The Museum of Modern Renaissance has given many Tufts University students and Somerville residents pause at its eye-catching location near Powder House Square. Originally a Unitarian Church and then a masonic lodge, the building at 115 College Avenue was transformed in 2002 into a vibrant “Temple of Art”.
The creation of the museum was the dream of two Russian artists, Nicholas Shaplyko and Ekatrina Sorokina. They fashioned a playful space filled with their own artwork that brings the visitor into another dimension. Covering almost every surface of the Museum with fresco-like paintings called “Mystical Realism,” the artists transformed their home into a fantasy world full of mythological themes. From the front hall, which they call the “Parade of Planets,” to their workroom that also serves as an indoor garden in winter, to the teapot-themed bathroom, their artwork graces the entire building. All the art is a collaboration of the two married artists.
The outside of the building (pictured above) is as kaleidoscopic as the interior. The facade is reminiscent of an Incan ruin, with a large stone face above the doorway and a colorful bull on the door. Although the museum is not open to the public, there are tours available by appointment. The doors also open for various concerts and the annual Somerville Open Studios.
Have you ever wanted to see the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter or the other planets and stars close up? Then the Judson B. Coit Observatory at Boston University is the place to go. Members of the pubic are allowed to view the wonders of the solar system on their Public Open Night, held most Wednesday evenings throughout the year, weather permitting. Visitors are given telescopes and binoculars to observe the night sky. Since weather is a factor, observations are canceled when there are clouds, haze, or rain. As well as observing the stars, you will also have a great view of Boston from the roof.
The Observatory is named for Judson Coit, who spent the major part of his professional career as Professor of Astronomy at Boston University where he created the Department of Astronomy. He also developed a teaching and research observatory, which is named in his memory. The Observatory was originally located on the roof of the College of Liberal Arts Building on Boylston Street until the late 1940s, when it was moved to its current location on Commonwealth Avenue.
Hours & Admission: The Open Nights are held most Wednesday evenings throughout the year, weather permitting. Admission is free.
The Larz Anderson Auto Museum in Brookline is home to America’s oldest car collection. The museum was the idea of Larz and Isabel Anderson, a wealthy Brookline couple who embarked on a life of political service and philanthropy. In the late 1890s the Andersons would open the doors to their carriage house in Brookline to share their collection of American and European vehicles with the public.
The first vehicle the Andersons purchased was an 1899 Winton 4-hp Runabout. This vehicle is still on permanent display in the Museum. The Andersons purchased an automobile almost every year, acquiring a total of 32 brand new cars during their lives. Fourteen of these vehicles and many of the Andersons original horse drawn carriages are on display as part of the permanent collection.
The carriage house where the Museum is located was constructed in 1888. It was inspired by the Chateau de Chaumont-Sur-Loire in France and designed by Edmund M. Wheelwright, a well-known Boston Architect. Today the Carriage House is on the National Register of Historic Places. A visit to the Museum not only includes the vehicles on display but the historic Carriage House as well as the beautifully landscaped grounds.
The Dwiggins Marionettes at the Boston Public Library
Tucked away on the third floor of Boston Public Library in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department is an entertaining miniature theatre complete with beautifully carved wooden Marionettes.
Donated in 1967 by the widow of William Addison Dwiggins, a well-known graphic artist, typographer, illustrator and woodcarver this collection includes all of his various art activities.
Dwiggins was born in 1880 in Ohio, studied art in Chicago and settled in Hingham, MA where he lived for the rest of his life. He worked in advertising and was known for his type design. To relieve the pressures from work he created a miniature theatre and a puppet group named the Püterschein Authority in a garage behind his home. Later he built a theatre at his studio where he held many performances.
The collection includes his marionettes, his workbench and tools, self-designed furniture, original drawings for his typefaces, more than 400 sketches for his book illustrations and 300 books of his designs
In 1984 The MBTA’s Porter Square Station opened in Cambridge and Glove Cycle was created as a part of the MBTA and the Cambridge Arts Council’s “Arts on the Line” program.
The installation was created by artist Mags Harries and consists of 54 separate bronze sculptures of gloves. The gloves are featured on a turnstile and in the space between the up and down escalators. Situated at the bottom of the escalators and on the inbound platform are smaller sections of the gloves. While more gloves are inserted in the floor of both platforms as well as the mezzanine.
Originally Harries considered creating bronze tree roots to appear on the walls and into the station. The concept was turned down by the architects of Porter Station since the station is one of the deepest underground stations and the architects did not want to bring attention to that fact. Harries’ next idea was to create a flock of sheep-shaped turnstiles. This concept never materialized as the snow from a blizzard in Boston began to melt. Harries began to find lost gloves appearing through the snow. “They were wet, compacted, squashed, – really beautiful.” These lost gloves gave her the idea for the “Glove Cycle”.
