Jazz Square Working Group Applies for $50,000 Art-Activation Grant

A newly convened working group for Jazz Square, located at Massachusetts and Columbus avenues in the South End, has applied for a $50,000 art activation grant from the city to help educate the public about the area’s rich musical history, according  to Bob Barney, a member of the working group.

Barney, who also serves as president of the Claremont Neighborhood Association, told those on hand for the Wednesday, April 3, virtual meeting of Chester Square Neighbors that a five-member working group was convened about five months ago to raise awareness of Jazz Square, which was designated in 2022. 

Jazz Square is home to the venerable Wally’s Café Jazz Club and was also once home to several other now-defunct jazz venues, including the Hi Hat, Chicken Lane, and the Wigwam, and the working group intends to work with Frank Poindexter, whose family owns Wally’s. “We want Wally’s to stay as vibrant as it ever was,” said Barney.

The working group applied for the activation grant about five weeks ago, said Barney, and expects to hear back from the city by late May or early June. If the working group receives the grant, the Claremont Neighborhood Association would then “hold” the funds for them, said Barney.

​Meanwhile, the working group’s plans for the grant money would include putting up banners on light-poles on all four corners of Jazz Square – something that, Barney said, is expected to cost around $2,000.

​The grant would also allow the working group to stage five to seven concerts in the “neighboring area,” said Barney, as well as hire local jazz musicians to perform at these events. The working group also intends to host an inaugural concert at Union Church, said Barney, “before all the money can be spent.”

​New histroric signage could also be erected around the square, said Barney, and would come equipped with QR codes, one of which would allow passersby to access a one-hour recording of jazz great Miles Davis performing at the Hi Hat. Lightboxes could also be painted with a “Jazz Square theme,” added Barney.

​Jazz Square could then be officially dedicated in the fall, said Barney, “but that has to be contingent on some of these things happening.”

​Other longer-term plans for Jazz Square could include the working group contracting an artist to build a sculpture somewhere in the square, said Barney, who added that Columbus Avenue might be a suitable location because of its wide sidewalks.

​In another matter, Barney outlined a plan to activate Columbus Avenue between Tremont and Heath streets by transforming 27 concrete panels, each measuring 8-by-8 feet, into canvasses to be painted by local artists.

​Possible themes for the painted canvases could include local-interest topics, such as ‘Stop the Highway Movement’; D7 heroes and heroines; D7’s contributions to the City of Boston; and other community-based ideas, said Barney.

​The property is owned by the MBTA but maintained by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, said Barney, while the panels themselves have been targeted for graffiti repeatedly in the past.

​The D7 Advisory Council, which be spearheading this effort and includes Barney, along with Dr. Reginald Jackson and Louis Elisa, eventually plans to apply for $100,000 art activation grant from the city to help bring this plan to fruition, said Barney.

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