Everyone has their own means of finding inspiration. Whether it’s in a piece of art or the words of an author you find titillating, inspiration can be deliberate or strike at the most implausible time. This idea rings true for Mayor Marty Walsh’s chief of staff, Dan Koh, who provided the alley to the New Urban Mechanics’ oop in transforming the notion into a public art project.
The essence of the project, aptly dubbed Block Quotes, is to merge art and words to not only beautify and humanize neighborhoods, but to give those who need it that slight pick-me-up.
“When I see a quote, an inspiring quote, it can really change my mood,” Said Koh. “Worse case scenario: people think differently. Best case scenario: people feel as though they have hope.”
A fan of anecdotes from belletrists like Mark Twain and Winston Churchill, as well as the famously contradictory idioms of Yogi Berra (“Even though he was a Yankee”), Koh pitched the seedling idea to Mayor Walsh during the early stages of the new administration.
The mayor, whose dedication and gushing support for public art and civic innovation is abundantly apparent, told Koh to run with it. And run he did, with Forrest Gump speed, to the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics to see how they could turn uplifting quotes into something palpable, something tangible.
The New Urban Mechanics realized that this could also tap into Boston’s rich literary history as well as echo the individual characteristics that epitomize each of its neighborhood.
And thus, Block Quotes was born.
“We’re really trying to look at ways to bring public art, and merge it, with the identity of the neighborhoods,” said Susan Nguyen, a project leader and one-year fellow at the New Ubrban Mechanics. “How do you also rethink public art and engagement to make the city a friendlier place?”
The signs, bearing notable quotes, will also have a municipal phone number listed that people can call and have the author – an automated voice recording – read the quote and warmly welcome the caller to Boston.
Worse case scenario: people think differently. Best case scenario: people feel as though they have hope
Block Quotes made its debut at the Boston Book Festival back in October and Dudley Square will be the recipient of the inaugural neighborhood pilot.
The Bolling Building, one of Mayor Walsh’s pet projects, will be the venue for a two-day exhibit to showcase Block Quotes and put the innovative space on full display.
“The public can come and choose a quote from their favorite author, whether it’s a third grader or published author,” added Nguyen.
For Koh, quotes can be both provocative and serve as a sometimes-needed blunt reality check. He told me he as the colloquialism “Haters gonna hate” taped to his wall, not as a joke but as a daily reminder that sometimes life can be, well, a bitch.
“You just need to remember that people will be upset sometimes,” he said. “Acknowledge that’s the case and just move on.”
Keep an eye out in your respective neighborhood for Block Quotes. In the meantime, share some of your favorite lines in the comments section below.