Arts & Culture

New Greenway Interactive Art “Year of the Dog” by Artist Risa Puno

Spinnable blocks feature engraved Chinese characters and excerpts of stories.

The Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy has announced the completed installation of a new public art commission in Chinatown Park. The artwork, titled Year of the Dog, honors the collective memory and shared experiences of the Chinatown community.

The interactive installation consists of panels of vertically-mounted spinnable blocks that are engraved with excerpts of stories collected from members of the Chinatown community, as well as traditional Chinese characters. Stories were collected in-person and through an online survey that asked participants about the characteristics associated with the dog, such as generosity, loyalty, and the ability to work well with others. The process of collecting this input mirrors the giving nature and collaborative spirit that is often ascribed to dogs; the end result is an artwork that is designed to be playful and dynamic, just like this zodiac animal.

“Risa’s artistic practice is founded on the principles of play. Puno’s artwork for Chinatown is a catalyst for creating playful connections between generations; she is highlighting historical and contemporary storytelling and most importantly, fostering a fun experience.” – Greenway Public Art Curator Lucas Cowan

Artist Risa Puno and Greenway Public Art Curator Lucas Cowan.

The vertical column format of the artwork lends itself to the traditional way of reading Chinese from top to bottom and right to left, and blocks are designed in both Chinese and English. Visitors can turn the blocks and choose which sides to combine, constructing their own stories and meanings. To add another level, the meaning of a Chinese character changes based on the characters that appear before or after, making an opportunity to create poetic connections that would otherwise be impossible to describe in English.

“The concept of this work was inspired by the goal of this exhibition series to connect the old and young, the traditional and new. As the daughter of Filipino immigrants, I believe it is important to find ways to appreciate cultural traditions that have endured and evolved over time and distance,” – artist Risa Puno

Year of the Dog decorative block.

Year of the Dog is the fourth piece in a curation of sculptural and mixed-media installations based on the twelve years of the Chinese Zodiac. Past zodiac curations include the 3D printer Make and Take (2017) by Chris Templeman for Year of the Rooster, the 12-foot Monkey See (2016) sculpture by Don Kennell and the paper-mache Wandering Sheep (2015) by Kyu Seok Oh. Wandering Sheep was recognized by Americans for the Arts’ Public Art Network as one of the best installations in the country in 2016.

Puno’s work joins four artworks currently on display on The Greenway: Spaces Of Hope by artist Mehdi Ghadyanloo, the fifth Greenway Wall mural at Dewey Square Park; We The People IIpainted by local artist Mia Cross, that reflects Boston’s Leather District through the eyes of locals; Balancing Acts by Aakash Nihalani, depicting tilting and toppling blocks caught in a state of suspended animation; and Ways of Wood by Daniel Ibanez of Margen-Lab, that tells the story of the log milling process.

“We are so appreciative of the support from the Barr Foundation, the Boston Foundation, and others to bring free art to The Greenway,” said Jesse Brackenbury, Executive Director of the Greenway Conservancy. “Risa’s artwork, along with the privately funded planters and seating, creates a welcome gathering spot at the entrance to Chinatown Park.”