The Tiffany windows are important elements of the exquisite Tiffany church interior. All totaled there are 42 Tiffany windows – 22 ornamental windows in the clerestory and 20 figure windows throughout the sanctuary. They all include “opalescent” glass with subtle tones and variations that create painterly effects. The windows were created by Tiffany’s finest designers in a variety of styles – linear, Pre-Raphaelite, mosaic. classical and Art Nouveau.
The church was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012 (as “Central Congregational Church”) in recognition of its unique interior decorations.
A trip to the Arnold Arboretum is not complete unless you visit the Larz Anderson Collection of Japanese Bonsai Trees. Located approximately 10 minutes from the Arborway Main Entrance is a beautiful wooden structure that houses 35 bonsai trees.
This collection of Japanese Bonsai Trees at the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain was originally imported into the United States by Larz Anderson in 1913, after his return from serving as ambassador to Japan. When Anderson died in 1937, his wife Isabel Anderson donated the majority of their bonsai collection (30 plants) to the Arnold Arboretum. When Isabel died in 1949 the rest of the collection came to the Arboretum. The core of the collection consists of 6 bonsai that are between 150 and 275 years old. Since the donation of the original collection additional bonsai have been added for a total of 35 trees.
In Japan, the cultivation of Bonsai dates back 1,000 years. With the use of techniques such as pruning, root reduction, defoliation, and grafting, bonsai growers create attractive miniature trees identical in shape and style to full-size trees.
Normally bonsai can be left outdoors all winter with minimal protection but with New England’s severe climate the plants need to be protected. During the winter months the plants are stored in a concrete-block structure. The plants go into cold storage in November and come out in mid-April.
The collection is on view daily from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. from mid April through mid November, excluding holidays.
Located near a path in the Back Bay Fens is a 17th century Japanese Buddhist temple bell. Cast in 1675 the 450-pound bell rang for centuries in religious ceremonies at the Manpuku-ji temple in Sendai, Japan. The bell was original dedicated to Bishamon, a Buddhist god of children and good luck.
During WWII the Japanese government pressured its citizens to donate metals to be smelted down and turned into artillery, including all temple bells. Japan lost 95% of all their temple bells as a result. During the American invasion of Japan, Navy soldiers found over 500 bells waiting to be turned into weapons of war. Sailors from the USS Boston (CA-69) salvaged the bell and presented it to the city of Boston in 1946. In 1953, Kyukichi Anzai, Representative of the Believers’ Committee of Manpukuji Temple, Sendai (Japan), formally donated the bell to Boston to create a cultural bridge between the citizens of Boston and the citizens of Sendai as a link for the attainment of peace in the world. In 1993, the bell was restored through funding from the Japan Foundation and can be seen today in the War Memorial area of the Fens.
Martini Junction: A Miniature Railway Village in the Forest
Outside of Boston, in a small but densely wooded forest in the town of Needham lies a world populated by miniature locomotives, people, plastic superheroes, pigs, and dinosaurs. Known as Martini Junction, the miniature railway, consisting of over 120 feet of tracks that wind through the trees was created in the early 2000s by Jim Metcalf, a retired design engineer. Over a decade ago, Jim and his wife, Evelyn, discovered the small wooded habitat near a brook on one of their many hikes. Thinking that it would a nice place to relax and have a martini, Jim built a bench and a table so he and his wife could picnic at the spot. Hence the name Martini Junction!
In the ensuing years, Martini Junction has grown in popularity and many visitors have left random toys for others to play with. The train is only in action when Mr. Metcalf is there to run the train.
Tucked away in the Back Bay Fens behind the Fenway Community Gardens is a Keyhole shaped rose garden, known as The Kelleher Rose Garden. The garden features over 200 varieties of roses, a reconstructed 1930’s-era fountain surrounded by cherubs, benches with trellises adorned with roses and a statue that is a copy of Desolation, a 1907 sculpture by Joseph Llimona that is in the collection of the National Art Museum of Catalonia in Barcelona.
The English-style rose garden was commissioned by Boston Mayor James Michael Curley in 1930 and designed by Arthur Shurcliff, a well-known Boston landscape architect. Previously, Shurcliff worked under Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Boston’s Emerald Necklace which includes the Back Bay Fens.
When the garden opened in 1932, it won the Massachusetts Horticultural Society award for excellence. In 1975, the garden was named the James P. Kelleher Rose Garden in honor of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department’s Superintendent of Horticulture. The garden is opened from mid-April through October with early summer as the best time for viewing the roses in full bloom.