New Downtown Crossing Mural Takes a Step Back in Time, and Looks to the Future

Using both sights and sounds, Kate Gilbert creates an abstract portrait of the city's history, and what's to come.

Photo via Color Crossing on Facebook

Photo via Color Crossing/Kate Gilbert on Facebook

Members of the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District already proved they have a knack for the creative arts when they teamed up with a local sculptor to create a mobile light show on four wheels.

Now, they’re showing that their skill for capturing the city’s history is equally admirable.

Through October 1, patrons perusing the shopping district in Downtown Crossing can sneak away from the bustling crowds and experience a side of the neighborhood that may have otherwise been ignored.

Splashed against the walls and along the sidewalks of what’s known as “Music Alley,” a narrow pathway adjacent to the Corner Mall on Winter Street, is a new painting by artist Kate Gilbert, called “Color Crossing,” which mixes vibrant swirls of blues and yellows that extend from the brick siding to the brick walkway, to tell a tale about Boston’s diverse culture, both past and present.

“I was charged with enlivening the alley and giving pedestrians a place to pause and retreat. What resulted was a portal to the present, a place to step back and experience the diversity of people who frequent Downtown Crossing; a place for one to take a mental snapshot of the collision of sights and sounds that is the DTX experience,” Gilbert said of her project, which wrapped up on September 11, after months of painting.


The project, which was commissioned by the Downtown Boston BID as part of their ongoing outdoor arts promotional campaign, called “Pause,” also features an audio component created by sound artist Halsey Burgund, in tandem with the “bold graphics” painted by Gilbert.

As people pass through the alley way and look at the murals, a loop of original music and excerpts of interviews that Gilbert did with strangers, where she asked them if they would rather use a time machine to travel to the past or future, will play on a continuous loop between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. The art itself incorporates some of the quotes into the painted graphics.

Gilbert, who became a “regular” in the alley, getting to know the people who frequent the neighborhood, said that of the 100-plus recorded “Color Crossing” interviews, 65 percent of people told her that they wanted to go to the past, rather than step into the future.

“After spending months conducting these interviews, recording the hopes and dreams of my participants and becoming enamored with these once strangers, I then realized what makes this area so special: it is the everyday collision of people from all socio-economic and racial backgrounds that gives Downtown Crossing its charm,” Gilbert said in a statement.

To see more photos of the project from start to finish, visit the “Color Crossing” Facebook page.