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Roxbury Branch Library: Public Art Project I

This is the first of two public art projects that will complement the renovation of the Roxbury Branch of the Boston Public Library.

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Project timeline

Application open
Artist selection

Project details

Project Context 

The $17.2 million renovation of the library includes:

  • a new welcome area overlooking a redesigned plaza
  • improved visibility and openness
  • dedicated space for children, teens, and adults
  • a prominently featured African-American collection
  • a nutrition lab and learning lab, and
  • refreshed collections.

This project is the first of two Percent for Art projects that the City of Boston is commissioning as part of the renovation of the library. With a budget of $250,000, this project is for a site-specific, impactful, focal design feature.

Project Site

The City has identified a prominent clerestory site for the artwork. It is a large slanted concrete wall visible from many areas of the library, as well as from Warren Street at night. The entire surface of this wall is available for the artwork. 

Image for dudley library interior rendering

Image for dudley library exterior rendering

Design Goals and Community Values

The Roxbury Branch, formerly the Dudley Branch, hosts a wide range of programs and activities for patrons of all ages. All of this is currently hidden behind glass block and concrete walls. The renovation will introduce large windows that help to showcase and celebrate this activity by making it visible from the street. 

A relocated entry and plaza improvements along Dudley Street will also improve the civic presence of the library. This will help connect the library to the neighborhood and enhance the sense of arrival and greeting when entering the library.

The clerestory is a distinct opportunity for public art in the space. This is due to its size and visibility throughout the first floor and from Warren Street. Since the artwork will be focal point of the space, the artwork should reflect the scale of the space.

About the Artist

Joe Wardwell is currently an Associate Professor of Painting at Brandeis University. He founded the Brandeis-in-Siena program in 2015. Wardwell received a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting in 1996 from the University of Washington in Seattle. In 1999, he received a Master of Fine Arts in Painting from Boston University.

Currently on view through 2022, Wardwell has a large-scale wall drawing commissioned for the renovation of building 6 at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Mass. His work has been exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, and Wardwell's work is in each collection.

In 2012, Wardwell was a recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant for Painting. He was recently awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from the School of Creative Arts at Boston University. In addition to numerous group exhibitions throughout the region, he has held solo exhibitions in New York, New Haven, Boston, and Seattle.

In 2020, Wardwell will exhibit in New York with the Frosch and Portmann gallery in the Lower East Side.  His work is represented in Boston by the LaMontagne Gallery. Wardwell lives with his family in Jamaica Plain and his studio is in Dorchester.

Photo of Joe Wardwell, artist selected for Dudley Branch Library public art project