MBTA looking for creator of Government Center murals so it can return them

Old Government Center mural

The MBTA says it has something for artist Mary Beams: The 19 murals on wood panels she created for the Green Line platform at Government Center. Workers have carefully removed the art to make way for the new station, but won't be putting them back in.

If you are Mary Beams or you know how to locate her, please let the MBTA know by contacting Marggie Lackner, MBTA Director of Design & Architecture at [email protected]. If we are unable to reach Mary Beams, we will store the artworks but cannot guarantee that we will keep them beyond ninety days.

A T spokesman says the murals, each about 4 feet by 8 feet, were probably installed in the 1960s.



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    PDF icon All the murals483.03 KB



    MBTA, booooo!!! Put them back up. They're nice, historic, interesting.

    Another MBTA History fail

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    I don't know exactly when these were created and installed.

    What I do know is that it wasn't the late 1960s because they depict Boeing LRVs which didn't arrive on MBTA property until 1976.


    According to the Google, there was an animation instructor at Harvard named Mary Beams who taught there between 1972 and 1977, so your observation fits with the idea that it could have been this Mary Beams who painted the murals.

    It seems as if Ms. Beams later taught at University of South Florida and Northern Illinois University. She was a partner in a company called Media Ink, Inc.


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    Mary Beams could see into the future. Once she's located, I would like to know if the Sox will be in the 2135 World Series.

    Red Sox win 2135 World Series

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    after a 122 year drought since the last victory in 2013.

    Mohammed Aguilar Tamasaki throws a complete-series 774 pitch effort to defeat the Chicago Cubs who have still not won a World Series in 227 years. This comes on the heels of a grueling 13 game series against the Seoul Fire. Controversy erupts in the first game of the Series when the robo-pire misses a critical play at fourth base because because it's motherboard fails.

    Boston slugger Bradley Elliot wins MVP after posting a ridiculous 1.145 OPS and a +8 WAR for the Series. In the fourth game, Elliot is the first player to hit a ball entirely out of Innovation Stadium at the Seaport into Boston Harbor. He attributes this to his innovative ability to use undetectable "Whey Bro-tein Powder" which is now banned by the IABL (International Association of Baseball Leagues).

    The MBTA breaks the game with single Type 12s running from City Point to Union Square.

    As To Festivities...

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    Boston's first cyborg-American mayor, Tom Menino, shall be grand marshal of the victory parade of hover duck boats.

    Both PCCs and LRVs

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    The PCCs are obvious - the LRVs, less so.

    The LRVs appear in the some of the other 18 panels, not the one Adam shows on the front page.

    Additionally, the repainting of PCCs into green (as shown) didn't occur until the early 1970s.

    See PDF...

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    Note murals #6 and #9, depicting those god-awful Boeing plug doors. Another reason to not have an airplane company build your trains.

    Put them on display at

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    Put them on display at Boylston Street Station. It could be a mini museum down there with the type 5 and the MTA era livery PCC.

    That would be kinda cool!

    I like the idea of preserving them and putting them on display somewhere else. Maybe the folks up at Seashore Trolley Museum would be interested--they already have some MBTA vehicles and even an old EL station up there!

    National Symbols

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    And what about the large American Flag and Bald Eagle images that were in the station - probably from the time of its opening, or at least since the Bicentennial?

    what dopes at the MBTA

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    I was just thinking about these charming paintings last night. WHY in the world wouldn't they try to sell them? I am sure they would have many interested takers--I would love to own one. I think it's incredibly short-sighted not to restore them and rehang them, but if they don't want to do that they could raise revenue. Such poor thinking.

    Making every effort to

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    Making every effort to contact the artist first, before looking to sell them, is their legal and ethical responsibility.
    Google "Visual Artists Rights Act" to get a little background on the topic. As you're reading it, know that it's really, really, really unlikely this was "work for hire" as defined in the Act, (which would mean the T owns the work outright). Most likely she got a nominal stidend and was promised "payment" in exposure. Legally she gets first right of refusal on them.

    I'm STUNNED that the T is handling this correctly! Wow!

    After 90 days

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    So, if they can't find her, can someone else offer to take them? I would.


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    Government Center's most recent configuration dates to October 1963, and to the Metropolitan Transit Authority -- the "M.T.A." of the song about Charlie. Before Boston City Hall could be built, the M.T.A. had to relocate the northbound tunnel between Scollay Square and Haymarket. Of course, if the T did that now, they'd close the entire Green Line for a couple of years. But in those days they ran the service straight through the construction site. Scollay Square station closed on October 25, 1963, and Government Center (using the new northbound tunnel) opened on October 28.

    The porcelain murals -- which included the American flag, the eagle, and the large star -- were part of a systemwide "station modernization" project done by the MBTA after it took control in 1964. This modernization program included, among other things, installation of signs identifying the color-coded lines (which were introduced in 1965). The first station in that program was Arlington, dedicated in August 1967. My recollection is that Government Center was "modernized" under that program in the early 1970s. That would fit in with the patriotic symbols being linked to the bicentennial in 1975-76. The T did not really hire artists to do the porcelain murals in the modernized stations; the designs were chosen by the team that was doing the other graphics, signs, etc. In many stations, the porcelain murals simply reproduced old photos of the area above the station. Obviously, the T didn't want to do that at the former Scollay Square!

    The T did not actually begin commissioning artwork -- by named artists -- until the late 1970s. If I recall correctly, the murals in question, by Ms. Beam, were not installed until sometime in the 1980s. The PCC cars, which are portrayed in those murals, stopped running in regular service when the Arborway Line was closed in December 1985. I seem to remember -- but I may be wrong -- that these murals appeared shortly after that, perhaps in homage to the recently-departed PCC cars.

    That being said, I always liked those murals and I'd been wondering what happened to them. I hope they do find a good home on the T system or in a museum. For the record, they were covered either with glass or with plexiglas to protect them, but a fair amount of soot had collected on them despite the coverings.

    Probably the '70s

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    Based on the many bearded individuals depicted I'm going to say this is later than the '60s. Also, I searched the Globe archives and found a listing for a 1978 exhibition at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts called "Murals for Subway" by Mary Beams.

    I e-mailed the MBTA contact

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    I e-mailed the MBTA contact about her, too, having found her through Google, and they said they were on the phone with her. I will say it required a little bit of detective work, it wasn't like she came up on the first page of results for the first search I did, but I found her within 10 minutes...

    Looks like a happy ending

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    Lackner, Marggie
    12:49 PM (22 minutes ago)
    to me

    Thank you so much! We just spoke with her, and will work with her to make something good happen.

    Good work, you guys

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    Just posted an update - T only credited "a person who saw the story," but we'll know what happened.

    It's why I pump this site to a broader world.

    The readership solves the whole thing in like a day while the Globe agonizes over the 10 Things You Simply Must Know About Why Globe Direct Should Be On Your Lawn.

    The Herald scratches what passes for its head in its eagerness to find stokeable outrage for the morning and WBZ Noose Radio has Jon Keller reminding us about the importance of being a Douche.

    I have Google plus friends I genuinely like and respect on all continents that I can't possibly insult with local old media slop.... but U Hub... it gets em where it matters.

    The Betty Ann Food Shop story was a hit and now this.