MBTA Cancels Public Art Projects for the Green Line Extension

The agency had originally budgeted $1.9 million for the installations.

green line extension public art

Photo by Olga Khvan

Jason McCann, who purchased one of the 1970s murals from Government Center Station when they were auctioned off by the MBTA last month, was not only pleased with the new addition to his home, but also with where the proceeds would go—to fund new art for the renovated station, scheduled to open next spring.

“I think it’s great. As difficult as it is to get things like the Green Line Extension and other capital projects moving, I’m glad they found ways to get revenue for things people wouldn’t prioritize,” he told Boston last month. “I think it’s important, especially with something like the T that has so much history, to have art.”

Ironically, earlier this week, the MBTA canceled eight public art projects that were originally approved as part of the Green Line Extension project, which aims to expand service into Somerville and Medford.

Unlike with art for the new Government Center Station, which will be funded by more than $65,000 generated from the auction, the installations for the Green Line Extension were part of the original budget pledged for the project.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo told the Boston Globe that the decision was an “unpleasant, but fiscally prudent action.”

The project, which began in 2012, was revealed to be $1 billion over budget earlier this year.

The Globe reports that officials had budgeted $1.9 million for the public art component—less than half a percent of the estimated $3 billion total cost for the project.

“I never thought it would affect the art because we’re such a small, small piece of the project,” Christine Vaillancourt, a local artist who was working on an installation for the Ball Square station, told the Globe.

The MBTA has already paid $208,500 of the $420,000 allocated for the artists, who had already started their projects, although none have been constructed yet.

On Tuesday, MBTA design director Margaret Lackner emailed the artists to inform them of the projects’ cancellation, suggesting that it followed the lead of Gov. Charlie Baker, who had recently vetoed the Massachusetts Percent for Art program, which would’ve used capital funding to create and preserve public art in the Boston area.

Pesaturo, however, told Boston.com that, “As part of the process, the MBTA had planned to take this fiscally prudent action regardless of any decisions made by the governor or the legislature.”

The MBTA also told the Globe that it would welcome private funding to revive the projects.