ART OF THE SUBJECT: Art and commerce are well ingrained in the shopping experience in some places. Inflatable puppets by British artist Rosie McGinn adorn the Balenciaga store in midtown Manhattan and Derrick Adams’ “Funtime Unicorns” can be found in and around Rockefeller Center.
This summer, shoppers and pedestrians in Boston should be on the lookout for more than Brooks Bros. closing its 80-year-old Newbury Street store or renovating the former Lord & Taylor on Boylston Street into a Dick’s Sporting Goods store. Two drastically different facilities can be found in areas of the city.
In an unexpected partnership, WS Development enlisted Sweden-based artist collective AnonyMouse to create some of their signature miniature installations in and around Boston amidst the developer’s properties. In an email exchange, Yasha Mouskewitz said the group is a “loosely connected network of mice and men” who don’t want the spotlight on them. And the foundation changes from project to project depending on the skills that are needed.
AnonyMouse started out making street art for children and is happy to continue making public art for children when the right situation arises. His inch-high streetscapes in “Mouseachusetts” include the “Massachusetts Mouseum of Fine Art” and other stores such as “Whisker & Tail” offering formal alterations, repairs and rentals. The tiny structures can be found in places like the shopping-filled Seaport District and Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. “We are not really interested in the commercial aspect of this. We don’t endorse a specific store or brand,” Mousekewitz said.
AnonyMouse had no reservations about doing such a commercial project or that fans would see the collective as a sellout. Looking at how WS Development has worked with contemporary artists in the past, the group felt the alliance was a good fit.
“We don’t want our facilities to sell anything. We are a bit stubborn in letting art be art. And they let us do that. We are happy to make public art and our focus is always to bring something whimsical to a forgotten part of a street,” said Mouskewitz.
Keeping her identity a secret enhances “the idea that we can be whoever the observer wants us to be. In addition, children may believe that it was built by mice, if it does not have a human face”, explained one of the artists. “We don’t want the focus to be on us; we want it to feel real.”
Another artistic endeavor in Boston this summer is definitely not to be missed. Yenny Hernandez has spruced up the Prudential Center’s Boylston Street entrance with a vibrant tropical mural. The Latina creative, who left her job as a full-time graphic artist at Northeastern University in January to focus on art, was chosen by the nonprofit organization Now + There for the public art project.
Through mid-October, the 2,500-square-foot work is made of decals on glass, featuring flowers, a mango, a parrot, a traditional “coffee shop” coffee pot, and a line from a poem her mother had written for her. when he was a child, “Let your dreams take flight.” Positivism and spirit are recurring themes in his work and the installation is no exception. It also features images that can be understood by other members of the Latino community. Located in a very busy area, the play aims to convey a message for all to enjoy and is written in English and Spanish.
As for the role stores and public places have in introducing new artists and sparking people’s interest in art, Hernandez said, “There’s something special when a commercial space engages in public art. People don’t expect to see public art in such areas, including those where they go about their daily lives. That’s why it’s special. There is that element of surprise. You are in your life and you come across something that can motivate you or engage your thoughts. That’s really important and powerful when commercial buildings and public spaces can intersect.”
The artist was pleased to see at the opening that the mural did not require much explanation. “One of the things I set out to do was create a moment of happiness and color. When you walk into the space, you’re greeted with the feeling of ‘Oh, something nice is happening here,’” he said. “I want people to have a moment of encouragement and reflection: What is your dream? How are you chasing him?
While the mural has only been up since the beginning of this month, Hernandez said some small businesses and stores have already approached her about the possibility of working together. Talks are underway for a showing of her work in Colombia next month. Currently not represented by a gallery, Hernandez relies on social media as her biggest platform with @Yennycreate on Instagram where she creates, shares her work and engages with other potential clients.
Executives from WS Development and Boston Properties did not respond to requests for comment.