You Can Control These Lights on the Greenway by Texting

The popular phone-powered art exhibit called Color Commons has returned.

Color Commons from New American Public Art on Vimeo.

A popular art installation on the Rose Kennedy Greenway that puts visitors in charge of its colors has returned.

With just a few taps on your phone, the project, called Color Commons, lets you choose the hues to light up a dozen 24-foot-tall “light blades,” rectangular structures in a busy corner of the public park, bathing it in your choice of 900 colors.

For the installation, which will be there all winter, the Greenway once again teamed up with New American Public Art, the same people who brought Color Commons to the Greenway in 2013, and who built the 3D-printer that is currently churning out miniature plastic roosters in Chinatown.

It works like this: Text a color—”pink,” “cyan,” et cetera—via the phone number provided on site, and a minicomputer tells a set of floodlights to flash that color onto the blades. When it gets enough color requests all at once, or when someone types “random,” the lights flash on and off like a kind of gentle rave.

The idea, said Dan Sternof Beyer, the creative director at New American Public Art, is to send the message that public space belongs to everyone.

Color Commons gives us agency, and personal customization over this public space, and hopefully leads us ask more of public space in general,” he says in a statement. “How can our cities be our creative playgrounds?”

It’s an exciting time for the Greenway, which recently hired someone to be a Play Coordinator. This weekend, it’s offering a quirky promotion for tourism in Florida that lets visitors ride a zip line over Dewey Square, and hang out with alligators. Another recent installation created a video game projected on an LED screen, which took its cues from real-life weather patterns and the geography of the Harbor Islands.


Spencer Buell Staff Writer at Boston Magazine sbuell@bostonmagazine.com


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