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News from the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy:

Greenway Commissions Interactive, Text-Enabled Light Exhibit

In Partnership with New American Public Art, Park Visitors Will Control Greenway’s Light Blades, While Looking to Solve a Light-Unlocking Cipher Puzzle

The Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy (rosekennedygreenway.org) today announced the launch of Color Commons, a responsive installation by New American Public Art. Color Commons invites passersby to change the color of The Greenway’s twelve 24-foot tall Light Blades that line the Wharf District parks (between State Street and India Street) via text message. At the opening event on Tuesday, February 14 from 5:30pm to 6:30pm the Color Commons phone number will be revealed, opening the possibility of texting colors to command the Light Blades to glow accordingly.

As an added element of intrigue throughout the installation, in addition to texting colors, the public can solve a cipher and text the decoded message to the Light Blades. The cipher – a simple letter substitution puzzle – will be posted on-site. By texting the correct message, the visitor will be rewarded with an unexpected color show.

“We’re delighted to again commission New American Public Art to work with us on an activation that achieves our goal of providing engaging wintertime entertainment for Bostonians and visitors,” offered Greenway Conservancy Executive Director Jesse Brackenbury. “Color Commons provides a terrific opportunity to pair The Greenway’s free WiFi network – one of the state’s largest – with an innovative local design studio as passionate about interactive experiences as we are.”

New American Public Art has been involved with numerous past and current projects on The Greenway, including a 2012 variation on Color Commons, multiple incarnations of snowdecahedrons, and artist Chris Templeman’s recent Make and Take 3D laser-printed rooster installation.

“It is a pleasure and an honor working with The Greenway to bring curiosity and interactivity to Boston, said Dan Sternof Beyer, Creative Director at New American Public Art. “Color Commons gives us agency, and personal customization over this public space, and hopefully leads us ask more of public space in general. How can our cities be our creative playgrounds?”

The current Color Commons project is programmed with over 900 different color names, utilizing the color list created by XKCD. The piece connects 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. In 2016, The Greenway made a commitment to playability through their hire of a full-time Play Coordinator. 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 will be on display through Winter 2017 and the phone number for texting the system will be posted on site throughout the installation.

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