Art Among the Trees at Brookline’s Riverway Park


It’s only a short walk to Longwood’s medical area, but for anyone who spends long hours wandering through sterile hallways breathing through surgical masks, Riverway Park can seem otherworldly, especially during of its annual transformation by Studios Without Walls. More than 20 members of the Brookline-based professional artist collective have transformed the pathways along the Muddy River, just north of the Longwood T stop, into an outdoor sculpture garden animated with site-specific multimedia works . Until September 4, those strolling through the park can see Rebecca McGee Tuck’s giant mushroom, with its multicolored hat of discarded single-use plastic strips, the whimsical figures of Gail Jerauld Bos and Ruth Rosner suggesting the whimsical accumulations of humanity on our journey from the cradle to the grave, and other works.

This year’s theme is “The Ground We Walk”, reflecting the history of the earth’s inhabitants. It also honors the 200th anniversary of emerald necklace visionary Frederick Law Olmsted. “The ground we walk on is the ground he walked on,” says SWW founder Bette Ann Libby, adding that the exhibit is designed not just for contemplation, but also to promote conversation and engagement. . Many of the works are interactive through light, sound, or movement, and the on-site maps contain clues on an artistic scavenger hunt – see if you can identify any pieces based on the clues provided by the artists.

The members of Studios Without Walls are professional artists, some of whom have exhibited internationally. As a collective, they’ve been putting on these free outdoor exhibits since 1999. “It’s a privilege to be part of this group – I love it,” says longtime contributor Janet Kawada. “It’s a great camaraderie, and every year it gets more exciting.”

Each year’s exhibition is planned by Libby and a small core group (Kawada, Jamaal Eversley, Gail Bos and Maria Ritz this season) and encompasses a different group of participants. “There’s more diversity every year,” says Libby, “young artists and new energy, immigrants from Argentina, Japan, Israel and France.”

“Walking Women” from The Time Project.Magdalene Lord

With support from a number of organizations, including Brookline Parks & Open Space, Brookline Community Foundation, Brookline Commission for the Arts, and Mass Cultural Council, SWW is providing participants with a modest stipend for materials, fabrication, and construction costs. ‘facility. However, the work of creation is an act of love, not to mention imagination and ingenuity – each work must be designed to withstand the vagaries of time and mischief.

Conservation is a major thread in “The Ground We Walk,” and this year’s artists are masters at recycling and smart reuse, like Max Bard’s “Red Flag,” a pictorial representation of contemporary Massachusetts made from wood and scraps he collected from wild spaces around the Commonwealth.

The story is reflected in Liz Helfer’s “Standing Still,” a woven QR code you can scan to see archival footage of the park, and Libby and Janet Kawada’s “Message in a Bottle,” a delicate vessel filled with old bottles. It invites viewers to wonder how the relics were once used and who used them – and perhaps slip a personal message into one of the bottles. Allen M. Spivack reflects the ground we walk on by remembering those buried there, especially the victims of genocide. Amidst a garden of brilliantly hued flowers, disembodied hands reach up to the sky.

“Lost and Found” by Rachel Shatil and Richard Dorff.Magdalene Lord

Many works not only reflect loss, but also resilience. “Ties That Bind” is a beautiful hanging textile woven from hundreds of shoelaces by collaborators Stacey Piwinski and Mihoko Wakabayashi – with help from local school children. “Collecting shoelaces from the community, we worked together to weave them into this safety net of support for each other,” the signage reads. “Lost and Found” by Richard Dorff and Rachel Shatil is a river of red hues of donated shoes leading from the path to a cloud-like white mesh in the branches of a tall oak tree, guiding the eye from the shaking ground on which we walk, as Shatil writes, to “a softer place, where we can rest, connect with our losses, and connect with ourselves, all the while [lying] peacefully in the cradle of our imagination.

Through the exhibition, artists can reach a wider range of viewers than in a formal gallery, and many visitors return year after year.

Libby says, “I want them to stop, breathe, step out of their normal space of stress and anxiety and look at the world in a different way. There are a lot of very powerful statements here, but it’s not intimidating in this special natural environment. It makes you feel good.

Karen Campbell can be reached at


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