Boston City Hall showcases art for Black History Month

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BOSTON – The cement block exterior of City Hall doesn’t normally attract admirers, but inside the gray façade, the work of Boston artists in City Hall Galleries is bringing life to the otherwise gloomy space.

Three shows are on display in City Hall Galleries through the end of February in honor of Black History month. An opening reception will take place on Feb. 4 from 4 – 5 p.m. in the main lobby. The galleries are located in the main mezzanine on the third floor and down the two escalators past the ticket clerks on the second floor.

The exhibits include Barbed, a collection of mixed media work by Jocelyn Chemel, Sisters in Stitches, quilts made by an African-American quilters group, and Transformed, which features work based on the reflections and reactions to violence in the Boston neighborhoods and the world.

“We want to give the artists a place to promote their work and maybe get their business going in a sort of different way,” said John Crowley, the curator and exhibitions coordinator at Boston City Hall. “A lot of them are entrepreneurs; they are selling their work and some of them are very successful.”

As more and more galleries close, it is becoming harder for artists to show their work, Crowley said. Having City Hall as a free place to promote artwork to the public can be useful.

“I think it is really important for people to know what is going on in their neighborhood,” said Crowley. The open galleries educate the public about the art, as well, he said.

Crowley added that City Hall Galleries tries to showcase a wide range of artists from different backgrounds.

Part of the collection Barbed
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This month you can find colorful quilts lining the ceiling in the main lobby that overlooks the front security entrance. The work is by Sisters in Stitches, a group of African-American artists from Greater Boston who celebrate their history and express their joys, sorrows and traditions through quilting. Quilting connects Sisters in Stitches to their ancestry, preserves their memories and gives them a way to connect to the generations to come. Crowley said they would love to hang the quilts a little bit lower, but because of the security cameras, they have had to leave them up high.

In the adjacent room, Transformed, made up of African American artists who celebrate alternatives to violence were asked to showcase a selection of their artwork after Crowley visited their show at Roxbury Community College last spring.

After viewing the show, Crowley asked, “Why don’t we take some of this to City Hall?”
The collection of paintings and sculptures are by students from Roxbury, Jamaica Plain and Dorchester who are a part of a masters program at Northeastern.

Downstairs, photographs, works on paper and in mixed media by Chemel, an immigrant from South Africa, chronicle her response to apartheid. In her artist statement, she points to how barbed wire is once again becoming more prolific globally, acting as a fence that cuts up the landscape and creates arbitrary borders.

“Barbed wire, a reminder that some lives matter more than others,” she states.


Scollay Square Gallery – located on the 3rd floor / main lobby of City Hall. When entering from Congress St, take the elevators to the 3rd floor, and go through the lobby with the information desk on your right. When entering from City Hall Plaza, go through the lobby and pass the information desk on the right.

Mayor’s Neighborhood Gallery – located on the 2nd floor near the South Elevators. From City Hall Plaza or Congress St. entrances, take South Elevators to the 2nd floor.