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Celebrating Black Boston artists: Allan Rohn Crite

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Landmarks Commission

The South End Landmark District Commission recently approved the redevelopment of Crite Square, a triangular parcel located at the intersection of Columbus Avenue, West Canton Street, and Appleton Street, into a new park to honor Allan Rohan Crite, a prominent African American artist.

Crite was born in New Jersey but grew up in Boston and resided at no. 410 Columbus Avenue in the South End. He studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and later attended Boston University, the Massachusetts College of Art, and Harvard University. Crite worked as a Works Projects Administration artist and later as an illustrator in the Planning Department for the Boston Naval Shipyards. He also had a prolific career as an artist working with various forms of media, including oil paintings, watercolors, lithographs, and drawings. His works are among the collections of some of the most renowned museums in the country, including the Boston Athenaeum, The Museum of Fine Arts, and the Smithsonian. 

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The Carstop (unk) Allan Rohan Crite Boston Athenaeum

Crite’s art is uniquely vibrant in that it depicts and highlights the ordinary lives of Black Americans in the South End and Roxbury neighborhoods. Images of the Black community attending school, waiting for the trolley, watching parades, gathering in the park, and going about their daily activities are set against the backdrop of South End row houses and brick facades of Roxbury. Crite called himself an artist-reporter and sought to depict his neighborhood and Black community members exactly as he saw them going about their normal day-to-day activities. The result of his work is a fantastic collection and account of African American life in twentieth-century Boston. Crite died in 2007 at the age of 97. 

The Friends of Crite Park neighborhood organization has been working persistently for four years to build this park in honor of Mr. Crite.  Eight volunteers are raising money to build the Crite Park. Those volunteers are Cheryl Dickinson, Roger Dickinson, Jennifer Girvin, Ryan Gosser, Betsy Hall, Maryellen Hassell, Emeka Iheme, and Regina Pyle.

The new park will feature a newly landscaped outdoor community space with benches, tables, and furniture to function as a welcoming “outdoor living room.” Three pergola systems with decorative screening will provide shade and cover from overhead Linden trees while making the park more inviting for the diverse community of the South End. New plantings will enhance the landscape. The park will also feature a mosaic of Crite’s work, furthering his legacy in the community and introducing his work to new audiences. 

Interested in learning more about Allan Rohan Crite and his important works? Consider registering for the Boston Athenaeum’s virtual event  “Conversation: In the Neighborhood: A Celebration of Allan Rohan Crite” with Jackie Cox-Crite, Crite’s wife and Director of the Allan Rohan Crite Research Institute and co-founder of the Crite House Museum and Cristela Guerra, reporter for the ARTery. Registration information is available online.  

*(March 15, 2021) An edit was made to the original posted article to include the names of the neighborhood volunteer group who led this effort.

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