A Welcoming Public Park
Written by Executive Director Jesse Brackenbury
At the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, the non-profit that operates the public park, we believe strongly in being free, open, and welcoming. Public parks are among the most democratic of spaces, and we’re proud to bring together people from all backgrounds.
There are 400 FREE events on The Greenway each year. The Boston Local Food Festival, the Coolidge on The Greenway film series, and the FIGMENT participatory art festival are all free. The 100+ fitness classes—yoga, pilates, tango, and more—are all free. The Boston Public Market’s farmers market and the Greenway Open Market are free to enter, with purchases supporting local farmers or artisans.
The Conservancy produces free community programming. In 2017, we offered 50 staffed Play sessions, mostly in Chinatown Park, plus 6 SaturPLAY events through a partnership with the Asian Community Development Corporation’s teen program, A-VOYCE. We brought 16 groups of youths from Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, Sociedad Latina, United South End Settlements, Castle Square Tenants Organization, and the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center for our Greenway Youth Adventure Days—a run through the fountain, a free food truck lunch, a free spin on the Carousel, a tour of the art, a tour of our edible garden, and more. We also hosted play sessions for groups from Josiah Quincy School and the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center during the school year.
The Conservancy partners to bring many community festivals to the park. We partner with Chinatown Main Street for the Chinatown Main Street Festival and Lantern Festival, and with the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of New England for the August Moon Festival. Also in Chinatown Park, the Asian Community Development Corporation produces the Films at the Gate movie series each year. In 2017, we also worked with the Consulate General of Brazil for Brazil on The Greenway, with the Shalupe Foundation on the African Festival, and with Authentic Caribbean Foundation for the Caribbean Festival.
We exhibit a diversity of contemporary public art, free for the public. We present museum-quality artists without an admission price: Ai Weiwei, Janet Echelman, Lawrence Weiner, Os Gemeos, Shinique Smith, and many more. In the five seasons of our Public Art Curator (2014-2018), 38% of the artists exhibited on the Greenway have been non-Caucasian, including Mehdi Ghadyanloo, Aakash Nihalani, Risa Puno, and many more. Artists also represent gender-diversity with 42% women artists. The Bay State Banner wrote that the Conservancy’s Ai Wei Wei exhibit “takes art from behind the expensive ticket price and the velvet rope, and makes it a part of life.” We offer the public an opportunity to engage with contemporary art and grapple with challenging ideas in a civic space.
The Conservancy’s food trucks and other business partners bring diversity to the park. When the Greenway’s food program started in 2010, a Boston Globe editorial celebrated it as Boston’s “immigrant food trail.” Now we partner with 38 local food entrepreneurs who represent Boston’s diversity, such as Jamaica Me Hungry, Sheherazad, and Indulge India.
Our philosophy of welcoming the public to the public park permeates our approach. Our two grant-funded Park Rangers are there to welcome and assist visitors. The Greenway Carousel at the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Grove was designed with the Institute for Human Centered Design to be among New England’s most accessible carousel for adults and youth with physical or auditory disabilities. The furniture we’ve added is unlocked early and locked up late. 1.4 million trackable visitors enjoy The Greenway each year, and millions more casually enjoy the seven water features, smell the organic roses, and freely enjoy our exceptional public park.