Haymarket artwork ripped up, hauled away in street repaving

Haymarket artwork ripped up, hauled away in street repaving

BOSTON — Artwork meant to memorialize the deciduous refuse of Boston's historic weekly Haymarket has itself been swept away, and the artist isn't happy about it.

You may have noticed the splashes of bronze embedded in the pavement as you cross from Faneuil Hall through the Haymarket and onto the Greenway.

A glove here, a fish there, scattered papers and even banana peels. The bronze sculptures were installed in the pavement in 1976 to commemorate the bicentennial of the United States of America, according to the artist, Mags Harries.

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She was selected in an open competition for public pieces for the bicentennial. The Bostonian artist told Boston 25 News she had never done public art before, even saying, "I really didn't like public pieces at the time."

"I decided to break the rules at a spot where I loved myself," she said of choosing the Haymarket. "It's a very site-specific piece and a marker of the city really caring about the place and its uniqueness."

In the years since, the fruit, vegetables and various other food stands have been carted in and out of the Haymarket probably some 2,000 times. Countless families, Bostonians and tourists have wandered over the bronze sculptures Harries embedded in the pavement all those weekends ago.

"I did not know they were just going in and tearing it up, because I would have wanted to know that," Harries told Boston 25 News by phone Thursday.

It seems state work crews came in to repave the intersection of Hanover Street and the Greenway, unceremoniously ripping up Harries' art in the process.

Of course, Harries said she always knew it would happen one day. Streets are repaved all the time, particularly in a climate like Boston, where ice, sand and salt make their way into the concrete on a near-constant basis half the year.

But Harries had hoped she would be notified.

"Nobody told me, because I would have certainly kept some pieces," she said. "I don't know where it has been dumped."

The mayor's office notified her of the removal Wednesday when they learned the state had torn up the street. She said it hasn't been paved over, rather the street -- and with it, the art -- has been torn up and hauled away.

The art was controversial when it went in, according to Harries. She said the city called it an embarrassment at the time. After all, it was bronze litter commemorating the trashing of public streets from food carts every weekend.

Harries is also responsible for the bronze gloves on the escalators and turnstiles at Porter Square T Stop. Reminders of the refuse of daily commuters in winter. But to her, the art represents a vibrant, energetic part of city life.

"I think it's just important that people have been calling me up to say they loved that piece," she said. "Knowing it is very meaningful to people, it's very warming."

There are still some pieces from the Haymarket embedded in the pavement. It's unclear when or if the rest of the intersection will be redone.