Color Commons

Color Commons is temporarily offline due to scheduled updates.


Be the master of The Greenway lights! Color Commons is an interactive and playful installation by New American Public Art that invites the public to change the color of The Greenway's Light Blades! All you have to do is text any color to 617-208-4455.

The twelve 24-fool tall Light Blades line the Wharf District Parks between State Street and India Street. Color Commons is a variation of a 2012 piece by the same name and artist and was commissioned by The Greenway as an addition to our 2016-2017 Winter Lights program.

Color Commons is programmed with over 900 different color names! We have also programmed a cipher into the program, located on our on-site signage for the public to decode. Sending the decoded message awards visitors with a special, secret light show! 

Interested in how this all works? The artists connected the Light Blades to the Greenway-wide carrier-grade free WiFi system using a Raspberry Pi microcontroller with a built-in web server. When someone sends a text, the server sends the message to the microcontroller. Whether it’s a color or the ciphered message, the microcontroller translates the text to a trigger code which changes the colors of the Light Blades.

By activating Color Commons, New American Public Art and The Greenway hope to make Boston a more playable city, one where existing urban infrastructure can be reused in ways that enhance person-to-city and person-to-person connections.  Both groups hope to continue their collaborations to put Boston on the map of cities across the globe that have joined the movement to make their urban spaces more playable.

Color Commons is currently on display.  


Once you're used to your color-changing powers, try out these games and tag your social media posts with #GreenwayPlay!

The Rainbow

Best played with a group of people, everyone texts various shades of the rainbow in color-order. 
Example: Red first! Everyone texts the Light Blades with the most interesting shade of red they can imagine. Then, move on to Orange, Yellow, etc.

Color Telephone

For 2+ people.
Player 1 texts any color to the Light Blades.
Player 2 tries to guess the name of that color and texts their guess to the Light Blades. If the Light Blades don't change color, Player 2 wins and gets to start the game again.
If the Light Blades do change color, it means that Player 2 didn't guess correctly. Now it's Player 1's turn to guess what Player 2's guess was by texting the new guess to the Light Blades. And so on, and so forth.  

Come up with any new games? E-mail the Programs Manager and your game could show up here!

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