By Shaina Richards, news correspondent
In an effort to promote Boston’s diversity and creative history through public art, “Raining Poetry” released a second installment in four new locations in the city. “Raining Poetry” features short poems on Boston sidewalks that are only visible when it rains.
The new public art installation was unveiled on Sept. 14 by the City of Boston’s Office of Arts and Culture in partnership with the Mayor’s Mural Crew, the Boston Art Commission and Mass Poetry. The poems, all written by poets with Massachusetts ties, are located in West Roxbury and Mattapan, as well as Fields Corner and Uphams Corner in Dorchester.
“Last winter, Mass Poetry met with the Arts and Culture Office at the City of Boston to discuss ways to make poetry public art in Boston. What we came up with was Raining Poetry,” said Sara Siegel, the program director at Mass Poetry. “Since our first installation in May, the response has been phenomenal.”
Boston Poet Laureate Danielle Legros Georges chose the featured authors: Shauna Barbosa and Eddy Toussaint Tontongi, who both reside in Boston; Kathi Aguero, a professor at Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill; and Gary Duehr, a Somerville resident. The newly displayed poems are printed in English or Haitian Creole depending on the neighborhood they are located in.
“With this second installation, we are expanding to more neighborhoods and installing poetry in languages other than simply English,” Siegel said. “To both represent the diversity of Boston as well as reach the largest audience possible, to really bring poetry to the people.”
A goal of the sidewalk poetry, according to a statement from the office of Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, was to showcase the heritages of different neighborhoods.
“I am excited we are able to add more of these creative installations in new languages to our streets in Boston, adding to our collection of public art and catching the attention of passerby’s(sic) in new and exciting ways,” Walsh said in the statement.
In order to craft the poems on the sidewalks, the Mayor’s Mural Crew used a biodegradable water repellent spray that makes the words disappear when it dries. The poems will then reappear as soon as the area gets wet, surprising unsuspecting people walking outside.
A video posted by New York Magazine of the first installation in May went viral, receiving over 23 million views and drawing even more attention to the project. Mass Poetry gained a huge following on social media, and people inquired about bringing “Raining Poetry” to different communities around the world.
Although “Raining Poetry” in Massachusetts can only be brought to Mass-based organizations that show interest, Mass Poetry has been sharing advice as well as the name of the spray for out-of-state organizations. The “Raining Poetry” Guide includes a discount for the biodegradable spray that is used and can be found on Mass Poetry’s website for $100.
“We have created a ‘Raining Poetry’ guide for sale to those who are interested in replicating it in their hometowns,” Siegel said. “We have had about 13 downloads, so people are definitely interested in bringing it to them.”
Northeastern students were among those who have been expressing enthusiasm about the sidewalk poetry.
“I think it’s a pretty cool concept, especially since the original ones were poems from writers who were connected to the state,” said Jesse Goodman, a sophomore journalism major.
Thedita Pedersen, a sophomore theater major, said the artwork helped put a positive spin on the rain.
“I thought it was really cool because for most people, rain is always a good thing or a bad thing,” Pedersen said. “This is one more thing that makes it a good thing.”
Fikayo Akinluyi, a freshman economics major, said she was excited to see the art while walking around the city.
“Now when I’m walking through Boston, I’m going to start looking down and trying to see some poetry,” she said.
Photo courtesy of Mass Poetry.