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A dream and a gala: Photo Nights Boston pushes for more public art

Posted by  October 7, 2013 03:34 PM

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Photo and video by Kathryn Barnes

Four years ago, Katie Noble realized something was missing in Boston, a city in which she lives and works: widespread public art.

At the time, Noble, 34, was working as the photography editor of the Improper Bostonian. She was eager to see the work of photographers more widely displayed.

As she set about combining these two interests, bringing more public art to Boston and showing the work of local photographers, her organization, Photo Nights Boston, was born.

“The organization was founded to contribute the idea of bringing more art to the community,” says Noble, “I thought it would be interesting to try to connect photographers with the community.”

As an outgrowth of these efforts, last Thursday Photo Nights Boston hosted Photorama at the Cyclorama in Boston’s South End, an event that drew about 600 people to see the work of local photographers. This time the work was projected on the venue’s walls. Some day, Photo Nights Boston hopes it will be projected outside, too.

By Boston standards, said Boston-area photographer Stephanie Goode, the event was unusual.

“There’s not too many big photography events in Boston,” she said. “I don’t see a couple hundred people at once.”

Dave Bradley, one of the founding members of Photo Nights Boston, sat on the panel of judges for the Photorama photography contest, which was open to photographers of all levels.

“I was really taken aback by how people see things, as still lifes or portraits,” Bradley said, “The thing is, everybody can do it. It’s a very liberating thing. It’s really eye-opening to see the visions that people have.”

He said the organization hosts a variety of events and seminars, to promote public art growth.

“I feel as though there is more momentum with public art then there has been in the past,” Bradley said.

Currently, for example, Luke Jerram’s “Play Me, I’m Yours” project has scattered 75 pianos throughout Boston’s neighborhoods. There also is Matthew Ritchie’s abstract mural in Dewey Square, and the Paintbox program, which brings art to the cities utility boxes.

“I recently took a walk down the Greenway,” Bradley said, “I think the Greenway has done something to the city, and it definitely feels more open and alive.”

In 2012, The Greenway Conservancy completed a five year public art strategy aimed at improving the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway.

Photo Nights Boston will continue to focus on photography in particular, a medium its members think can bring new life to Boston’s growing art scene.

Bradley said he loves the variety it offers as a medium.

“If you gave ten people ten cameras and said ‘take a picture of this flower,’ you’re going to get a picture of ten different flowers.”

Flowers that could someday add to the landscape of Boston public art.

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.

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