The bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Law Olmsted will be marked by Greater Boston with Olmsted Now, a collaboration to amplify the vibrancy and inclusivity of shared use, shared health and shared power in parks and public space.
Initiated by Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site (Fairsted) and the Emerald Necklace Conservancy with more than 100 organizations within a 60-mile radius of the city, Olmsted Now explores these legacy values of America’s great placemaker and designer of the Emerald Necklace park system with a season of public events from April through October 2022.
Olmsted Now aims to strengthen equity and community connection through a framework that centers decision-making for bicentennial programs with a Committee of Neighborhoods, Boston leaders trusted for their commitment to under-heard voices and under-served open spaces, especially those valued by their neighbors who identify as BIPOC. The initiative also fosters co-learning through monthly public dialogues to dive deeper into issues related to the themes of shared use, shared health and shared power in parks and public space. And the bicentennial is an opportunity to pilot cross-neighborhood collaboration to create in-park programming through the monthly series Parks as Platform in the Emerald Necklace parks.
Committee of Neighborhoods
To orient bicentennial planning, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy commissioned Stephen Gray, Associate Professor at Harvard, and his firm Grayscale Collaborative to conduct an equity analysis and action plan. This foundation has guided Olmsted Now organizers to do more than “include” communities that have historically been structurally excluded from park decision-making in Greater Boston. The bicentennial has become the opportunity to recognize and affirm the power within neighborhoods to imagine new ways to experience and activate public space, and to re-center programming decisions where they need to be: in the community.
To kick off the bicentennial, the Olmsted Now partners are excited to announce the following:
Parks as Platform
Starting this April, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy will transform its annual Summer on the Emerald Necklace series into a shared resource that amplifies partner programs at sites along the Emerald Necklace. Each month through October, the Conservancy will collaborate with a site partner to anchor programming with extra support including securing permits and providing amenities such as signage, performance utilities, food trucks, portable restrooms, volunteer coordination and more. Parks as Platform intends to support neighborhood leaders by easing access and logistics for planning in-park events, and promotes expanded, cross-neighborhood audiences to maximize program impact. The monthly dates and locations of partner collaborations (with rain dates) include:
- April 23 (24): Olmsted Park, with Brookline’s Parks and Open Space Division
- May 8: Arnold Arboretum, with Harvard staff to support Lilac Sunday
- June 11 (12): Franklin Park, with Boston Arts & Music Soul Festival
- July 9 (10): Back Bay Fens, with Fenway Porchfest
- August 20 (21): Jamaica Pond, with JP Porchfest & Dunamis Boston
- September 24 (25): Necklace-wide event in all parks of the Emerald Necklace
- October 1 (2): Charlesgate Park, with Charlesgate Alliance
Programs offered by Olmsted Now partners will include a full range of diverse in-park, in-person, virtual and individual experiences. Listed below are events now through June. Partners will continue to update the Olmsted Now online events calendar with future opportunities.
- March 18 to December 28: More or Less in Common is an exhibition exploring the geographic relationship between environmental management and historic patterns of injustice; on view at Norman B. Leventhal Map and Education Center at the Boston Public Library.
- March 26: Lungs of the City: Olmsted’s Parks in Music world premiere concert of new chamber works by Juventas New Music Ensemble at the Multicultural Arts Center in Cambridge. Each work was inspired by an Olmsted design.
- March 30 to April 2: Symposium Olmsteds: Landscapes and Legacies hosted by Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in partnership with the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training. Keynotes will be delivered by Edward Eigen of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and Reverend Mariama White-Hammond, Boston’s Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space.
- April 1: World premiere of the outdoor augmented reality exhibition Seeing the Invisible opens at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, one of 12 botanical gardens participating in this exhibition across seven countries.
- April 2 to May 28: Rights Along the Shore, a collaborative exhibition which examines the long-term effects of racially segregated swimming sites within the Northern and Southern US, at the Boston Center for the Arts.
- April 12: Colleges of the Fenway Center for Sustainability and Environment holds its annual Muddy River Symposium at Simmons University.
- April 23: Annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup includes dozens of work sites, including the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s Muddy River Cleanup with six in the Emerald Necklace.
- April 23: A Libretto reading of the new modern opera Pterins by Guerilla Opera at Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site (Fairsted) in Brookline.
- April 26: Olmsted turns 200! Community Birthday Celebration with a Sunset Toast, Treats and Proclamations at Jamaica Pond.
- April 29: Learn and tour Olmsted’s Charlesgate Park: The Green Link to Boston’s Future as part of Boston Design Week.
- May 8: Lilac Sunday in Arnold Arboretum.
- May 14: Franklin Park Coalition’s Annual Kite & Bike Festival.
- June 5: Caribbean American Heritage Month Park Day at Franklin Park.
- June 11: Boston Art & Music Soul Festival (BAMS Fest) at Franklin Park.
Each third Wednesday of the month since January, Olmsted Now hosts a free online public dialogue exploring bicentennial themes: shared use, shared health, and shared power in parks and public space. Each session tackles a “big question” about park experience through the guiding perspectives of community voices. Dialogue#1 focused on Shared Power to interrogate “Who gets to belong in Boston?” Dialogue #2 considered Shared Use to ask “Can I do this in this park?” Dialogue #3 navigated Shared Health with the question “How can greenspaces nourish us–AND combat food injustice?” Registration for upcoming dialogues is open to all at the following links:
- #4 April 20 –Shared Power(featuring the Committee of Neighborhoods)
- #5 May 18 – Shared Health
- #6 June 15 – Shared Power
- #7 July 22 – Shared Health
- #8 August 17 – Shared Use
- #9 September 21 – Shared Use