breathtaking even,  to experience such a large addition to Boston’s burgeoning public art scene.

“Pentalum” is just one of the examples of Public that has happened, and is continuing to happen, at the Lawn on D and around the city of Boston.  “Public art” as I define it, is any art that is designed to be seen, or interacted with, by the public and is installed in a public space where anyone can appreciate it.   It could be music, sculpture, posters, stickers, live theater, photography, murals, graffitti, or street performances and it doesn’t necessarily need a big footprint to make a big statement, it just has to engage its audience.

While public art hasn’t always been considered “high art” its been part of our cultural and civic dialogue for a lot longer than we might realize.  With everything from painted cows to a big hammock to public pianos and controversials murals calls for public art are becoming more frequent and large installations and murals have been rotating in and out of public spaces with what seems like greater frequency over the past several years.   Whether it be dancing or collaborative art making, it’s been exciting and absolutely amazing to watch public art rise in popularity and enter the discussion as a focal point for celebrating community and helping make a place for art with the help of visionary artists and sponsors, like the Boston Art Commission, and spaces like the Rose Kennedy Greenway and The Lawn on D who seem committed to see quality public arts programming become a mainstay in our culture.

With public art starting to take center stage, and summer arts season closing, in I expect we will see a lot more public art pop up throughout the metro Boston area as summer arts and festival seasons hit full swing.  Although it might seem hard to know where to begin, as a committed media maker and an artist, I’m siked to go make some of my own art and I’m up for the challenge of bringing you coverage of all my experiences.

Check back in as the summer progresses to see what public art i’m visiting as the summer rolls on.  Feel free to follow along with me and my adventures on Instagram and Twitter.


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